Imagine a food that adds colour, flavour and vitamins without any calories.
This food exists, and can be grown cheaply in the convenience of your own garden: fresh herbs. Herbs are a delicious addition to any soup, salad, or entree; in fact, they can define it. What is bruschetta without basil or a mojito without mint?
Garnishing a dish with fresh herbs is like sprinkling a little “wow” on your meal, especially if you have grown them yourself.
Spring is the time to plant your own herb garden. In general, herbs have best flavour before they flower. Furthermore, you should not take more than one-third of the plant at a time if you want re-growth. Here are some herb-specific tips:
Basil: likes warm soil and lots of sun, so start it indoors and move it outside mid-may. To harvest basil, pinch off the growing tip, and it will keep growing back. Fresh basil turns brown below 4 degrees, so store them in the door of your fridge.
Coriander/Cilantro: can be planted after the last frost in a semi-shady spot. Cut leaves when they are 4-6” in length and they will produce a second cutting 2-3 weeks later. Cilantro flowers form clusters of little green seeds, that turn brown when mature. These are the spice coriander. If you let these fall into your garden, they will self-seed and grow back the following year.
Chives: can survive cold temperatures and grow almost anywhere that gets some sun. When harvesting chives, cut the stems close to the base of the plant. This encourages new growth. Chive flowers are also edible and make a lovely garnish on a salad.
Mint: can spread everywhere, so you may want to keep it in a pot or away from your main garden. Mints prefer soil with lots of moisture and a little afternoon shade.
Parsley: seeds have a tough outer shell and do better if you soak them overnight before planting. Parsley is biennial, so it will live for two years.
Dill: grows best putting seeds directly in warm soil (May or later). Dill attracts many beneficial insects. Like cilantro, it will self-seed, so do not be surprised if you see it popping up all over your garden the following year!