Growing Herbs is Fun and Healthy
The fastest way to add flavor and zest to foods is to grow your own herbs. Cooking with fresh herbs is quite trendy now; just check out the selection (and prices) at your local grocery store for evidence of the fashionabilty of culinary herbs!
However, growing herbs in containers or in the family garden patch is easy, fun and fulfilling so there's no need to spend valuable grocery money on them when you can grow your own. Nothing surpasses the appeal to the senses of freshly picked herbs, and as a bonus, you can make homemade gifts with your extra herbs that will be welcomed and enjoyed.
Growing Your Own Herbs is Healthy
In addition to their heady aroma, freshly picked herbs are more nutritious than dried herbs because their essential oils and antioxidants have not had time to deteriorate. Because most herbs require little space, you can grow a tasty collection in a small area or container. Only one or two plants are needed because you just need a few leaves to season almost any dish. In fact, just a few plants will yield enough herbs to use fresh throughout the season, harvest and dry for winter storage, and made unique edible gifts.
Most herbs are quite inexpensive and one packet of seeds will provide enough seeds for several seasons of planting. Simply seal the unused seeds in a plastic resealable bag and store in the freezer until the next year.
Save Your Herb Seeds For Future Plantings
Where to Plant or Position Your Herb Garden
When planning your herb garden, locate it as near to the kitchen as possible to make cutting fresh herbs to add to meals and salads easy and convenient. Their delightful aroma and flavor add an unforgettable taste to any meal.
If growing herbs in containers is more your style, choose pots or containers that can be placed on sunny windowsills or easily moved outdoors to soak up some sun during the daylight hours. A definite advantage to planting and growing herbs in containers and not in garden patches is you can move them indoors when it gets colder and continue to enjoy your freshly picked herbs (and nutrients) all winter long. Some of the best herbs to grow indoors are basil, chervil, chives and parsley.
Chives Are Easy to Grow Herbs
What Herbs Should You Grow
After you decide where to plant your herbs, you will want to decide what types of herbs to plant: annuals or perennials. Annuals will need to be resown each successive year as they only live for one year, while perennials will self-sow for several seasons and with the proper care can be maintained almost indefinitely.
While most herbs can be started easily from seeds, seedlings from the nursery are usually inexpensive and ready to transplant into your garden or container. As a bonus, you don't have to fool with hardening off the plants or worrying if the seeds will germinate. Additionally, some herbs like dill, anise or chervil hate to be transplanted and you could lose your seedlings in the process.
Harvesting Your Herbs
Harvesting your herbs for use in cooking is as easy as snipping off the amount of fresh leaves needed for your recipe or salad. If the herbs are grown outside, it's usually better to harvest them in the morning, but if grown inside in containers, you can harvest them just before you need to add them to your recipe.
Of course, it goes without saying that you want to grow your herbs as organically as possible and with the least amount of added chemicals or pesticides so all you need to do to prepare them is wash them and gently pat them dry before you add them to crisp, green salads or the cooking pot.
Tips for Growing Herbs in Your Backyard
Handmade Herbal Gifts From Your Garden
In addition to providing you with a constant supply of fresh herbs year-round, your indoor or outdoor herb garden is an inexpensive sources of delightful edible gifts from your garden. You can use your herbs to make flavored vinegars or jellies and jams. Save your fancy, antique or uniquely shaped jars and fill them with your homemade goodies like mint jelly. Seal the tops with some hot paraffin wax, add a decorative top and present to the lucky recipient with a loaf or two of homemade bread. Your thoughtfulness and creativity will be remembered long after the sweet taste of the homemade jelly and bread has faded!
Fresh Herb Bouquets
To make an old-fashioned gift that is sure to charm, gather some fresh herbs with the stems still attached (just as you would gather cut flowers for a bouquet). Dill, mint and basil are aromatic choices for your herb bouquet. Wash and dry the herbs carefully. Take some tissue paper and wrap the herbs the same way a florist wraps a beautiful bouquet of roses:
- Lay the herbs atop the tissue paper.
- Loop a colorful ribbon around the bunch of herbs; tie in a bow.
- Wrap the tissue loosely around the herbs and secure with another ribbon. (Do not tie a bow in this ribbon just yet.)
- Write some suggestions for how to use the herbs on a recipe card and use a hole punch to punch a small hole in one corner of the card.
- Affix the card to the ribbon, and then tie a lovely bow.
Alternatively, you can arrange the herbs in a decorative vase as you would a flower arrangement. Tie a ribbon around the vase, and affix the instruction card as directed above.
Here are some recommendations for preparing your recipe cards:
- Basil is excellent for seasoning poultry, steak or venison. Add it to soups, stews, and sauces or vegetables like peas or squash.
- Dill is the perfect flavor enhancer for fish, potatoes and tomatoes. Add it to pickles and potato salad or use it as an edible garnish.
Living Herbal Gifts
If you prefer to give a gift that keeps on giving, plant a hardy, easy to grow herb like basil or mint in a decorative container. Let it grow until it is well started, and then tie a bow around the pot or planter. Present to the recipient with a card detailing the care instructions for that specific herb. Alternatively, you could print the care instructions on one side of a blank 3 X 5 inch card, and suggestions for using the herb in recipes on the other side.
Whether you decide to grow your own herbs to add some zip and zest to your daily meals or so you can treat your friends and family to some home-grown gifts this year, the benefits of gardening for your health and mental well-being are worth the time and investment of effort.