Planting indoor or outdoor herb gardens is an easy and affordable way to bring fresh flavor to any type of prepared dish. In addition to offering a burst of flavor, herbs are low-calorie foods packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients which encourage good health.
When possible, it’s best to use organic herbs and soil, along with natural pesticides and herbicides. Two of the best natural pesticides for herb gardens are lady bugs and praying mantises. These insects devour destructive pests such as aphids, mites and mealy bugs without causing harm to herb plants.
One of the best resources to learn about organic herb gardening is www.OrganicGardening.com. This website provides everything you need to know about natural pest control; plant diseases; types of gardening such as cold or hot weather environments; composting; soil conditions; and growing and harvesting techniques.
In Italy, basil is known as the herb of love. According to legend, if a man presents a woman with a sprig of basil she will fall madly in love and never leave him. In Greece, basil is highly regarded as a sacred herb reserved for royalty. In America, people love basil for its sweet, spicy and lemony flavor.
Several types of basil exist. The most common include: Genovese, Lemon and Thai. Genovese basil has bright green round leaves and presents a sweet flavor. It is often used in Italian cooking and is the primary ingredient in pesto.
Lemon basil has smooth oblong leaves and dark purple flower shoots. It is usually served raw to preserve the lemon flavor. Lemon basil is great with salads, salad dressings and flavored oils.
Thai basil has light green narrow leaves that smell and taste like licorice. This herb is great with all types of Thai and spicy Asian dishes. Thai basil accentuates the flavor of beef, pork, chicken and seafood.
Basil requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight and prefers soft, sandy, well-drained soil. Depending on where you live basil may need to be watered daily or just a few times per week. A great place to learn how to grow basil is www.BasilGardening.com.
Most people are familiar with cilantro through Mexican fare. Most salsas, tortilla soups and fajita recipes use cilantro. However, cilantro is a popular herb choice with Asian, European and Mediterranean cooking. It’s perfect with stir-fry’s, makes a flavorful pesto, and adds a hint of spiciness to soups, salads and marinades.
One unique feature of cilantro is the entire plant is edible. As it matures, the plant produces flowers and seeds which can be incorporated into casseroles, stews or meat rubs. Cilantro seeds are known as coriander and present with a woodsy, cinnamon flavor.
Cilantro plants perform better if placed in an area that receives early morning sun and prefer moist, well-drained soil. Find recipes, gardening tips and medicinal uses of cilantro at www.GourmetSleuth.com.
Dill is a mild flavored herb that can be used in nearly any type of cooking, including baked goods and dessert. Dill leaves are used to garnish fish or season yogurt-based sauces. It is an excellent spice with potato dishes and omelets and enhances the flavor of cucumber relishes and salads.
Upon maturity, dill plants produce edible seeds which are often used to make dill pickles, salad dressings and potato salads. Dill is a delicate herb that should be added to dishes as the final step in order to retain its flavor.
Dill is a pretty herb plant that has soft, wispy, dark green leaves. Although fragile looking, dill is actually quite hardy and performs well under most conditions. Dill prefers full sunlight and moist, well-drained soil. Discover culinary and medicinal uses of dill at www.Herbs2000.com
Mint is a hardy herb that presents with a refreshing, spicy flavor. Several mint varietals exist including peppermint, spearmint, orange mint, pineapple mint and apple mint. The leaves can be used whole for garnishing, chopped, crushed or dried.
Mint is very popular in Mediterranean fare and Greek cuisine. It complements the flavor of lamb and red meats and is often used to season rice dishes, curries, couscous, bean casseroles and yogurt dressings. Whole mint leaves are the perfect garnish for iced tea and mint juleps.
Mint plants tend to quickly grow and spread. It is best to plant mint in a separate container or redirect growing pattern with a small trellis. Mint will grow in full sun or shady areas and prefers rich soil which is lightly acidic. Everything you ever wanted to know about mint can be found at Botanical.com.
Oregano is a mild flavored herb that is often used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. One of the most popular uses for oregano is to season pizza and pasta sauces. Several types of oregano exist, but the most common include Greek and Common. Greek oregano has a robust flavor, while Common oregano is less pungent and sweeter.
Oregano can be infused into oils, butter or salad dressings. It enhances the flavor of omelets, frittatas, and egg casseroles. Dried oregano pairs well with chili spices making it an excellent choice for homemade chili, spicy soups, stews and Mexican cuisine. When cooking with oregano, add the herb at the end of preparation to preserve the flavor.
Oregano plants prefer full sun and well-drained sandy soil. Plants grow quickly and need to be pruned on a regular basis. Otherwise, they will become spindly and produce fewer leaves. Learn how to grow oregano indoors, outdoors, and hydroponically at www.HerbGardening.com
Most people think of parsley as the garnish restaurants place on the side of the plate. However, because of its mild flavor parsley is one of the most popular herbs. Parsley pairs well with meat dishes, seafood, soups, salads and salad dressings. It can be used to stuff the cavity of poultry or whole fish to provide moister meat.
Freshly chopped oregano is excellent with steamed clams and mussels. It is an invited addition to pasta dishes and pasta sauces. Oregano is a preferred herb for making infused oils and flavored butters and can be made into a delightful pesto. It can be added to rice dishes, casseroles and mashed potatoes or as a simple garnish to brighten any meal.
Two types of parsley are popular in the U.S. and include flat leaf Italian and curly parsley. Both varietals prefer full sun and moist, rich soil. Parsley should be planted in a deep pot to accommodate its long tap root. Learn more about parsley’s health benefits and how to cook with parsley at www.HelpWithCooking.com.
Rosemary is a pungent herb often used to flavor meats and stews. Rosemary plant leaves resemble pine trees and needles should be removed prior to cooking. Some people use the entire stalk to season lamb and poultry; however, the stem should be discarded after cooking.
Rosemary should be used sparingly to avoid overpowering foods. One large sprig can season a 3- to 4-pound roast. Rosemary pairs well with egg casseroles, frittatas and omelets. It is an excellent choice for homemade bread, particularly focaccia. Rosemary can be added to melted butter and drizzled over vegetables or boiled, baked or roasted potatoes. It also makes delightful dipping oil served with hot bread or crackers.
Rosemary prefers full sun and alkaline soil. Plants can grow to heights of 6-feet and will need to be pruned to control growth in container gardens. Learn how to grow and care for rosemary herb plants at www.FineGardening.com.
Thyme is a highly fragrant, slow growing herb that presents with a strong earthy flavor. It grows low to the ground and is often used as a ground cover. When growing thyme as a culinary herb, it is best to plant in a separate container as it can quickly take over an outdoor garden or planter box.
Thyme is an excellent choice for stuffing, gravies, soups, stocks, and marinades. It can be added to bread or biscuit dough and is often used in combination with rosemary. Thyme is a great accompaniment to beans and bean casseroles. It pairs well with kidney, pinto, black, lima, navy and garbanzo beans and adds a rich, earthy flavor to baked beans.
Thyme is a perennial that will return for three to four years. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Once planted, thyme requires three to four months before leaves are ready for consumption. Harvest time generally begins mid-June through mid-July. Learn how to introduce thyme to your indoor or outdoor herb garden at www.The-Herb-Guide.com.