For thousands of years, people have grown plants for culinary and medicinal uses. These days, outside of certain communities, it is less common to have an herb garden, and many people don’t know the difference between lemon balm and lemongrass. But rest assured; this guide to the must-haves in any herb garden will help stave off more than minor ills and keep your family’s mouths happy. You don’t need a lot of space to grow herbs. In fact, just a few herbs in a single container can do quite well.
Here are some of the key players in the household herb garden:
A mainstay in cuisines from Europe and Asia, basil comes in a panoply of varieties, each one tastier than the last. It’s easy to grow and to propagate, and with regular pruning down to the bottom few leaves, will grow well without losing any flavor.
Also common in European cooking, oregano is a flavor you will never forget. If you visit Italy, the taste of oregano will stay on your tongue like arrivederci for weeks afterward. This versatile herb is great for your health; in folk medicine oregano has been used for respiratory health.
No savory soup would be complete without thyme, oregano’s cousin, which grows well in well-draining soil with lots of sun.
Lamb and rosemary go hand in hand, or hoof in leaf, rather. Rosemary is also known for helping with mental concentration, so the next time you’re feeling a little sluggish between the ears, go out to the herb garden for a whiff of your rosemary to snap your neurons to attention.
If you are wise, you’ll grow sage. Sage packs a wallop of flavor in each leaf. In the kitchen, it goes nicely with meats, cheeses, and eggs. Eating sage has been shown to be good for memory, and its smell has a calming effect on anxious individuals.
There are numerous varieties of mint, and all of them are delicious. Explore the world of pineapple mint, chocolate mint, apple mint, and beyond, and your world will never be the same. Mint grows well and will go wild if you’re not careful.
If you’re going to make cucumber pickles, you’ll need lots of dill. No dill, no pickles. Enough said.
Often viewed as “just a garnish,” parsley is a tasty add-in to salads, soups, and veggies. It is one of the most nutritious herbs around, with high levels of vitamins A, K, and C.
Cilantro is easy to grow and is a must if you’re making guacamole. Throw it into a salad to tie together the components, adding vitamins A, C, and K in the process.
Another relative of oregano’s, marjoram tastes good with just about everything, provided you don’t kill the flavor with too much heat. Put it in stews and on roast lamb, and your diners will be smiling.
Growing and drying your own herbs is easy and can save you a lot of money. To dry your herbs, there are three options:
- Use a dehydrator set at 95° F,
- Spread the fresh herbs out on a tray and leave them in the shade, or
- Tie the herbs in bouquets and hang them in a shady area with good ventilation.
Store your dried herbs in small jars or other airtight containers to keep them fragrant and full of flavor. That way, you can keep them close at hand in the kitchen, all year round.