This guide to growing herbs comes courtesy of Daron Joffe, a.k.a. Farmer D of Farmer D Organics. The company develops and sells environmentally conscious farm and garden products, empowering people to grow their own food.
You know the feeling: you have four burners going and the oven on as you’re preparing dinner for eight when you stop short at the sight of the critical next ingredient needed for your recipe. The distinct flavor of chopped fresh tarragon. A sprinkle of chives or parsley. The pick-me-up aroma of mint or cilantro. You realize that not only do you not have what’s needed, but you’re not in a position to run out to the store and get it — nor are you sure the store would even have it. Consider the high price of herbs (when you only need a teaspoon), and you start to think there must be a better way.
Luckily, there is. Herbs are easy to grow, many of them are perennial (which saves you money and work), and they can be used in a variety of ways. If you love creating interesting dishes in the kitchen, you’ll enjoy growing herb varieties that you can’t find in the store, such as cinnamon basil and chocolate mint. What’s more, many herbs can grow in small spaces, such as in a raised garden bed right outside your kitchen door, so all you need to do is step out and snip.
Here are some tips for making the most of your herbs.
Plant strategically. Some herbs, like rosemary, lavender and sage, really like to stretch their arms, so these would be best planted in spots where they have room to grow. Others, like thyme, like to creep and crawl and look especially nice hanging over the edge of rocks or a raised garden bed. Mint and lemon balm spread like wild, so they work best in a pot or raised garden bed. Keep herbs like dill, oregano, basil and cilantro trimmed regularly, and they can live happily together in a relatively small space.
Feed occasionally. Just as you enjoy good food, so do plants. Their delectables, however, are compost and organic fertilizers. Herbs are notoriously low maintenance, however, so be careful not to overdo it. Annuals like basil seem to benefit from more frequent care. Rosemary, lavender and sage, like Greta Garbo, “want to be (left) alone.”
Showcase frequently. Offer your guests the opportunity to select their own herbs as toppings for their salads. Let overnight visitors choose their morning tea leaves, and brew a fresh cup of herbs like chamomile and lemon balm. Wrap rosemary springs with twine on gifts, and lay lavender on a pillow to encourage a good night’s sleep. Clip four-leaf clusters of basil to punctuate a pasta dish, or tuck peppermint as a refresher into school lunch boxes.
Dry herbs in a dehydrator overnight (or simply hang them upside down in a closet for two weeks) and give them as gifts in airtight jars. Another idea: package some dried oregano with a pizza cutter as a small gift for a co-worker or teacher.
Tell us: how do you like to use the herbs you grow?