Open any seed catalog and turn to the Herb section. The choices are endless! I counted almost 50 different herbs to choose from in one catalog. There were 7 types of basil and 5 different types of oregano alone. And, don’t even get me started on such intriguing varieties like chocolate mint, french tarragon and lemon verbena!
How do I decide?
Never fear. The time is just right to grow those fresh herbs you love to use and I can help you decide on which ones are right for you.
Growing your own herbs from seed just makes sense. If you are like me, you hate wasting food. I buy one of those plastic sealed packages of herbs from the store. I enthusiastically use some that day but the rest seems to go to waste. In no time, they go from fresh and green to limp and yellow. Yuck.
If you grow your own herbs, you can just walk out the back door and snip off just the right amount that you will need. Your plants will still be growing happily in the garden, waiting for the next time you need just the right amount.
Growing herbs from seed is easier than you might think. My list is comprised of herbs that are relatively easy to start and virtually maintenance free. I grow all of the herbs mentioned below, except the Basil, in the same flowerbed. It is at the back of my house so it isn’t visible to visitors. I can let the plants grow happily and it is only a few feet from my kitchen door. I grow the Basil in one of my vegetable gardens where they will get plenty of sun.
My favorite herb to start from seed is Basil. I usually grow 2 varieties: Genovese or Sweet Basil and a purple variety such as, Purple Ruffles or Opal. Genovese is a traditional large leaf basil. It has a clean fragrance with a licorice background. Purple basil looks really pretty chopped up and sprinkled on top of salads or deviled eggs. Purple varieties have a milder flavor. Both types work great with salads, potato dishes, marinades and chicken or fish dishes.
Basil likes warm weather and plenty of water. Starting basil seeds outdoors after the soil has warmed works best. If you try to start the seeds outside too early while there is a chill in the air, there is a chance they won’t germinate. But, once the soil has warmed, just drop those tiny seeds into the ground and watch those lovely seedlings pop up. Once they start growing, add some all-purpose fertilizer and water faithfully. When you need some, just pinch back to the first or second nodes and you will encourage new growth and get bushier plants. If you see flowers starting to appear, pinch back then also. If you don’t need it right away, dry it for later use.
Another herb that is easy to grow from seed is Cilantro. Now I know, some people love Cilantro and some people hate it. But, if you like having fresh cilantro in your homemade salsa, it is super easy to grow. Drop seeds into a prepared bed and cover with fine soil. They practically grow themselves. Another cool aspect of cilantro is that it will re-seed itself. I grow my cilantro in a flowerbed against the house that not much else will grow in. It grows prolifically and I always let a few plants go to seed so they will drop into the ground to insure new plants. Every year, I have volunteer plants that pop up. I seem to have a never-ending supply of fresh cilantro. It looks pretty and produces lacy white flowers.
Parsley is a versatile herb that is easy to grow, There are curly leaf and flat leaf varieties. I usually grow some of each. Flat leaf seems hardier and easier to grow. It will also re-seed itself. Parsley is considered a biennial, which means one plant should last 2 growing seasons. However, if you allow some plants to mature and drop their seeds in a protected flowerbed or garden you will have a virtually endless supply of parsley. Parsley has a fresh clean taste. Whole leaves can be used in salads and it freshens your breath! Curly leaf is pretty and is often used as a garnish.
Dill is another versatile herb that will grow easily from seed. I often grow my dill, parsley and cilantro in the same flowerbed. It is against the house and doesn’t get alot of sun or attention. But these 3 herbs seem to get along fine there. They don’t need alot of maintenance and don’t seem to have many pests or diseases. I use the leaves and seeds of the dill plants. I like putting dill in tuna salad and other vegetable . The dill plants will also self propogate if some plants are left to mature and go to seed. The seeds will drop and next season you will have volunteer plants. I love growing plants that do some of the work for me!
Herbs add that extra ‘something’ that can make a plain dish like deviled eggs or potato salad into something special. When I am trying to find foods that fill up my kids bellies but don’t break the bank, I often to starchy carbs, like potatoes or rice. Adding fresh herbs can make them feel special. It makes me feel more like chef and less like a short order cook for the family. The process of gathering them and preparing them adds a tantalizing fragrance to my kitchen. The extras can be put into a vase for a pretty display. And when they pop up in my garden, unexpectedly, it makes it even more special.
Growing herbs can be easy and fun. Try it this summer and let me know how it works out for you.