Friday, March 16, 2012
DIY Fresh Herbs
Becca here with a good way to insure that you always have commonly used fresh herbs on hand - grow your own! While I love the idea of a garden, I am certainly not known for my green thumb. At all. But, even I can quickly & easily get well more than my money's worth out of a few herbs from your local gardening center or supermarket. These plants cost me just over $3 each, meaning that I will be saving money after just a few harvests of their leaves. Not to mention the convenience of them being super fresh and ready when I need them! Just rinse and they're ready to go!
If you're going to choose just one to start with, I would choose basil. It's very hardy, and the most expensive to buy fresh in the produce department at my local store. In fact, to get the amount of fresh leaves on this plant alone would cost me as much as the plant did (around $3). The process of keeping it alive is fairly straightforward; water it, and basil likes lots of sun. In fact, I successfully kept mine outdoors for most of last summer. You can harvest some of the leaves for use in cooking about once a week (use common sense, you want to leave enough to keep at alive!) and will want to do so to keep the plant healthy. If you don't need them right then, you can dry the leaves & use as you would any dried herb. Be sure and harvest leaves before it gets the tall shoot coming off of the top that will have a small white cone shaped flower on it. The leaves will taste bitter after that point.
Next is cilantro, my very favorite fresh herb; I love it in all kinds of foods, Thai, Mexican, lots of recipes call for fresh cilantro, and I love the flavor it adds. The cilantro plant also likes sun & moist soil. It is a bit more 'particular' than basil, but I'm confident you can keep it alive long enough to get several good harvests from it at least! The main difference from basil is that, as you may know from purchasing fresh cilantro at the grocery store, instead of just plucking the leaves off of the plant, you will actually pull the whole stem off at the ground level, so it looks like it does in the produce department. It won't hurt the plant. Random fact, cilantro seeds are called coriander and also used as a spice :)
Last, but not least, is mint. Besides using it in cooking, you can also either dry the leaves or use them fresh for tea. My children love to eat the leaves straight from the plant too :) This is probably the easiest to grow. In fact, it just about took over our yard growing up, ha! Again, like the basil, you want to remove any flowers that sprout up, and the leaves taste best before the blooms show up. If it's really taking off, you can divide the plant and share with a friend.
You can't beat the feeling of having grown dinner yourself, and starting with a great herb that you know you'll use is an easy way to start & get the kids involved. Enjoy!