Let me be clear right off the bat. I in no way consider myself a gardening expert of any kind. But, that’s the wonderful thing about growing herbs! For the most part they are very low maintenance. Minimal effort pays off big time when you have a multitude of bright, fresh and versatile flavors right at your fingertips to take any dish up a notch. At least a handful of you have asked for posts about my garden and some have specifically asked about herbs. So, here it is!
One of my favorite things about herbs aside from their contributions to my cooking is that they grow wonderfully in containers, meaning you can save precious space in your regular garden beds for things that need more dedicated space, such as vegetables. What type of container you use totally depends on what works best in the space available to you. I wanted my herbs on our back but didn’t want them taking up actual floor space. I decided to try out these railing planters last year and I have loved them so much, I bought two more already this summer (and will likely still add in two-four more!) If you have any space that could work with these, I cannot recommend them highly enough! Another important thing to keep in mind is if at all possible, grow them near the kitchen so you don’t have far to go in case of bad weather. Much more convenient to have them nearly within arm’s reach!
What herbs you should grow is entirely up to you and what you enjoy cooking with and eating the most! Here’s what I have growing this year:
- Basil (four plants – I always grow LOTS of basil because I use it most)
There are many others that I do not grow simply because I don’t use them often enough or at all, but you might want to consider them depending on what you prefer. These are just a few that I see pretty widely available.
Starter plants can be found at many home and garden stores, but I highly recommend checking your local farmers market first. Support local agriculture, and you might also find some interesting varieties that you won’t find in big chain stores. I was so excited to find epazote at my market this year since I have seen it called for in so many Rick Bayless recipes!
Even if you think you don’t have a green thumb, herbs really don’t need a lot of attention once you have them planted. If it hasn’t rained in a couple of days I will water mine but otherwise, I let nature do the rest. The main thing is when they start to develop flowers (also known as “going to seed”) it is important to pinch those off. Cilantro does this very quickly and has been one I have had a hard time maintaining in the past. Basil will do this eventually too, so just keep any eye out for it.
You can use fresh herbs in place of dried in any recipe that calls for them. In general, the guideline is to use 1 tablespoon of fresh herb per 1 teaspoon of dried. I’ll be honest and say that I basically never, ever measure fresh herbs when I cook with them. (Maybe with pesto…maybe. But then it’s more like estimating.) They are pretty forgiving and I have yet to have a moment when I thought, “Man, I really should have measured the basil!” What can I say? It works for me!
There are many obvious uses for fresh herbs in savory cooking, but don’t forget to think outside of the dinner plate and keep them in mind for adding a delicious herbal note to cocktails or a unique pop of flavor in desserts. I once had a sage infused caramel sauce at Girl and the Goat that was truly incredible! I still dream about it months later. Also remember they can be minced and mixed into sugar or salt for an extra special seasoning option.
It almost feels silly to list recipes that are great with fresh herbs because you certainly shouldn’t feel limited to recipes that already incorporate them, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of my own favorites. Just writing this post has given me inspiration for several new recipes so be sure to stay tuned for those! What are some of your favorite herbs to grow, and your favorite uses for them?
- Farmer’s Market Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Grilled Crostini and Burrata
- Great Greens Pasta
- Pizza Margherita, Fancified
- Mexican Chopped Salad with Chorizo, Avocado, and Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Modernized Mexican Seven Layer Dip
- Rosemary Olive Oil Rolls
- Gin, Grapefruit and Rosemary Cocktail
- Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip
- Backyard Mint Ice Cream
- Passion Fruit Mojitos