For the next few weeks, while the garden plants are settling in or sprouting, I thought I would feature the herbs that I grow in my garden. Next to tomatoes, they are the garden plants I get asked about the most.
I decided to begin with three fairly standard herbs, and the ones that most often find their way into my kitchen.
In the garden: Basil comes in many different varieties, but for the past several years I have just grown the standard sweet basil, and lots of it! It’s an annual, so it needs replanting each spring, and it grows well from seed in pots or right in a sunny garden, although you can also find basil plants at most garden centers. I haven’t had any luck growing basil indoors, as its requirements for sun far outstrip what our sunniest windows can provide.
In the Kitchen Where there are tomatoes, there can be basil. Basil is beautiful in tomato sandwiches, in salads, mixed in bruschetta, cooked in pasta sauces, or made into pesto. I grow many plants so that I can make pesto in the fall and then freeze it to last throughout the winter.
In the Garden: Chives are an easy-to-grow perennial that come up year after year. They are one of the first plants to appear in my garden in the spring and have pretty purple flowers. When the plants get too big, you can simply dig some of it out and plant it somewhere else. From a very small chive plant I had three years ago, I now have chives growing in three different spots in my garden. Chives grow very well in pots and can be over-wintered indoors in a window and set outside again in the spring.
In the Kitchen: Besides the standard sour cream & chive baked potato topping, I think chives are wonderful chopped into salads, mixed into potato dishes of all kinds, or used as a garnish on creamy soups or cheese sauces.
In the Garden: This plant is refered to as cilantro when harvesting leaves, and coriander when harvesting the seeds. It is a self-seeding plant that will come up year after year (if you don’t harvest all of the seeds, of course!) Mine did well both in pots and in the garden, although you need a good-sized pot to get a decent harvest. My garden plants grew to a much greater size and had many more leaves to harvest than my potted plants. If you like the leaves (like I do) you will want to replant this herb all summer long to guarantee a continuous supply of thick leaves, as they tend to thin out as the plant grows taller.
In the Kitchen: Cilantro is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy foods, and I include it in salsas, guacamole, burritos, bean salads, quesadillas, nachos, and spicy tomato soup. I did not collect the coriander seeds last year as I do not often use coriander in my kitchen – perhaps that will be something to try this year!
What herbs do you grow in your garden? If you have any tips or recipes to share, please let us know in the comments. And don’t forget our Facebook page where you can link up your blog posts and share your garden photos!