Beginner's Herb Garden
The cool thing about the culinary field is the ability to experiment with different techniques and flavors and having the ability to make a meal uniquely you. I love the concept of planting your own herb garden because it means you always have the ability to impart a fresh flavor on whatever it is you are cooking up. By no means do I have a green thumb, in fact, I have never really planted or taken care of any kind of plant-- cross your fingers for me. Regardless, I thought it would be fun to see what I could do with six of the most versatile herbs around. Read on to see my thoughts on each.
What is your favorite herb?
This is basil and is probably one of the most widely used and well known herbs--often used in Italian cuisine, think Caprese salad--a delicious combination of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Unfortunately, this basil does not have the normal vibrant green color. Rather, it is more of a yellow-green color and has been planted for a couple of weeks now.
Now, most of these herbs enjoy direct sunlight and don't mind the heat. Fortunately, I live in Western Washington where it rarely even reaches 90 in the middle of the summer. Regardless, I knew it's position in the garden was not the issue. Upon first noticing the basil's condition I assumed it wasn't getting enough water-- do not make the same mistake I made. If you notice your basil leaves turning color stop watering them. It often means they are receiving too much water. I stopped watering two days ago and am noticing a slight improvement-- feel free to e-mail me if you are curious of their improvement in the coming weeks.
My all-time favorite herb. It is woodsy, aromatic, and incredibly delicious no matter how you use it. And if you ask me, I think it's an awfully pretty addition to your garden. Rosemary is the one herb I have consistently used in the last year and have found two distinct uses that I love it for most.
My favorite, and unbelievably easy way to use it is in these Buttered Rosemary Rolls by The Pioneer Woman. I make them every Christmas-- they offer a crispy crust from the cast iron pan, a salty outer crust, and then a fragrant punch of rosemary. The other way I enjoy it is in a olive oil and balsamic vinegar marinade for steaks-- the flavor pairs perfectly with beef. I also enjoy making a rosemary compound butter to put on top of freshly cooked steaks.
Like the basil, rosemary prefers a warmer-dry climate. So I suggest planting it in a place of direct sunlight. My plant hasn't grown very large, but if you plant it directly in your garden you may see substantial growth over the years. However, if you live in a cooler climate like Western Washington if may be more beneficial to plant it in a container like the stone one I have it in above so that it can be moved.
I adore dill--it has such a fresh and unique flavor that is not too overpowering. The cool thing about dill, in my experience, is that it is represented well in both fresh and dry forms. Also, interestingly enough, the seeds of dill are the common cooking ingredient, coriander. Dill pairs very well with salmon and lemon flavors; however, there are two ways I enjoy it most.
I enjoy it in simple forms-- the first being a simple mixture of quartered and boiled red potatoes (skins left on) with a little bit of butter and dill (either fresh or dried). I know it doesn't sound like much, but trust me, it will add a fresh side dish to any meal. I also enjoy it in both egg and chicken salad-- try it. Make the variety you enjoy and spice it up with an addition of dill.
I think that my dill plant is the strongest and healthiest in the garden. I have noticed a heartier plant with thicker stalks in the last couple weeks. Just like the others it prefers dry soil and direct sunlight; however, it is important to ensure water during hot weather. But beware! Dill can grow up to four feet high so make sure you give it sufficient room to grow.
I think thyme is absolutely beautiful-- it reminds me much of rosemary; however, it has an incredibly different flavor profile. Try throwing a sprig of thyme in a pot of homemade soup for a deeper, heartier flavor. Thyme also pairs very well with eggs. Try making a delicious frittata with fresh thyme and fresh seasonal vegetables.
My thyme has been healthy and sturdy; however, I am waiting to see the sprigs themselves develop and thicken. It likes full sun, but also does well in part-sun and requires normal watering.
You either hate it or you love it they say. Well, for me, I am actually in the middle and it has grown on me over the years. Regardless of how you feel about Cilantro, it is the quintessential ingredient for Mexican cooking and generates a flavor fresher than one can imagine. Try making a white rice with the addition of freshly squeezed lime juice and chopped, fresh cilantro to your taste preferences and add it to burritos like Chipotle Mexican Grill. Also, consider adding it to guacamole. I mix 2 ripe avocados with 1/4 cup of sour cream, 1/2 can of Rotel, the juice of half a lemon, a handful of thinly shredded cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. I enjoy the addition of cilantro, but be careful with how much you add as it is a strong flavor!
If you didn't notice in the picture above, my cilantro has developed a slight purple discoloration on the leaves. I have heard that this is a potassium deficiency so I will be working to correct this--if you are curious of the results in the coming weeks please e-mail me. Also, I have discovered that cilantro prefers a more moist soil and dislikes hot sun so having it in shade during the hot afternoon sun is ideal.
Oregano is new to me and the only one that I haven't experimented with quite yet as I am waiting for it to grow a bit more. Greek oregano is often used in Mediterranean cooking, which is my absolute favorite cuisine. Oregano can really be added to anything and makes a delicious addition to spaghetti sauce-- be careful, though. Oregano does not like prolonged cooking times, so put it in at the end of the cooking process!
As you can see in my picture, like my cilantro, the leaves are slightly purple. Upon research, I have discovered this may have to do with colder weather. It is just starting to warm up here, so in the coming weeks I am hoping to see improved condition. Otherwise oregano likes full sun, warm weather, and normal-slight watering.
I am excited to see the growth of my herb garden in the weeks to come and hope you venture out and create your own herb garden. I used starts, rather than starting from seeds, and use slug & snail bait to protect my plants. Of course, there is much to learn and I would love to hear any information you may be able to share with me-- that way I can pass your knowledge onto my readers. I am enjoying having a steady supply of flavor creators and hope you find enjoyment in it as well!