With the local food movement pushing its way to the forefront, growing your own fresh consumables is as good as it gets. In fact, an increasing number of both rural and urban chefs are choosing to use local or home-grown ingredients. However, when you aren’t blessed with your own little piece of earth it can seen daunting.
While certain crops require deeper or larger areas of soil, others will yield quite nicely in planters, window boxes and hanging baskets.
Growing your own fresh herbs is a great place to start. It can be a fulfilling and fragrant endeavor, sure to bump up the quality of your cooking and earn you at least a novice green thumb.
Growing your own also ensures your herbs will be pesticide-free and without bacterial contamination, which can happen during larger scale production, shipping and handling.
How to Get Started?
Consider starting your herbs indoors in planting trays about six to eight weeks before you want to have the plants. This will give your plants a head start while the weather outside becomes optimal. All the supplies you’ll need can be purchased from your local home and garden store.
Oregano, parsley, mint and basil are all hearty fare which are forgiving to new gardeners. They thrive even in smaller spaces, do well with sun or partial shade and won’t shrivel up and die if you forget to water them for a day.
Dill is another option that is easy to grow and has a wide variety of uses. Keep in mind that dill requires a deeper planting vessel and can grow around three feet in height. It also prefers the sun, will tolerate some shade, and should be planted early in the spring when the temperature is still cool.
Thyme is one herb that you can pot and continue to use indoors throughout the colder months. It makes a great seasoning for meats, vegetables, sauces and soups and can continue to yield for up to three years. Your basil, parsley, oregano and many other herbs can also be brought inside before the first frost and survive near a sunny window.
Experiment with growing and flavouring your cooking to discover which plants work best for you.
How to Store Fresh Herbs?
After being cut, fresh herbs should be stored unwashed and bagged in your refrigerator at four degrees celsius or less. Basil is the exception to this. Store it uncovered and unwashed on your counter as refrigeration will cause the leaves to turn black.
When you’re ready to use your herbs, wash them under cool water. Avoid soaking them in the sink as it can harbor bacteria that can be picked up by the plants. Enjoy your cut herbs for up to five days.
At the end of the season, continue to reap the benefits through the fall and winter months by drying your herbs. They can be tied and hung upside down in a cool dry area until you are ready to use them.
Don’t Want to Start From Seed?
If you like the idea of growing herbs but nurturing them from the seed up makes you cringe, try your local farmers’ market or garden centre. Many offer a wide selection of herbs that have already started growing. All you have to do is put them on your deck or window sill and give them a little water and a lot of love.