Herbs – 101
One of the most appealing things anyone will learn about herb gardening is how relaxing and simple growing herbs can be. Discovering all the wonderful, various herbs and what they do is a captivating pastime, and can be quite beneficial. You can use herbs for cooking, as medicinal aids such as topical dressings or healthy teas, or simply for decorative plants in the garden.
Herbs have been used to treat illness, to sooth and calm and add delicious tastes to cooking. There are hundreds of herbs for culinary and medicinal uses.
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Today’s article is an introduction to herbs and this is followed with more indepth information for each herb covering cultivation, medicinal and culinary uses. We’ll give links to other articles that are especially good.
A List of Common Herbs and Their Uses
Herbs have been around for centuries in many capacities. You may be aware of their ability to add new and varied tastes to your food dishes. If you’ve never been much into using them for anything else, there is another world out there where homemade medicinal remedies utilize herbs. Some of the ones that you see on the following list could do double duty in the kitchen and the sick room.
Common Herbs and Their Uses
Let’s look at culinary herbs.
Basil – Most often used is sweet basil. Use it to season meats and vegetables. It has a flavor similar to cloves.
Anise – The seeds are used for salads and baked goods. The leaves can also be used for meat and salads. Tastes like licorice.
Chives – Have an onion flavor. Used in salads and on vegetables.
Dill – Known for use in making pickles, but also popular for dressings. Use leaves in salads and as seasonings on fish, meat and vegetables.
Garlic – Chopped, minced or as a spread, it flavors meat and vegetables.
Oregano – Used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Common on pizza, in soups, sauces and on vegetable dishes.
Mint – Used as a flavoring for mint sauce. Use the leaves in teas as a soother.
Parsley – Mostly used as decoration on dinner plates. It can make a seasoning for soup and salad.
Thyme – Found in the mix of herbs used in Italian cuisine.
Sage – This herb is used the most around Thanksgiving and Christmas. It flavors poultry as well as stuffing and dressing.
Rosemary – Great for seasoning lamb and poultry.
Savory – Found in dishes that contain egg, soups, sauces and green beans.
Marjoram – It is found in the Italian mix of seasonings. Use it to flavor meats.
Coriander – The seeds are used in stuffing and curries. It tastes like orange leaves. The leaves are used in Asian and Mexican cuisine.
Chervil – Can be used as a garnish. Often mixed with salad greens and in soups or omelets.
Fennel – Used to season fish and sometimes found in sauces. You can use the leaves, seeds and stems.
Tarragon – This is a French herb. It is an ingredient in tartar sauce, chicken dishes, some seafood and it can flavor vinegars.
Sorrel – An acidic-tasting herb that is used in soups and sauces.
Cilantro – Used primarily in Mexican cuisine for salsa, rice and meats.
How many of these herbs do you have in your kitchen? Use fresh and dried for your cooking purposes.
Do you want to have your own herb garden? Here are a few ideas on how to establish an herb garden.
Plan you garden.
Consider the herbs you want to plant. Think about their types. Would you like annuals, biennials or perennials?
How much space will they occupy in your garden? If you want, you can purchase a book that can give you the right information on what specific plants you are planning to grow.
List or draw your garden on paper first. Separate the annuals from the perennials so when the time comes that you have to pull out the annuals, you won’t be disturbing the perennials. Perennials can be planted on the edge of your garden so when it is time to till your garden; you won’t have a hard time.
Another thing to remember is that you have to plant the tall ones at the back and the shorter ones in front. Also, provide your plants with enough space to grow. Proper position shall help you in this area.
Some Design Ideas
You can consider having a square herb bed. You can have your square bed divided into four by two paths crossing at mid point measuring 3 feet. You can border it with stone or brick. A wooden ladder may also do the trick. You can lay it down on your garden and plant your herbs between its rungs. You can also choose to have a wagon wheel bed. Planting here is like planting with the wooden ladders. Plant your herbs in between the wagon wheel’s wedges.
Get Your Plants Growing
Of course, different plants have different needs. This is the reason why you have to determine the herbs you want to plant in the planning stage. This can more or less help you find out how you should care for your plants. With starting seeds, remember its germination and soil temperature rules. If you see the seedlings sprouting, check the plants’ air circulation, humidity and sunlight. When you see some leaves appear, allow proper spacing.
One of the plants that are easy to grow are herbs. You just have to provide them with an effective drainage, sunlight, enough humidity or moisture and fertile soil. Even with just minimally meeting these requirements they will be bound produce a good harvest.
Planting a Basic Herb Garden
Get acquainted with herb gardening by growing herbs you think you’ll use, plus throw in one or two that sound interesting to you. Herb gardens can range in size from small containers to vast outdoor gardens.
To best learn herb gardening, start simple with a small, sunny plot, or use a clay pot filled with potting soil.
The Two Big Needs that herbs have are:
– lots of sun, and
– well-drained soil.
Most herbs have a preference of full or partial sun, and the seed package or nursery will have this information clearly stated. Most herbs will not do well in very wet soil, and watering about every 2-3 days is usually sufficient. Raised garden beds are a good fit for herb gardens. They have excellent drainage and can be easily arranged for proper sunlight.
When planting herb seeds, cover them lightly with soil, and don’t plant the seeds too deep. A good rule of thumb with herb gardening is “the smaller the seed, the shallower you sow.” If you are using young herb plants already started in growing trays, simply transplant them into your pots or garden bed. Sometimes the plants in the trays are dry; if so, water them first before planting them.
Finally, remember that annual herbs (herb plants which only grow for one season and then die) and perennial herbs (herb plants which will return the following year) do best when planted separately. This avoids disrupting the perennial plants’ roots when it is time to dig out the dead annuals. It also prevents leaving dead root pieces behind which can contribute to fungus growth.
4 Easy to Grow and Versatile Herbs
Basil. Basil tops the list because it is so versatile and is super easy to grow from seed. All you need is a small pot and sunny windowsill and you can have fresh basil at your fingertips all year long.
After all, what could be better than juicy tomatoes paired with fresh mozzarella and fresh-picked basil? Top with a balsamic reduction, some good extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and fresh-cracked pepper and you’ve got a delicious and easy lunch entrée or dinner salad.
Basil is also an important ingredient in fresh pesto recipes and it pairs beautifully with tomato-based pasta sauces. For a unique twist, add julienned basil and Brie cheese to sourdough bread for a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich. If you want to get even more creative, plant a pot of purple basil to make a beautiful and delicious purple basil jelly.
Cilantro (Coriander). This herb does double duty. The fresh leaves (cilantro) of young plants are a staple in Mexican cooking. Fresh cilantro is a key ingredient in homemade salsas and also adds a unique flavor dimension to salad greens. It can also be used in a wide variety of marinades for beef, chicken, pork and vegetables. It is especially well suited for marinating meats for fajita recipes.
Cilantro is also very easy to grow from seed. You can extend the life of your plant by keeping it plucked down and keeping it in cooler areas. In spite of your best efforts, however, it will eventually “bolt” to form lacy flowers that will set seeds that can be harvested. Those seeds can be lightly toasted and ground down to create coriander, which is much more mellow in flavor than its fresh counterpart and is a nice complement to many recipes.
Rosemary. Rosemary can also be started from seeds, but you may find it easier to pick up small plants from your local garden center each spring. They can then be brought indoors during cooler weather, but you will need to keep them moist and provide access to a sunny window, preferably with a southern exposure, * to keep them happy.
Not only is rosemary delicious in marinades for roasted chicken, pork, or beef, it also imparts a wonderful earthy aroma to roasted new potatoes and homemade focaccia bread.
Rosemary is also a very pretty plant with decorative appeal. It adds structure to the herb garden with its elegant upright growth habit. Plus, it can easily be shaped to look like a Christmas tree. As a result, rosemary makes a lovely hostess gift around the holidays.
Thyme. This is another classic culinary herb that is so easy to grow. Fresh thyme is a staple in many types of cuisine and adds a distinctive flavor to meat-based dishes and is wonderful in stews and soups, as well. For a special treat, grow lemon thyme to add an unexpected hint of citrus flavor to your dishes.
Another thing to love about thyme is its beauty. It has a beautiful growth habit that makes it ideal in pots next to taller herbs like rosemary. Use it outdoors to edge walkways and paths to add a fragrant element to your landscape, but don’t use those plants for cooking, especially if you have pets.
Of course, these four easy-to-grow culinary herbs barely scratch the surface of what you can grow in a limited space. The herbs listed here are easy to grow and can be found in a diverse range of recipes, so not only will you enjoy growing them, you’ll love using them, too.