As the weather begins to warm, many of us look forward to the delicious meals that spring brings. One piece of advice that sticks with me is my 91-year-old grandmother’s recommendation to use herbs in cooking. She believed that herbs are nature’s pharmacy and can take your dishes to the next level. With this in mind, spring is an excellent time to start your own herb garden to add flavor and longevity to your meals.
Growing herbs is both easy and affordable. They can be planted in pots, flower beds, or garden beds and kept indoors near a sunny kitchen window. Additionally, herbs offer many health benefits in addition to their flavorful addition to recipes. Beginner gardeners or masters alike might want to try growing chives, basil, mint, parsley, or rosemary.
For those new to herb gardening, start by visiting a local garden center to get garden soil, small pots, and starter plants. As the herbs grow, they will bring delightful colors and scents to your kitchen. Once the last frost arrives, transfer them to outdoor patio pots or garden beds.
Chives are a great herb to start with as these perennials first flourish in the spring. Related to onion and garlic, chives offer a milder flavor than both and can be chopped and included in various dishes. Rich in vitamins A and C, chives also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Basil is an annual herb that is easy to grow and has an aromatic scent. Its sweet, rich flavor makes it a great addition to salads, soups, sauces, and pesto. Basil is also rich in phytochemicals which have therapeutic benefits such as soothing stomach irritations and aiding digestion.
Mint is another easy-to-grow herb with a refreshing taste, perfect for summer. It’s the go-to addition for homemade vanilla ice cream and for aiding in digestion after consuming large amounts of meat at summer barbecues. Mint also has calming and muscle-tension-relieving effects while also providing relief from mosquito bites.
Italian parsley, another annual hardy herb, is used in several Italian dishes from pesto to pasta sauces. It’s also known for its capacity to aid digestion, relieve bloating, and improve bad breath.
Rosemary, a powerful and fragrant annual herb in the mint family, adds depth of flavor to several dishes such as lamb and other roast meats. Though a strong taste and aroma, rosemary remains a popular ingredient for sweet and savory dishes alike. It’s also an excellent circulation stimulant, and proven to have anti-inflammatory properties while treating fatigue and headaches.
Let your creativity run wild with herb infused water for a refreshing summer drink, or rosemary or thyme infused olive oil for a delicious dipping sauce. Once the season ends, harvest and dry the herbs for use in winter recipes.
By investing time and money into your herb garden, you’ll have a convenient, flavorsome, and healthy addition to your meals. Remembering my grandmother’s wisdom, cooking with fresh herbs will always be a joyful experience.
To get started on the fun, here’s a basil pesto recipe. Start by picking fresh basil, washing the leaves, and keeping them in a vase of water on the counter until you use them.
– 2-3 cups freshly washed basil leaves (stalkless)
– 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
– 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1/2 squeeze of fresh organic lemon juice
Use a food processor to mix these ingredients until the desired consistency is achieved. Store the pesto in a mason jar and add one teaspoon of olive oil to the top to keep it fresh. Basil pesto can be frozen or refrigerated for up to two weeks and served on crunchy bread, mixed with pasta, or included on a charcuterie tray.
In short, herbs are a fantastic addition to any meal. Joanne Pavin, an integrated wellness expert with over 20 years of experience in stress management, holistic health, nutrition, and alternative medicine, encourages you to give herb gardening a try. To learn more, visit her website, The Meal, where you can find informative and educational resources on health, science, and wellness.