When I started gardening, many years ago, I planted a small hyssop plant. It was the first herb I grew. I chose it for how it looked and for the fragrance. Since then, I’ve expanded my herb garden and now grow around seven or eight different herbs each year. I’ve found they’re easy to grow, wonderful for cooking, and a way to bless others in a lot of ways.
Most of the herbs I have in my garden are pretty easy to grow. Some I start from seed, such as a variety of basil, dill, or cilantro. Others I’ve found easier to grow by purchasing a seedling or two from my local nursery. Small and large gardens alike can be home to a few useful herbs. Even if you don’t have garden space outside, many of them can be grown in pots and attractively displayed on your porch or deck.
Another reason to pot your herbs is to extend their growing season through the cold months of the year. Tender perennials can be grown in pots and then brought inside to enjoy all winter long. In fact, my rosemary plant comes inside each fall and goes back out in the spring.
Since I like to cook, many of the herbs I grow are for culinary use. Fresh herbs add a flavorful touch to many dishes, but they can be expensive to buy in the grocery store. One or two basil plants will pay for themselves often during the summer when you want it for making pesto or bruschetta. Mint makes a refreshing flavored water or iced or hot tea. Combine rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil for an Italian herb blend. And when it comes directly from your garden, it just seems to taste even better.
Herbs can also be harvested and dried right in the home. I have a dehydrator that works well for this. The air can circulate and the temperature is kept very low so as to dry the herbs without over drying and losing the flavor. Herbs can also be dried by hanging upside down in a dark, dry area. It’s best to store them away from heat or light to help retain their flavors. You can substitute dry herbs for fresh in some recipes using a 1-to-3 ratio: 1 tsp. dried for 3 tsp. fresh.
There are plenty of other uses for herbs that make them worth growing. Lavender smells so good and makes a nice touch to a floral arrangement. It’s also a fragrant addition to homemade soap or potpourri. Small sprigs of rosemary can be tied together and used as a table decoration at holidays or any time of the year.
One of my favorite things to do with the herbs I grow is give them away. Many people in our neighborhood go for walks on nice summer evenings and stop to visit as they pass by. More than once they’ve noticed the basil, oregano, and thyme I grow alongside my roses and other flowers in the front garden. It’s an invitation to get to know them better and share a little of our harvest with them. We’ve also shared armloads of fresh herbs with friends so they can dry some of their own or just use them fresh if they want. And it’s joy to give a jar of dried herbs from the garden as a part of a gift basket for friends or family. Sharing the harvest—that’s a large part of the reason to garden, whether it’s flowers, vegetables, or herbs.
Do you have any favorite herbs that you grow? How do you use them?