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I like to think of Spring as a time for new beginnings, great moods, sunshine, children’s voices laughing in the wind, sparkling ocean waters and new growth of all things green … and this includes herbs. There is a feeling in the air that is downright infectious, and supermarkets and plant centres are full to brimming with colourful flowers and garden wares.
Herbs are so easy to plant from seed, and have a relatively quick germination time, so you can see them begin to sprout in as short as a couple of weeks. If you do not have a yard or dedicated planting area, they are at home on windowsills and balconies, and can even be planted in the same containers as long as they share similar growing needs (shade/sun, water, temperature, etc.).
Herbs can also be started from seed, indoors, before the weather gets warm, and then transplanted outside once the weather warms up, and if you’re really in a hurry, you can wait until the garden centres open for spring and buy plants that are already started, sometimes ready to use.
Here are six of my favourites.
- Thyme: Thyme is used to spice meats and sauces and works well with other spices like oregano and sage. To use it fresh, just remove the leaves and chop them up. Thyme has medicinal uses too. It has antibacterial and anti fungal properties and can fight sore throats and chest congestion. See this article by Dr. Weil for more: Thyme.
- Dill: Of course, we associate dill most commonly with pickles, but it is a very versatile herb and can be used to flavour almost anything. I use it in potato salad and egg salad, and I put it into a mixture of butter and honey to drizzle over steamed carrots. It also has a high concentration of Vitamin C.
- Cilantro: I use cilantro in stir-fry and curried dishes and, of course, it is a staple in salsa and guacamole. Check out 10 Uses for Cilantro in Little House Living for a whole bunch more ideas and a great sauce recipe! Cilantro is a pleasant garnish and can be eaten as is.
- Chives: Chives are a member of the garlic, shallot and leek family, and are full of flavour. Just cut off the small stalks and chop them fine (or not so fine if that suits you better). Similar to dill, they can be used in almost anything, and are used often as a garnish. They are very low in calories and are very rich in Vitamin , which is used for optimizing brain health and the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
- Basil: Basil is most commonly associated with Italian sauces such as pesto and tomato sauces, but it can be used in a variety of dishes including seafood. Just cut off the leaves and chop them up. It can even be steeped into a medicinal tea. ivesktrong tells us how, and what the benefits are in How to Use Drive Basil For Basil Tea
- Oregano: Similar to basil, oregano is used in many of the Italian dishes that we enjoy. It is also a great addition to homemade salad dressings. Like basil, it can also be steeped as a tea, and is effective for symptoms of the common cold and the flu. It is also very high in potassium.
Here’s some other great ideas for using herbs:
- Freeze them in ice cube trays with either oil or water for individual portions and use them all year round
- Plant a couple of herb plants with your kids, so they can start small learning about growing their own food;herb plants are small, so kids won’t feel overwhelmed with them or the process
- Use them as decorative plants for small spaces; they are unique and pretty especially for kitchen decor (and they even smell nice
- Use them as a garnish in a cocktail or on top of a main dish
- Tie a couple of leaves into the ribbon of a wrapped gift for a unique look (and smell!
- Infuse them in water with fresh fruit for refreshing and nutritious drink
Growing a kitchen herb garden is a great opportunity to have fresh herbs available whenever you want them, and it is definitely more economical and tasty than purchasing dried herbs at the grocery store. It can also be a great feeling of accomplishment to grow your own herbs, and there are so many health benefits that they offer. Give it a try!