Fresh herbs are great for growing in containers or small garden spaces! Here are 4 versatile & easy-to-grow culinary herbs that will do great in a pot on a windowsill, or tucked into a spare corner of your garden…
Fresh herbs are a great way to bring the flavors of your dishes to life. Unfortunately, they can be expensive to buy at the grocery store and they aren’t always in season. Although you can use their dried counterparts in your favorite recipes, they just don’t deliver the same flavor profile. However, the good news is that you can enjoy fresh herb flavor all year long even if you don’t have a ton of garden space to grow your own!
If full-scale gardening isn’t your thing or if space is at a premium in your garden, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck from your plant choices. Not only do you want to select herbs that are easy to grow, you’ll also want to select versatile options that pair well with a diverse selection of recipes. The following list of easy-to-grow culinary herbs can help you get started.
Here Are 4 Easy-to-Grow and Versatile Culinary Herbs:
1. Basil. Basil tops the list because it is so versatile and is 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. (In fact, I have found that basil often grows better for me indoors than it does out in the garden! We have a big, gorgeous pot of basil in the window right now that is so much healthier and more vigorous than it was outdoors last summer.)
What’s better than juicy, ripe 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. Try different flavors and colors of basil to mix it up a bit, and if you want to get even more creative, plant a pot of purple basil to make a beautiful and delicious purple basil jelly.
2. Cilantro (Coriander). This culinary 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 numerous 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.
3. Rosemary. Rosemary can also be started from seeds, but it can take a while so 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 and fragrant hostess gift around the holidays. When it blooms, rosemary has delicate, fragrant lavender flowers that make a pretty and interesting garnish for salads or other dishes.
4. Thyme. This is another classic culinary herb that is 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 creeping 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 culinary 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!
* Southern exposure in the northern hemisphere.