Fresh herbs are just plain healthy. They give flavor to soups, casseroles and other dishes (so that less salt can be used without sacrificing the taste) and many of them have active compounds which have been shown to help prevent everything from heart disease to cancer. However, anyone who has gone shopping in the produce section of their local grocery store has probably noticed that fresh herbs are pretty darned expensive.
Fortunately, there is a way around this – and that is to grow fresh herbs right at home! Any kitchen with a sunny windowsill could hold a few pots of herbs that can be harvested fresh as needed. This gives them the best flavor possible and saves money on buying the expensive fresh herbs found in the average store. Below are some of the best herbs to use for a kitchen garden.
Thyme is a fine-leafed, low-growing herb which does great in containers as long as the soil is well-drained and it has plenty of sunlight. Small sprigs from the plant can be cut from it as needed for cooking and it is incredibly versatile. It can be used in a variety of casseroles, meat and vegetables dishes and stuffing and is even called for in the making of some jams and jellies. Its active ingredient thymol has been found to have many health benefits, including enhancing memory and warding off heart disease. (1)
Chives are super-easy to grow and can be started from seed or from a small clump taken from a fellow gardener. They are a bit heat-intolerant, so make sure they have a fairly cool spot to grow, but they do very well in pots. They have a mild onion-like flavor and make a great addition to soups, potato dishes and pasta. They are also a member of the allium family along with garlic, onions and leeks and are rich in quercetin, an active compound which, among other things, can help those who suffer from chronic allergies. (2)
The choices in this family are endless – spearmint, peppermint, even more exotic flavors like chocolate mint or pineapple mint are all options for growing in the garden. Since they tend to be invasive if planted outside, containers are actually a really good way to go with this vigorous growers. They, like the thyme, are sun-lovers but are not too fussy about the soil they are grown in. They make a great addition to jams and jellies, desserts, some vegetable dishes. (3)
No survey of a kitchen garden would be complete without a discussion of basil, which flourishes in pots and loves a sunny windowsill. It is also indispensable for Caprese salads, homemade pasta sauce and other favorites of summer cuisine. Its pungent, sweet flavor can enhance virtually any tomato-based dish. It does like a lot of water, but be sure to grow it in well-drained soil to avoid any root rot. (4)
These herbs are all wonderful choices for a kitchen container garden, being easy to grow and tolerant of containers. And it will really enhance summer cooking to have these fresh herbs added to a variety of warm-weather dishes. When the health benefits and money savings are added, it is easy to see why kitchen gardens are the way to go!
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