There’s nothing like fresh herbs to perk up a dish. But even when we know that a bit of this and that will make all the difference between a good dish and a great one, we often go without them just because they are not handy.
Of course, you can resort to dried herbs, or even frozen ones if you can find them among all that junk in the freezer. But it is not the same as the zing that fresh herbs provide. Just imagine the pleasure of going to the windowsill, selecting a nice healthy stem and nipping it off, drawing a deep breath to enjoy the aroma as you do so!
Anyone who has a bright, sunny window can grow a variety of herbs indoors. Select the ones that you like to use often. Frequent harvesting will make them healthier and provide a higher yield.
Here are 6 must-have ones:
Mint makes the top of the list not just because it is easy to grow, but because growing mint is highly rewarding as well. Anyone who is attempting to grow herbs will not be disappointed in this cool-tasting herb. Mint leaves can be used for your tea as well as for cold drinks. Being quite vigorous in growth, it provides you with all the leaves you’ll ever need and plenty to spare, too. It’s very refreshing to have a pot full of mint around, as the slightest touch will release the essential oils.
You can choose from the wide variety of mints available — the most popular being peppermint and spearmint. Since their cuttings root easily in moist soil, there’s no need to bother with seeds. Take a few cuttings in fall or spring and plant them in rich, moist potting soil. If you don’t have a plant to take cuttings from, buy a bunch of mint and select a few healthy stems. You can even root them in water before planting. It’s as simple as that.
Mints love slightly acidic, damp soil. Place the pot where it receives plenty of sunlight. Harvest them as often as you can. In fact, it will punish you with scraggly growth if you don’t. If flower spikes appear, pinch them off promptly to promote vegetative growth.
This is one herb that makes everyone wish they had it whenever they feel adventurous with food. More often than not, you may have to settle for dried basil leaves that taste entirely different from the fresh and spicy flavor of the green leaves. An essential ingredient of pesto, basil leaves can transform almost any dish into something special.
You can purchase the seeds of different types of basil. The lemony and cinnamon-flavored ones are wonderful. Sow the seeds in damp soil and transplant the seedlings into large-sized pots when they are a few inches tall and have a few healthy leaves. You can use the leaves straight away from the excess seedlings you may have. Water the plants deeply, but intermittently. The soil should be kept on the dry side. Check for pests, and eliminate them immediately to keep the plant healthy.
Basil is a tender herb, so it has to be treated as an annual in most zones, except where no frost can kill it. Even in warmer areas this is a short-lived perennial. If you have your basil plant outside, be sure to bring it when the temperature starts to drop. The stems have to be pinched often to prevent flowering. If you have more leaves than you need at a time, they can be stored in the refrigerator while wrapped in paper towels. You can liquidize the leaves into paste with a tiny amount of water and freeze it, too. It keeps the flavor better and truer than dried leaves.
The smallest of onions, chives are a dependable herb that comes back year after year, growing in clumps less than a foot high. The grass-like leaves can be harvested several times a year. The pretty pink flowers that come in late spring make this herb a great addition to even flower gardens. When you grow them indoors, it may not be floriferous, but the leaves are just as plenty and succulent as ever.
If you already have clumps of chive growing in the garden, it’s just a matter of dividing it and planting it in pots. A potting medium rich in organic matter is beneficial for chives because it prefers a pH between 6 and 7. The clump should be set 2 inches deep and watered well. Let the soil dry out slightly between watering. Water logging should be avoided to prevent the bulbs from rotting in the pot. Yellowing of leaves can be due to both under watering and overwatering.
Chives can be grown from seeds, too, but you’ll have to wait a year to harvest. Sow the seeds and cover them with half an inch of soil. Transplant clumps of seedlings into the pots next spring. The outer leaves are harvested so that the middle keeps growing.
You have the choice of growing either the curly-leaf parsley or the flat-leaved French parsley, which has a stronger taste. These biennial plants are usually grown as annuals because their first-year leaves are the most flavorful.
Parsley is grown from seeds usually sown in spring. You need to be patient with parsley seeds as they are notorious for slow germination. They may take a month or more to put out their baby leaves. Keep the soil moist during this time. Soaking the seeds overnight in lukewarm water may accelerate sprouting. The plants love sunlight, so keep them near a bright window.
Parsley leaves are ready for harvest when the plant is 6 inches tall. Hold the outer leaves together and cut them off. New leaves will emerge from the center of the clump. Parsley goes well with almost all vegetable preparations.
This perennial plant with its needlelike leaves and woody stem is hardly an herbaceous plant, but it is generally considered an herb because of its flavorful leaves. This shrubby plant, when grown indoors in a pot, can add height and contrast to a grouping of herbs.
You can propagate rosemary from stem cuttings, but the plant grows so slowly that it takes a long time for it to be ready for harvesting. It is always better to get a good-sized plant from the garden center. It should be planted in well-draining potting mix. The pot shouldn’t be too large for the root ball; it likes to be root-bound. Rosemary can’t stand water logging. It prefers slightly alkaline soil, so add a teaspoonful of lime to the soil.
You can harvest the leaves by breaking off small branches. The needle leaves are easy to dry. Just spread them in the shade for 2-3 days and then store in airtight containers.
This culinary and medicinal herb is the last in the list but not the least among herbs by any chance. Besides adding flavor to a variety of food and drinks, it acts as a food preservative, too. Oregano tea can relieve coughs and cure indigestion. What else do you want from an herb?
You can grow this perennial herb from seeds as well as cuttings. But if you like to use it very often, it is a good idea to get a grown plant from the garden center. The growing medium should be well-draining because this plant likes dry soil between watering. It thrives in alkaline soil of pH 6-8; hence, adding a bit of lime to the soil is a good idea.
Harvest oregano by pinching off stem tips. It encourages bushy growth. Dry the stems in the shade and store in airtight containers. Dry oregano is preferred to fresh leaves because the flavor of this herb intensifies when it is dried.
What are your favorite indoor herbs? Leave your reply in the section below: