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Grow Your Own

herbs drying

Growing herbs and vegetables at home can do wonders for your cooking, from enhancing the flavor of your favorite dishes to inspiring you to try out new recipes that utilize your harvest. The price of small quantities of herbs from the grocery store can add up quickly but snipping a few leaves from your own plant is cheap and convenient, and freshness is guaranteed. Whether you’re working with a small plot in the yard, a fire escape or even just a windowsill, chances are you can develop a green thumb without too much trouble. You can pick up young plants at your local farmers market, garden center or hardware store. All you need to do is select plants that work with your lifestyle and you can enjoy the delicious rewards.

Things to Consider

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is light. If you have a yard, it might not be much of an issue, whereas in a small city apartment, your little garden might only be getting a few hours of sunlight a day. Many plants require full sun, which means they’ll need 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. With simpler herbs, you can usually get away with partial sun, meaning your plants will see the sun for 4 or 5 hours a day. You’ll also want to think about space. Some plants have more intricate root systems than others, so they will need bigger pots so they can get a good grip. Others can be crowded in the same pot without any harm. Drainage is another thing to take into account. No matter what the plant, you want to have control over the moisture level and avoid standing water. Buy a bag of potting soil, which is coarser than soil from outside, so water will move through it more easily. It also contains nutrients important for a healthy plant. You’ll want to choose pots carefully. Plastic pots are a good choice because they are cheap and the material won’t absorb water, so it won’t take any away from your plant.

What to Grow

Basil loves water, but it loves sunlight even more, so try to keep it in direct sunlight if possible. As long as its soil remains moist, basil thrives in the hot weather, making it a perfect thing to cultivate in the summer. Basil leaves should be harvested weekly, so you’d better get cooking! You can add basil to almost any recipe, but it’s especially great for making pesto, fresh salads and pasta.

Mint is extremely easy to grow and it doesn’t require as much sun as basil. It does well with morning sun and partial shade in the afternoon. Mint is very invasive, so it’s a good idea to keep it in its own pot. Mint is great for tea, salads, dressings and sauces, garnish and cocktails.

Cilantro is another plant that needs plenty of light, but it doesn’t do very well in extreme heat. It’s a good plant for a windowsill as long as it is in the sun for a good portion of the day. It grows quickly and should be harvested at the bottom of the stem. Fresh cilantro is a great topping for almost any dish and does wonders for curry, pesto, salad, salsa and other Mexican dishes.

- Emma Stratigos


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