Nothing is quite so enjoyable as putting really fresh herbs in any home cooked meal. You can make pesto for pasta dishes, or smear it on chicken and fish. It can be made from basil or from parsley and mint for a slightly different taste. Just add pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan. Freeze fresh pesto for use over the winter.
Sage can be used for cooking chicken or pork, mint goes well with lamb. Add fresh thyme or oregano to Italian style dishes. Add cumin or ginger to Asian foods. Most herbs are easy to grow and you should have some in your garden.
Some must be grown in pots, while others can be left to spread. Here's a look at some of the more popular herbs that you can grow here in Jamestown:
Aloe vera: Buy a pot from a local garden center and keep it in a pot indoors. Use it as a salve for fungal infections and to promote healing after a burn or scald.
Angelica: A large plant that you'll have to grow outdoors. The foliage can be eaten in salads as it is in parts of Scandinavia, or the stalks can be candied for use in desserts.
Anise: Easily grown from seed. It grows fairly tall, so grow outdoors.
Bay Laurel: A woody shrub that should be kept in a pot and brought indoors during the winter. It likes humidity.
Basil: I grow a ton of basil of all kinds, both in pots and outdoors. There are many varieties, cinnamon, Thai, Italian, Genoa basil. Grow a few of each type for different flavors. Outdoors it gets woody and you can only pick the leaves, but in pots you can use the entire plant before it gets woody.
Caraway: One of the taller plants that should be planted outdoors.
Coriander: Leaves are used in Asian food and curries. Easy to grow. It is a large plant, so plant outside.
Chives: An easy to grow member of the onion family. Use on baked potatoes and toss some chopped seed heads into salads for extra, interesting flavor and color.
Crocus: The source of saffron. But you'll have to grow a lot of saffron crocus to get an ounce of saffron.
Fennel: Another taller plant that should be planted in the garden. Use the fronds in fish dishes and fish soups. The seeds can be used to flavor cakes and Italian style dishes.
Ginger: Easy to grow but needs lots of warmth. I grow it in the greenhouse and in a shallow wide pot. Use the root. I also grow Galangal, a relative of ginger, for use in Thai or other Asian cuisine.
Horseradish: Grows a large root that spreads slowly. Use the root grated with beef dishes. Plant outdoors and leave in the same spot.
Marigold: These flowers can be used in salads to add a different color and sparkle to your dinner table. They also keep rabbits away from your garden when planted along the edges of rows.
Mint and spearmints: Very invasive plants. Grow in pots and keep contained. Use in salads, teas, tisanes, meat sauces and pesto.
Nasturtium: Grow these plants for flowers and for their buds, which can be used in place of capers. You can also sprinkle nasturtium flowers in salads.
Oregano: Oregano is easily grown and will self seed and spread. It grows into large clumps. Harvest the leaves and dry them for winter use or put a plant into a large pot and set it on a sunny windowsill for use during winter.
Parsley: Easily grown. Start it in pots and in the garden. In the fall, move the pots indoors so that you can pick parsley all winter. Do not remove the plants from the garden, they will sprout again in spring and you can pick early parsley until the plants go to seed. Before it goes to seed, dispose of the plant roots.
Rosemary: Relatively easy to grow in a pot. If you want larger plants you will need to grow them outdoors, but the plant will not survive winters around here, so move it into a pot and bring indoors in the fall. It likes lots of humidity or the leaves will drop.
Thyme: Another easy to grow plant that's adds a huge amount of flavor to home cooked meals. Put it in a rock garden or herb patch where it will grow into a dense clump. Strip and dry the leaves.
Tarragon: Only buy French tarragon and you can only buy a plant. Secret Garden usually has some in the spring. Keep in the warm, it will survive outdoors.
Sage: A large woody perennial plant. Grow outdoors and pick tips of leaves as needed for poultry stuffing, pork, salads, and dressings.
These are just a few of the herbs that you can grow for your table. There are many, many more. Lavender, juniper berrys, many worts, loosestrife and other plants, many of which are used as flowers, can be used to decorate salads. Herbs enrich our meals with their complex flavors and help to maintain our health with their medicinal effects.
By growing your own herbs you can eat fresher food and cut down on the transportation and cost of dried herbs. Plus, it is often easy to plant up a few herbs in fall and bring them indoors for extra flavor all winter.