Homegrown Herb Gardens

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Wishing you had the gardener’s touch when your recipe calls for a pinch of parsley? Turns out, no green thumb is required to create a kitchen herb garden.

“It’s a pleasure in cooking,” says Susan Littlefield, horticultural editor at the National Gardening Association. “The flavor is really so much better than using the dried herbs, especially things like basil or parsley. When they’re dry, they’re not up for a whole lot of flavor.”

With the increased demand for homegrown herbs, seed companies have been increasing their offerings. This year, online specialty seed company The Cook’s Garden introduced 30 new varieties. With a few simple tips, it’s easy to turn your own windowsill into an aromatic oasis.

Most herbs are native to the Mediterranean region, so they require ample sunshine, plus a container and potting mix that allow for good drainage. If the kitchen windowsill or balcony doesn’t offer enough steady sunshine, you’ll need to supplement it with a plant light.
Basil, dill and parsley are all great choices to begin a garden. They’re easy to grow and used in many recipes. Under the right conditions, almost anything can be cultivated indoors, but plants such as cilantro and fennel grow tall and can be more difficult to manage in small spaces.

“Herbs are really almost limitless,” says Chelsey Fields, vegetable product manager for W. Atlee Burpee & Company, Warminster, Pa. Some of her favorite herbs from this year’s The Cook’s Garden seed catalogue include Pineapple Sage, a fragrant, pretty plant that can be used to flavor lemonades and baked goods; Barbeque Rosemary, whose stems can be used as flavorful skewers on the grill; Cuban Basil, a spicy, hearty herb; and the Curry plant, which isn’t edible but infuses the air with a spicy smell.

In addition to convenience, an at-home herb garden will transform your kitchen. “These are really aesthetic,” Fields says. “And they have that great sort of therapeutic value to have the sight and the sounds and the smell of it.”

Tags: herb, garden, summer