Growing your own herbs is a great way to provide fresh ingredients and add flavor to almost everything you cook. Plus herbs are relatively easy to grow, no matter where you live. Just one herb plant, grown in a small planter that sits in a window, is all you need to get started. Here are the five herbs that I'm always growing — both for their taste and utility.
I'm a huge fan of mozzarella, tomato and basil as an easy snack or light meal in the summer. It’s so quick to put together that it’s become a go-to when last-minute guests arrive. (Just layer the three ingredients on a beautiful plate, drizzle with good-quality olive oil, and voilà! A party-ready platter.) The fragrance of basil reminds me of a warm summer evening, enjoying good company, good food and some good wine. (Can’t forget the wine!)
In my childhood in Holland, my mother always had chives growing in the kitchen. It was my job to snip some to enhance the dishes she prepared. I’ve carried on this tradition, and my daughter often takes on the role of chive-cutter for our meals ... I think of my mother every time.
This is the herb that everyone recognizes as the main flavor in salsa. Personally, I love cilantro for far more than salsa — I use it in everything, including raw in salads. It just tastes like the essence of fresh and healthy to me, and the leaves are so interesting to look at. My daughter is an expert at making guacamole, which has become one of my favorite dishes.
Who doesn’t love mint tea? It’s a tummy soother — I like to regularly drink a cup after a big meal to avoid a stomachache, not just cure one. It’s great for the digestion. And, of course, mint can be used in cooking; it serves as a nice counterpoint to meats (not just lamb) and is a staple in many veggie-based dishes.
This herb is not one that most people think of growing fresh, but it's one of my favorites because it's perfect in eggs. I love eggs — for their nutritional profile, versatility, ease of preparation … I could go on (but I won’t; we’re here to talk about herbs not eggs). I go stretches of time where I make a frittata for at least one meal a day. And I always use fresh thyme in my frittatas.
All these herbs are pretty easy to grow, even in a crowded apartment. A huge planter of chives can be a decorative piece on your deck, for example. Basil, cilantro, and thyme can all grow in a corner of your flower bed. Tailor your herb garden to your own tastes — maybe do rosemary instead of mint. Get inventive. Have fun. And be healthy.