Growing your own herbs is easy and can save a lot of money. Often only a sprig or leaf of an herb is needed in a recipe – buying an entire bunch or box at the store is expensive, usually forces you to buy too much, and the product is often wilty and old. Cooking with freshly picked herbs results in flavorful dishes and even adds nutrition to your meals. Many herbs are easy to grow right in the ground, in pots on a porch or on a windowsill (in fact, they often “grow like weeds”). Drying herbs from your garden is also easy and will allow you to stock your cupboard for flavoring winter cooking and brewing beautiful herbal teas.
Young healthy leaves are the best ones to harvest! They are tender and flavorful at this time of year. Think about what you’d like in your cupboard this winter. Then harvest and dry the herbs you’d like now. With most plants – including basil, mint family herbs, nettle, and tarragon – pinching tops off actually results in a more productive and bushy plant. Check out the diagram to the right to harvest young leaf tips while boosting future yield. For flowering plants, harvest newly open blooms and your plant will continue to flower through the summer.
What herbs are good for tea? We love anise hyssop flowers, chamomile flowers, mint, lemon grass, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, nettle, sumac berries, and sage. Fresh leaves stay intact in your cup or tea pot, so you don’t even need a tea strainer (left). This year I’m also going to try bee balm petals, catnip leaves, echinacea flowers, calendula petals, and red clover flowers. If you harvest and dry healthy tender herbs and flowers now, you’ll appreciate it in the winter!
What herbs are good for cooking? We always make sure to have dill, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and tarragon in the pantry. Parsley, basil, and cilantro lose a lot of flavor when dried, so we freeze them in olive oil instead.
Check out past posts to: Learn how to dry or preseve herbs and flowers from your garden. Also, if you have young seedlings growing, remember this spring garden tip from last year: Keep Garden Pests Under Control!