Fresh herbs are wonderful to use in the kitchen to enhance flavor and nutritional value of any dish. Buying planters to sit on a kitchen counter or windowsill can add to your kitchen décor and naturally freshen the air, so even if you have an outdoor garden, you may want a few pots of your most commonly used herbs and plants nearby year round.
It’s wonderful to be able to snip sprigs from your favorite plants when you need food or medicine.
Regrowing Leeks in Water
We stuck the base of some organic leeks from the store into a glass of water and they started growing like crazy! So now we’re experimenting with growing them in the kitchen window rather than tossing the stubs. Likely a good hydroponic pot of some kind might work best. Not only do leeks add flavor, but they’re a surprisingly rich source of nutrients!
You can see more photos of that in this article on growing leeks and lettuce in water inside.
“Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K plus manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, folate, and vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, vitamin E, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibers.” WHfoods.com
Don’t have a kitchen windowsill? If you don’t have a good window, to can still grow herbs. You can always use a grow light, shop light, or—if you have room in your budget—an awesome composting plant tower near a window or grow light. We’re using this smaller, less expensive, non-composting tower, which can be stacked to be taller or shorter.
Beyond use for cooking, herbs can make great additions to spice up salads, sandwiches and dips. Clip sprigs to drop into hot water for healing herbal teas or to chew for a zingy boost of freshness with medicinal benefit. You can add fresh clipped herbs to your cold or hot water to steep for added flavor and nutrition, or place the dried herbs in a tea ball or herb strainer spoon for hot tea.
When adults do this, kids will follow.
Imagine children growing up with these healthy habits! Instead of automatically downing junk food, they grow up with the habit of grabbing bites of fresh herbs, vegetables, fruit and raw nuts for snacks, and hot or cold herbal teas as they breeze through the kitchen or garden.
When you grow herbs, they’ll be nibbling on springs of parsley and basil, mint and cilantro. When the palette is treated to the freshest, healthiest food on the planet, you know, from your garden, each bite of fresh produce is significantly more satisfying. When we fill up on good food, the desire for junk food lessons.
Small positives add up to huge benefits.
If you grow your own herbs, it’s easy to grow them organically, to increase their nutritional, medicinal benefit.
Here are a few most popular herbs to grow indoors and out. Just imagine how awesome it will be when your spice rack is lined with jars of fresh-dried herbs from your garden.
Our favorite gifts from my sister-in-law were dried herbs, some vibrant kale, and homemade salsa. All gifts from her garden and kitchen.
First up, Saint Joseph’s Wort… or, more commonly known as… do you know it?
Basil, also known as Saint Joseph’s Wort, is easy to grow from seed and comes back year after years, due to the reseeding of the plant. Basil grows fast and there are many varieties and flavor nuances. The varieties are listed in this article by Jackie Rhoades at GardeningKnowHow.com.2)http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/basil/what-are-varieties-of-basil.htm
Some flavors of basil would be used for different recipes. Basil grown in a planter in the kitchen gives easy access and food gets an extra zing when it’s added. Planting basil in between the tomatoes in the garden, helps tomatoes grow healthier and also helps to keep bugs away.3)http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/12-plants-that-repel-unwanted-insects
If you’re interested in learning more about the different varieties of basil. University Illinois Extension has a great article on types and tastes of basil.4)http://extension.illinois.edu/herbs/basil.cfm
Basil Health Benefits
Meanwhile, eating basil can reduce inflammation and is good for heart health, amongst other benefits. Basil is high in vitamin K and magnesium, copper, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate and omega 3 fatty acids.
You can grow these from seeds or you can get a head start by buying basil plants, which are often available year round at your local grocers nowadays. We just bought one from our local Lowe’s Foods store in March that’s beautifully bushy and at least a foot tall.
So that’s a jump start on this year’s basil. We’ll keep buying a plant each visit or so and keep them inside until after the last frost when we can put them in dirt.
We’re especially fond of the purple basil for the lovely vivid purple color it adds to the garden and to salads.
Next: are Chives in the onion family?
Nope! While chives are reminiscent of onions or a combination of onions and garlic in flavor, they are an herb and not in the onion—or allium—family. Chives are a nutrient dense perennial plant found wild in Europe, Asia and North America.
They have beautiful purple one-inch balls of flowers when they go to seed. Clipping only what you need, chives last and thrive indoors, even during the winter months. Great with eggs, salads and in soups, keep these in the garden and on your windowsill for easy access to daily “supplements”.
Chives Health Benefits
Chives have been found to be beneficial in inhibiting cancer, and to improve cognitive function and minimize depression, and that’s just for starters!5)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275009.php
This next herb grows only from the seed and can grow to be as high as 6′ tall.
Dill grows easily—and hardily—from seed. One GardensAll Facebook community member shared this with us:
“I happened to pour pickle juice in my flower garden last summer didn’t think anything would happen. Within a month dill started growing, best tasting and fast growing.”
Apparently pickle juice works wonders… but chances are there were some pickle seeds in there just waiting to grow!
Pickles are easy to make yourself. Growing your own dill only requires a garden spot with lots of water. Dill tries to take over any area where it’s planted. It reseeds itself and can grow up to six feet tall.
And you should grow dill, not only because of the delightful flavor it adds to salads, soups and cucumbers for pickling, but also for the health benefits.
Dill Health Benefits
Dill offers protection against free radicals, carcinogens and is antibacterial. In addition dill is a good source of calcium, so helpful for the prevention of diminished bone density and issues like osteopenia and osteoporosis, which of of particular concern for menopausal and postmenopausal women.6)http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=73
This next herb’s name means “mountain joy”. Do you know it?
Revered as a symbol of happiness by the ancient Greeks and Romans, the name oregano means “mountain joy”, oregano is most often used in Mexican and Mediterranean foods.
A dainty-leafed plant, oregano grows slowly but can last for years with care. It can be grown in the garden and in a kitchen planter. Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K as well as a good source of manganese, iron and calcium.
Oregano Health Benefits
Potent antioxidant and antibacterial herb, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.7)http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=73 WOW!
And now… for those herbs that are forever linked together, thanks to a popular classic song of the ages: Scarborough Fair:
Thanks to Simon and Garfunkel for that walk down memory lane! But if by chance, you’re hearing those lyrics for the first “thyme”, chances are, you will forever more think of these four fabled herbs together.8)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair_(ballad
Do you prefer it curly or flat? Bet you know what we’re talking about.
Parsley is easy to grow in the garden or the house. It also likes to be clipped as needed and continues to grow year around.
Parsley Health Benefits
Rich in many vital vitamins, including Vitamin C, B 12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system, too. It helps flush out excess fluid from the body, thus supporting kidney function.9)http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-surprising-health-benefits-of-parsley.html
Don’t throw this away when you find it on your plate as garnish. To toss this would be akin to throwing away a couple vitamins and some breath mints!
NEXT: The wisest herb…
Many chicken recipes call for sage. Sage grows slowly, so picking off a leaf or two works well for both your recipe and the plant. It can be grown in the kitchen planter or in the garden and is a perennial that will come back every year.
Sage Health Benefits
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, brain boosting, sage can grow from seeds, but the best way to grow high-quality sage is from cuttings from an established plant.
Next, its name means “Dew of the Sea”. Do you know it?
An evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean, the name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”.10)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary
Rosemary is a stout and strong-flavored slow growing member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender.
Rosemary Health Benefits
Rosemary was traditionally used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth.11)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266370.php
Today, science has found rosemary to have numerous other health benefits, including eye, digestive and anti-aging.
This next herb loves a hot sunny location and has delicate white flowers.
Thyme is a woody perennial plant that thrives in sunny, dry and well-drained soil. Sow seeds in the spring in pots or directly in the garden. Thyme is used in cooking and for its astringent and antibiotic properties.
Thyme Health Benefits
The flowers, leaves and oil of thyme are commonly used by people for the treatment of bedwetting, diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, colic, sore throat, cough (including whooping cough), bronchitis, flatulence and as a diuretic (to increase urination).12)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266016.php
It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination, so you’ll want to plant the seeds or cuttings indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost.13)http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/thyme/growing-thyme-indoors.htm
Grow Your Medicine
While of course we must disclaim any medical recommendations, it’s true that these herbs and plants are proven by science to have medicinal benefits. Prevention and natural remedies are ever so much cheaper, so we in our family we always seek these out first. But of course, you must seek appropriate medical advice and follow what’s right for you. This info is to be informative and helpful and is not prescriptive.
Bottom line: Herbs are nutrient dense, flavor packed super foods that are easy to grow and easy to use.
Save money on expensive supplements of questionable quality and strength and get powerful nutrition directly from nature’s “farmacy”.
If you’re already growing herbs, you know that special feeling of having fresh dried herbs in spice jars in your kitchen cabinet. If you’re not yet growing them, chances are once you start it will become a new tradition.
And remember, gifts from your garden will likely be treasured. Package your herbs and concoctions, such as homemade herb blends into attractive spice jars or place fresh herb sprigs in an oil bottle and fill with quality olive oil for special gifts friends, family and hosts will love.
Few things are more lovely than gifts from the garden.
We like the Pantry Jars with wide mouth and rubber gasket and metal clamp for sealing, and a jar of these with your fresh dried herbs make awesome “homemade” gifts.
Or, these simple small spice jars, or 16 oz plastic ones on Amazon may work for you. Your dried fresh herbs will fill these up quickly, however you can always store back up in a larger container in the pantry and keep these on your spice rack for easy access.
If you’re interested in more information on growing herbs and on herbs for colds and flu, you may enjoy these article.
I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of GardensAll.com. Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always been interested in medicinal herbs and getting nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. As a family we’re eager to dig more deeply into gardening and edible landscape for the love of fresh organic foods and self sustainability. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community.
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