Growing Herbs 101
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
You know how you see the herbs in the grocery, and they are green, pretty & smell so good, and if you are at a store like Trader Joe's, there are some in a cute container, and you buy them, and then they die. Well that is at least what usually happens to me. And I feel like I have a pretty green thumb; once again, it goes back to my Mom, she could grow anything. Growing up she let me have one area of our backyard for a garden and it was so fun. It was always very exciting when I would see a watermelon, cucumber, and yes, even herbs growing strong (mainly mint).
I think what part of the country you live in plays a huge role in your garden. In Texas I tried, but wasn't incredibly successful, but Texas is so flipping hot & there wasn't much rain during the time I tried to have a garden (strange but true fact, when we have moved from one city to another, typically we bring rain, it did eventually flood at times in Texas, but not while I had my garden. Whole other story) Anyway, it was hard to keep a garden going with the heat & not much water. Tomatoes survived but I didn't give it much effort really. NJ was the best garden I've ever had. I planted a few things and they did great, so my husband made me a whole big area for a garden, with a animal proof fence. I had so much in the garden and it THRIVED. I loved it. We lived on a few acres and oh, having a tractor/riding lawn mower was one of the best experiences ever. I long for that life again.
Ok that was all a little off topic from herbs 101, so back to it.
The main herbs I use regularly are cilantro, mint, Italian parsley & basil, so I'm only going to write about those. One more segway, in Texas we had bushes of rosemary. I don't really like to cook with rosemary, it is just too strong, and my husband can't stand it. But these bushes were very durable. I'd cut them way back because they would grow so quickly. I suppose if you like rosemary & want to go for that, maybe it's the easiest/hardiest.
Cilantro likes some sun & some shade, keep the soil pretty wet, and plant it in a pretty deep pot. Some people say you need to add fertilizer, but you can try just compost in the soil. You need to pinch back the plant; each stem at least an inch or so regularly. This encourages them to become more bushy. If you see any buds/seeds, cut it back, you don't want those to start 'blossoming'. You want the leaves, so to promote that growth, keep cutting it back. It develops seeds quickly & tends to really shoot up in hot weather, so keep an eye on it & keep it trimmed back. Once it gets really tall & filled with the seed shoots, they will fall into the dirt and start to see little leaves coming up at the bottom of the original plant. So you could try to harvest those and kind of start over from there, honestly I've never tried this.
You can trim off, or just pull off some leaves anytime, but get the upper leaves, not the ferny ones. It's really best fresh & not dried. Dried it is coriander and that is a whole different ball game.
For fresh cilantro, rinse it, chop it or just tear it and use it in many different types of food.
If you just buy cilantro at the store, rinse it really well, trim about an inch from the bottom of them stems, then put in a cup of water, wrap a plastic bag around the top of them & keep in the fridge. It lasts this way quite a while, I always have cilantro in my fridge & I bet it lasts
1 - 2 weeks depending on how fresh it is.
There are several types of mint including peppermint, spearmint, catnip is a type of mint, lemon mint & chocolate mint, just to name a few.
All mint is fast-growing, spreading plants & they need lots of room to spread. If you plant them in a flower bed, they can be used as ground cover. If you plant them in a pot, just keep them trimmed back. Mint likes a lot of sun & well drained soil.
To use, pinch off as much as you need, rinse and either use as is it chop it. To store, place single mint leaves between two slightly wet paper towels, then lay flat in a ziploc bag, & keep in the fridge. Mint can stay like this for at least a week.
(This is strictly a preference; both curly parsley & flat leaf (Italian) are great, I just prefer flat leaf because I think it has more flavor).
Parsley doesn't like extreme heat or cold. You can easily grow this one indoors in a sunny window. Plant in moist soil, and it does well with some compost mixed in. It does like to be in the sun, and although it is pretty drought resistant, try to keep it watered.
A couple of fun facts about parsley, it has a higher vitamin c count than an orange & the stems are packed with flavor, so use them as well as the leaves.
Like mint, there are a lot of types of basil; sweet is the basic one you see, but also there is purple, Thai & lemon to name a few. Basil likes warmth & sunshine. Put it somewhere it can get sun all morning, but preferably shade in the late afternoon. Don't over water; it doesn't like to be too wet & the soil needs to be able to get some air. Basil is prone to fungus. I'm not big into fertilizers, but most people say basil needs little fertilizer. And make sure to get a good soil for your basil plant. If you are ready to use some, just pinch off what you need. If the stems start to get too leggy/long, trim them back & it will stimulate new growth. Storing it is the same as cilantro, if you choose to just buy some are the grocery, rinse it, trim about an inch off the bottom, put in a glass of water & cover with a plastic bag.
Ready to grow some nice, fresh herbs?