Must Have Herbs!
Try these herbs for spring planting. Spring herbs can be some of the most satisfying plants in the garden. They typically germinate quickly or leaf out fast from their winter dormancy. They are also some of the signature flavors of our favorite warm season foods.
Right now is the best time to start and it pays to get a few of them started indoors and then out into the garden as soon as you're sure frosty conditions are a thing of the past . . . for a few months anyway,
1. Dill. If you enjoy fish, do yourself a favor and grow your own fresh dill. It tastes more robust than anything you can get dried, and it's very easy to grow. It bolts quickly in hot weather, though, so consider successive plantings.
2. Lemon balm. Great in fruit dishes and wonderful in hot or cold tea, lemon balm has an amazing aroma that you have to experience for yourself.
3. Oregano. You can employ oregano in lots of dishes where you use basil. It's also a basic flavoring ingredient in moussaka, an eggplant dish. If you're planning on starting some eggplant over in the veggie patch, add some oregano to your garden for good measure. I love it with clams and as a flavor enhancer for prepared pizza sauce.
4. Mint. What can you say about an herb that rewards you every time you brush past it? It smells wonderful in the garden, makes a nice addition to casual bouquets and is an absolute essential for mojitos and mint juleps. If you love lamb dishes you probably have some mint growing in your yard already.
5. Marjoram. Oregano's mild cousin, marjoram has a delicate flavor that's made for hot summer evenings. Use it in your chicken dishes, with lamb and as a flavoring for salad dressing. If you'd like to try making your own sausage, marjoram is a perfect herb for that little project too.
6. Thyme. This must have herb is as useful in the garden as it is in your spice rack. It has tiny leaves that are delicious in sauces of all kinds. It's available as a shrubby plant and also as a ground cover. You can find silver, lemon, lime, variegated and other tasty/pretty varieties. Most need similar growing conditions, but keep them separate so they don't cross-pollinate.
7. Basil. Up in plenty of time to serve with those homegrown tomatoes you're laboring over in the vegetable patch, basil really delivers fresh flavor and a Mediterranean ambience that's effortless. Whether you're using it in your own fresh pasta sauce, blending it into pesto or serving it on bruschetta, basil is a very nice herb to experiment with when you want to expand your culinary horizons.
8. Parsley. I like using parsley in cooking. It adds color, some flavor and makes me feel a little virtuous for all the nice nutrients it contributes to prepared dishes. It's also a go-to garnish when you're in a hurry. I grow it from seed, but there's a trick to getting parsley to germinate. Soak seeds in very hot water (not boiling) and let them rest in the water for two or three days before planting. If you can plant four or five parsley seedlings, they'll keep you supplied for the season. Next year your plants will set seed for a whole new generation.
9. Chives. One of my personal favorites, chives don't demand much and come back year after year. I'm in Zone 5 right now and don't give them much attention, but the same patch has been supplying me winter and summer for years. Just keep them watered, give them some afternoon shade in super-hot locations and watch them go.
10. Cilantro. This tasty little herb looks delicate growing in the garden and is a signature flavor in many South of the border and Asian dishes. It's very easy to start from seed. If you'd like to try your hand at making salsa, stir-fry vegetables or fish tacos, having some cilantro growing by your back door is a great beginning. Quick to bolt, start this one early and keep pinching back the blooms to increase your harvest of leaves.