By Mary Frucelli
I honestly don't know why I never thought of growing my own fresh herbs. Was I too busy? Did I think it would be too difficult? I guess I was so accustomed to using dried herbs that I just did not think to take the next step up to fresh herbs. I was sure missing a lot of flavor and healthy benefits.
My fresh herb adventure began in February when I bought parsley, oregano, thyme and basil seeds. I took small pots, filled them with a good quality potting soil and planted the seeds as directed on the seed packages. I placed the pots on a rack in front of a sunny, south facing window and kept the soil consistently moist. After a couple of weeks I noticed the seeds were sprouting. The basil seemed to sprout first and the thyme, oregano and parsley were a little slower. After a couple more weeks some of the small sprouts were dying off and it seemed like the strongest ones were surviving. I backed off on watering to make sure I wasn't watering too much. It took about 2 months but my herbs were finally on their way to becoming successful, strong plants.
Once the weather was warm enough outside I transplanted the herbs to larger pots and kept them on the deck, close to the kitchen so I could easily pick their leaves. I would have no excuse not to use fresh herbs now! The herbs seemed to thrive in the natural sunlight and rain water. I was very impressed by how easily these herbs grew. I would recommend when first starting your herbs generously plant quite a few seeds to make sure you will have enough seedlings to create large, healthy plants. Consistently water them, make sure they have plenty of sun and you should be successful growing your own fresh herbs.
How many ways have I used fresh herbs? The possibilities are endless. Every night I think of which herb would taste good in what I am preparing. Basil is a very versatile herb. I use it in salads, on pizza, in spaghetti sauce, on chicken and chopped on freshly cooked pasta with butter or olive oil. I especially like parsley in rice or potato dishes but it is also good in salads and cooked vegetables. Oregano is a wonderful herb to accompany basil in any dish or salad. Oregano also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that can be helpful if you have a cold or the flu. Infuse the oregano in water making a tea and sip it throughout the day. Thyme is a wonderful herb and tastes best added to chicken and vegetables near the end of their cooking time. Thyme also has antibacterial properties just like oregano. Since I eat salads every day I love to eat any of these herbs mixed with lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.
My advice is to try and grow fresh herbs at any time of the year. You will save money, your meals will be enhanced by their fresh flavor, and it will be very healthy for you.