Fresh herbs are such a great way to add healthy nutrients to your diet. They’re plant based foods that offer Vitamins, antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. They also provide abundant flavor to any dish. I always have fresh herbs on my windowsill because I use them daily. Pinch off a few leaves and you can change the entire flavor of your dish into something amazing and you’ll get added health benefits.
The problem with fresh herbs is the price tag. They’re very expensive (around $2.80 for a small container) and most of the time you only use 1/4th of the package and end up throwing the rest away. Forget buying those tiny packages. Get some small pots, soil and either purchase the live plants (in soil) at the grocery store or head over to a gardening store like Home Depot and purchase some small starter plants.
You can grow fresh herbs anywhere so don’t worry if you don’t have a window in your kitchen. Herbs are pretty and smell wonderful so you can place them near any window in your home. I love the smell of Rosemary so much I put an additional plant in my office. Find a great sunny spot with Southern exposure and let them grow.
Make sure to purchase herbs you use the most. I always have Rosemary, Basil and Thyme as those are the ingredient profiles I cook with most often. In the summer months I add Mint and Cilantro to the mix.
Once you have your herbs handy there’s so many ways to use them:
- Add fresh basil to salads, pasta, or with some simple tomatoes sprinkled with balsamic
- Throw fresh basil, thyme or oregano in scrambled eggs
- Add to soups, stews and sauces
- Top your sandwich with fresh Basil- yum!
- Make pesto
- Top your tacos with fresh cilantro
- Add mint or basil to smoothies
- Add chopped herbs to whole grains
- Fresh dill on salmon
Growing herbs does take a little trial and error with over-watering or not watering enough but even if you don’t have a green thumb you’ll still save money by growing your own. For starters, you won’t have as much waste and even if you only keep the plant alive for a month you’ll still get more uses than the one package you buy at the store.
Here are some tips to keep your plants in good shape:
- Don’t overcrowd. Keep only a few plants per window, leaving ample space between so they don’t compete for sunlight.
- Make sure the pot is big enough for the plant. If your pot is too small the roots will struggle to grow.
- Proper drainage. Make sure your pot has drainage so the plant isn’t sitting in water. If your pot has a saucer on the bottom make sure it doesn’t sit in standing water collected at the bottom. If you have no saucer place small stones at the bottom to keep the plant away from standing water.
- Don’t over-water. Read the instructions on each plant, some need more water than others. Water until the plant is lightly moist all the way down (put your finger in the soil to feel if it’s dry at the bottom), not soaking. If you develop large gnats chances are you’ve got too much moisture.
- Don’t under water. If your plant is getting droopy it needs a little water.
- Plenty of light. While all plants vary, most herbs need direct sunlight so place plants next to a sunny window. Southern exposure is preferable.
- Keep on trimming. Trim your plant from the top regularly so it continues to grow. Hopefully you’ll be using the herbs regularly in your cooking so this won’t be an issue. Even if you have smaller leaves at the top of a plant like basil, trim off the top layer. This will force the plant to grow more like a bush rather than a long stalk.
If you want fresh herbs year round give it a try. You’ll add more healthful ingredients to your diet, save some money and bring in fresh greenery to brighten up your home.
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies and coauthor of the Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies, and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies.