Some herbs seem to go well with almost any dish. These are the plants you want to grow in your kitchen. When a hint of fresh herb is called for you need only pinch off a sprig rather than pile in the car for the store.
Here are the herbs I recommend as the the most versatile – and easy to grow – for your indoor herb garden:
The herb that makes pesto perfection! Basil has a sweet and spicy smell and taste that pairs beautifully with almost every Italian dish.
Try this: A few fresh leaves minced and tossed over pasta turns the dish into a garden delight. Roasted tomato, mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf on some crusty garlic bread ("bruchetta") makes a mouth-watering appetizer or a healthy afternoon snack for grown up taste buds.
Growing tips: Basil grows faster and fuller the more it is harvested. Pinching off a sprig just above a paired leaf; that stem will then split and grow two sprigs from the one pinched off.
Summer isn’t the same without fresh mint leaves floating in sun tea or garnishing a seasonal salad.
Try this: Mint deliciously flavors summer drinks like lemonade and sun tea but also adds a fresh twist to fruit salad. When winter comes, you can use those fresh mint leaves to brew up a strong herbal tea which is great for clearing stuffy noses and soothing a sore throat.
Growing tips: Like basil, mint grows better when pinched off regularly ... and there are so many different kinds! Consider grapefruit mint, apple mint, chocolate mint or variegated mint for a fun twist on the traditional.
Thyme is a BBQ chef’s perfect garnish. Since thyme grows on a woodier stalk than most herbs, it holds up to the smoky cooking environment while still giving off its pungent flavors and smells.
Try this: Thyme pairs well with pork, beef, fish and chicken and the variations available are fun to experiment with. Consider trying lemon thyme with a fresh salmon fillet or any number of the over 100 different varieties of thyme with your favorite cut of meat to make an original creation.
Cilantro is the herb you will want to reach for in every Latin American dish you create.
Try this: Fresh chopped cilantro on top of enchiladas or mixed into salsa makes your recipe taste like it came straight from the garden. Try this fresh cilantro lime dip and shrimp!
Growing tips: Cilantro is easy to grow from seed and needs to be used often to prevent it from bolting and making seeds instead of leaves.
Dill is fun and easy to grow and you can use the feathery leaves and flowery seed heads.
Try this: Dill sprigs chopped and tossed into a bowl of steamed green beans makes a potentially boring dish so much better. Dill is also delicious in potato or pasta salad, soups and stews.
Growing tips: The upright growth pattern of dill blends nicely with low growing herbs in your box to give variation and balance.
Sage is also an easy herb to grow and its pungent flavor and aroma pairs beautifully with not only meat but fruit.
Try this: Consider dried apricot and fresh sage scones for a summer breakfast feast or pork chops topped with chopped sage and onions.
Growing tips: As with most herbs, the more pinching of the sprigs, the thicker and healthier your plant will be.