Kitchen Herb Garden



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Growing a nutritious herb garden outside your kitchen door is a true delight. Raising herbs is fairly easy, and many varieties double as beautiful ornamentals that add color and texture to gardens.

Growing herbs saves you money, too. And you can't put a dollar value on the flavor you'll savor when you add fresh-picked herbs to homemade recipes.

Here's the 411 on our top 10 favorite herbs.




Basil


Want to add zest to pasta sauces? Just leaf it to basil. There are more than 30 varieties of this herb, but sweet basil is the most common. Space plants 1 foot apart; they'll grow 1 to 2 feet high. To promote bushiness, pinch off growing tips and blooms as they appear. Consider colorful varieties, such as Purple Ruffles.

Suggested Recipe:
Italian Basil Pasta Salad >




Bay

Bay leaves actually come from a shrub that's a perennial in warmer climates. Those in colder regions may have better luck buying a small plant and growing it indoors for the winter and even year round. It reaches 5 or 6 feet in height if kept pruned. Warning: Be sure you buy a culinary bay tree, as other relatives produce toxic leaves.

Suggested Recipe: Pot Roast with Gravy >




Chive

Versatility, thy name is chive. Stir it into soups and sauces; whip it with butter, cream cheese, sour cream and dips; or sprinkle it on potatoes and omelets. Chive is a kissing cousin of onions but tastes slightly sweeter and milder.  They grow 10 to 15 inches tall, with bright blossoms and leaves.

Suggested Recipe: Bacon-Chive Potato Salad >




Cilantro


Strongly associated with Mexican food, cilantro also is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Indian, South American and Asian cuisines. And talk about getting a lot of bang for your buck—its seeds also produce the spice coriander. Cilantro grows 1 to 3 feet tall. For a continuous harvest, plant successive crops every two to four weeks.

Suggested Recipe: Cilantro Bean Burgers >




Dill

A member of the carrot family, dill is well known as a pickling ingredient. But its seeds and leaves also taste great in breads, dips and soups. It grows best when sown directly in soil; it reseeds itself regularly. Common dill grows to about 3 feet tall but is leggy enough to warrant planting in a location protected from wind.

Suggested Recipe: Savory Dill and Caraway Scones >




Oregano


This drought-tolerant Mediterranean herb typically grows about a foot tall. It's the ultimate low-maintenance herb, as it requires little watering. In fact, you don't even have to cover the seeds with dirt; just mist them and watch 'em grow. To maximize flavor and keep plants compact, pinch off blooms as they appear.

Suggested Recipe: Oregano Olive Chicken >




Parsley


Popular as a garnish, this member of the carrot family also enhances the flavor of meats, salads and soups. The plants are slowpokes when it comes to germinating, so it helps to soak the seeds over­night before planting. Mature parsley will reach 10 to 18 inches in height and spread 6 to 9 inches.

Suggested Recipe: Lemon Parsley Swordfish >




Rosemary


This aromatic herb is packed with medicinal powers. The scent of its oil enhances memory, and the herb is a powerful anti-oxidant that reduces the risk of blood clots, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. It's also a crowd-pleaser when roasted with chicken, fish, lamb, pork and potatoes. Grows up to 3 feet tall.

Suggested Recipe: Rosemary Leg of Lamb >




Sage

Sage adds color, texture and fragrance to gardens—as well as flavor to pasta, meats and breads. Most types of culinary sage feature purplish-blue flowers and fuzzy leaves that range from gray-green to variegated colors. Plants grow up to 2-1/2 feet tall and wide. Pinched for space? One plant is probably plenty.

Suggested Recipe: Sage Shrimp Skewers >




Thyme

This aromatic herb complements everything from tomato sauces and marinades to vegetables and jellies. It also doubles as an eye-pleasing, 6- to 10-inch-high ground cover. Better yet, this woody perennial doesn't demand much attention at all, especially when it comes to watering. In fact, too much water reduces its flavor.

Suggested Recipe: Steak with Orange-Thyme Sauce >




Herb Storage Tip


For long-term storage, keep dried herbs in airtight containers made of dark glass, which shields them from damaging light. Canning jars with glass lids held by metal clamps work great.




Source: Birds & Blooms "Grow Veggies for Less"