If you’re like many people, one of your new Year’s resolutions is either to eat healthier or cook more of your own food in the year to come. It’s a great goal to have, and every person can benefit from eating fresh, healthy food.
One of the best ways to keep yourself engaged and excited in the kitchen is actually to take up another hobby: gardening. Specifically, growing your own herbs at home can really enhance your cooking experience this year. Herbs add tremendous flavor to the dishes you’ll be cooking and increase your confidence in the kitchen—after all, you’ll be working with ingredients and seasonings you’ve grown all by yourself!
While you might choose to create a vegetable garden in the future, cultivating an herb garden is a great way to put your green thumb to the test. Not only will you get a knack for cultivation, you’ll grow a variety of herbs that can make an appearance in a broad assortment of dishes. Here’s a look at nine of the simplest and most applicable herbs you can (and should) learn to grow at home.
- Cilantro. If you’ve got plans to cook up spicy dishes this year, cilantro is a mainstay you’ll want to have handy. This herb is a little more delicate than some of the others on this list, but is nonetheless easy to grow and widely-used in the kitchen. As a bonus, cilantro seeds are coriander—another widely-used seasoning!
- Basil. There are a few different types of basil, however they’re all easy to grow and relatively simple to care for. Plan on using basil any time you cook Italian-inspired dishes like pasta, pizza or salads. Basil’s antioxidant properties make it a great herb for general use and its distinctive taste will quickly become one of your favorites.
- Parsley. If you’re planning any slow-cooker meals or have soups and stews on the menu, there’s a good chance they’ll have parsley in them. Parsley is a very hardy herb and will survive year-round indoors. Just make sure you have a large pot—parsley gets big and bushy quickly. On the health side of things, parsley is rich in Vitamins A and C.
- Bay leaves. Most people are content to buy dried bay leaves for their stews, soups and crock pot dishes, but nothing quite compares to the flavor explosion of fresh bay leaves. Plant bay leaves in a pot and watch them quickly blossom, using one leave at a time as you sustain the long-term growth of this aromatic, versatile herb.
- Rosemary. Rosemary plants can quickly grow to be the size of a bush, so be careful to prune yours regularly if you’re trying to keep it small and manageable! You’ll appreciate having this fragrant herb around and will find yourself using it in all sorts of home-cooked dishes, including meats and vegetable dishes.
- Mint. Mint is a great beginner herb to grow because it thrives in almost any conditions. In fact, you’ll need to grow mint in an individual pot because it has a tendency to rapidly take over any planting space! Mint is a great addition to everything from a glass of tea to a fresh salad. It offers antimicrobial properties, which can give you fresher breath!
- Dill. Dill is great for flavoring richer, more complex foods. It’s best grown indoors, as it has attractive properties for predatory insects like wasps. Dill is known for reducing the prevalence of cramps and can even soothe swelling. It’s an aromatic herb that will bring your kitchen to life with the smells of freshly-made food.
- Peppermint. Peppermint is something of a super herb, known for its concentrations of calcium, potassium and Vitamin B. Like other mint plants, it needs its own space. Growing peppermint in your home will bring beautiful aromas to life in your kitchen and, as a bonus, ward off any pests or insects. Just keep it away from curious cats and dogs!
- Thyme. Following the Mediterranean diet in the New Year? You’re going to need plenty of thyme to keep your dishes seasoned! It’s a widely-applicable herb that goes great in any number of dishes. Beware—as a cousin of mint, it’s known for being a little invasive and is best grown separately in its own pot.
When planting these herbs at home, keep them in their own pots, plant them in nutritious soil, make sure they get adequate light and shade, and make sure they’re watered accordingly. Most herbs will flower in a matter of weeks and sustain themselves for as long as you tend to them. With an unlimited supply of herbs within reach, you’ll have no trouble cooking up delicious meals each and every day!