Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.


The Pleasure of Fresh Herbs

by Sandra Bowens

Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

In his book Eight Weeks to Optimal Health, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that you buy yourself fresh flowers each week to maintain a positive outlook by enjoying their beauty. I propose you grow fresh herbs.


You don't need to have a sprawling lawn or giant garden plot to discover the joy of growing herbs. A single herb in a container that you pamper and fuss over can be more enjoyable than a vase of flowers that will soon need to be replaced.  Fresh herbs will give you visual, aromatic and taste sensations for months, or even years, to come.


Try one of the following suggestions and see if you don't find it just a bit easier to look on the bright side of life.


Explore the unfamiliar


Buy an established plant of an herb you have never used for cooking. Look for something uncommon that you have always wondered about like epazote or lemon grass.  You may have to turn to plant catalogs or online sources but these same specialty purveyors will also provide accurate growing information to ensure success.



Grow your favorite


Some of our most common herbs are also the easiest to grow.  Cilantro, thyme or basil will stay beautiful while giving you an entire season of enjoyment. Not to mention the savings realized when you are not shelling out the money for expensive "gourmet vegetables."


Tend a veggie


Some plants that will grow well in a container hover on the line between herbs and vegetables. Jalapenos or other chiles are fun to grow and a single plant provides a steady supply.  Cherry tomatoes that will maintain a small bush form are rewarding.  Even onions and garlic could turn into a project that will net edible results.



Feel the magic of seeds


Starting from seed may delay your harvest but you will find great delight in a plant that you have grown from seed.  You must lavish attention on a pot of seeds.  Each point in the process, from the first seedling to emerge through actually consuming it will brighten your day.  Consider sowing arugula for a fast grower or chervil for gorgeous tiny plants.



Buy two plants and give one away


If an herb plant will make you happy consider making someone else's day by giving them one too.  It really isn't much more work to pot up two plants rather than one.  Tie a bow around the container and it becomes a special gift.



Bring chives into your kitchen


Because most windows cannot provide quite enough sun, indoor herbs are sometimes difficult. Chives are said to be the easiest to grow in a sunny window.  The fountain-like foliage and whimsical purple flowers make chives as decorative as they are tasty.  You will find a way to add chives to every meal when they are right at your fingertips. Maybe you should get a pair of plants for a steady supply.



Fall in love with a pot


Herb plants may come and go but the container that holds them could last forever. Be on the lookout for the pot of your dreams.  It might be in your best friend's garage, a local antique shop or even one of those giant discount stores.  I found my favorite pot at a garden center (see a photo of it at An Herb Gardener's Diary--Part Four).  The opening was chipped on the inside so I bargained for a better price. It has been my basil pot ever since. Fill your favorite with a fast growing plant that will always look good like basil or mint.  You will smile each time you look at it.



Plant a flowering herb


Most herbs are pleasing to the eye just because of their interesting leaves but you can double your pleasure with those that have flowers.  Spiky and regal, lavender produces beautiful flowers that can be used for cooking or crafts.  The fat round leaves of the nasturtium plant are edible while the flower seeds can be pickled like capers once you are through admiring them.  Anise hyssop is enchanting as the fluffy purple tips wave in the breeze.



Think fragrance


Few things fit more perfectly into the garden than a plant with an exceptional aroma.  You don't have to turn a plot of land to enjoy a fragrant herb.  With a scented geranium you will find more than thirty different varieties to choose from.  More traditional culinary herbs are available in almost this same abundance.  Have you heard of cinnamon basil or chocolate mint?  The old favorite rosemary will give you pleasure for years to come.



Do it for someone else


You might enjoy your little herbal indulgence even more if you plant your pot with someone else in mind.  Maybe chamomile reminds your mother of her mom or you would like to give a feline friend the treat of catnip.  Consider the local wildlife, too.  Did you know that Black Swallowtail butterflies like to breed in fennel and parsley?


If none of these reasons to grow an herb inspire you, think up your own excuse.  Just be sure you don't miss out on the joy that a simple pot of herbs can add to your life.



Related links


Read more about butterfly gardening.


Find unusual plants and seeds.


Who is Dr. Weil?



Much different than the typical Junior League collection, this award-winning book from the Houston club covers far more than rosemary.

McVicar's loyal following as well as the critics love this beautiful book. Although written for gardeners, culinary enthusiasts will also find it helpful.

Tea is an herb too, and can make a delicious addition to a wide variety of foods. Here are 100 recipes to get you started.

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