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I’m not sure what it is about summer, but I feel like I get a lot more creative with my cooking because fresh herbs are so plentiful! I always plant a small kitchen garden- sometimes it is in containers, sometimes it is in a garden plot. It really depends on where we are living and what the yard situation is! Currently we live in a house with a sizable yard, but I have planted a *very* small garden. The rest of the yard is a lot to keep up with, so I have been working on making it manageable, and a small garden fits the bill. In addition to a few fruits and veggies we eat regularly (cherry and roma tomatoes, broccoli, squash, eggplant, banana peppers and lettuce- see? Just a few!) I also planted the herbs we use most often: cilantro, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, lavendar and rosemary. My daughter lives in an apartment and I put together a cute little windowsill container garden of herbs for her, too! She is going to be delighted because she is a phenomenal cook!
Kitchen gardens can be grown however they need to be to suit your needs: outdoors in a garden or container(s), or indoors on windowsills, or in pots in front of sunny windows. No matter your living situation, you can pretty easily plant a kitchen garden. Plants that have already started to grow can be purchased for $2-3 per plant (less if you live in the country with roadside farm stands!) and seeds can be started in the winter for around $1 a package. I find purchasing already growing plants is easier and satisfies my need for immediate gratification, too. Planting your own kitchen herb garden is a huge money saver, also! You can have plants all season, and maybe even year round, for a fraction of the cost of purchasing them at the grocery store.
Here is a list of 15 herbs that are perfect to grow indoors, or grow outdoors year round depending on your zone, or grown outdoors during warmer months and brought inside during colder months.
Basil is so easy to grow and it grows fast! One small plant can provide us with enough basil all season long. It is a staple in Italian cooking and nothing beats pesto fresh from the garden! There are many uses for basil in addition to pesto, though. Our favorites include basil butter, in bruschetta and in salads of fresh tomatoes & fresh mozzarella with olive oil, coarse salt and fresh basil. Oh. My. Yum.
I am really regretting not planting chives! I didn’t even think about it, and I love chives. A member of the garlic family, they are great on more than just bagels. We love them on eggs, fish, potato salad and in soups, too.
Lemongrass is incredibly versatile! It can be used in teas, or to add lemon flavor to soups. It can also be used to ward off mosquitoes, so plant this outside near your entryway if possible. Lemongrass can also be used in homemade soaps and it can take care of little tummy aches, too.
Did you know oregano became wildly popular in the US after WWII? Soldiers couldn’t get enough of the “pizza herb!” Another staple in Italian cooking, oregano is, of course, necessary on pizza, but is also a terrific seasoning in pasta sauce. And, everyone loves dipping a nice loaf of crusty Italian bread in olive oil with oregano in it!
Another versatile plant, lavender not only smells amazing, it tastes pretty amazing, too! It has a sweet taste and is excellent in morning scones and poundcakes, as well as in tea and salad dressings. A bundle hung in your shower will release a relaxing scent in the steam of the shower. Have you ever tried lavender ice cream? It is soooo gooood. Check out this recipe for White Chocolate Chunk Lavender Ice Cream and get ready to drool. If you are not going to move your lavender plant indoors at the end of the season, cut it down and dry the stems. You can use the dried buds for cooking, or make a lovely wreath with the stems.
Cilantro is well known as a spicy herb used in Mexican recipes- Cilantro Lime Chicken Burrito Bowls, anyone? But did you know Cilantro is used in Chinese dishes, too? Added at the end to stir fry, cilantro helps maintain the flavor and aids digestion of spicy dishes.
Part of the mint family, thyme is a great herb to use in soups and stews. It is also fabulous when combined with rosemary and used as a rub on fish and poultry. Thyme also aids in the digestion of fatty foods.
Rosemary is very easy to grow and can withstand a bit of neglect, too, which makes it a great herb for me. It is aromatic and can be used to ward off insects, including mosquitoes, as well as in many dishes. It is a flavorful ingredient in bread (check out this recipe for an herb bread braid that is so good!) and pastas, and can also be added to water as a great detox drink!
More than just a garnish, parsley is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine! It can be used to add flavor to taboulleh and hummus, and also added to ground lamb for extra flavor. Add a little to an omelette to really taste it’s peppery flavor. Parsley is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K.
You may not think of garlic as an herb, but it definitely is! It is also very easy to grow and will keep for months if stored properly! Garlic has so many uses- from seasoning sauces and dressings, to helping treat acne and cold sores- this is one great plant to plant in your kitchen garden!
Mint can be used to calm an upset stomach and soothe a sore throat. It is also fabulous in drinks, like mojitos and juleps, and on top of vanilla bean ice cream! This, along with lavender, is an herb to plant as a treat. Definitely add some to your refreshing summer drink. This is another one I am regretting not planting, as we like to enjoy a beverage lakeside every now an again!
Tarragon has an amazing licorice flavor, that tastes like licorice and tastes nothing like licorice at the same time. If you have tarragon on hand for no other reason than to make this delicious Dijon Tarragon Cream Chicken, that is reason enough. If you have enough left, you can also make a Bearnaise sauce. 😉 Tarragon is also said to be a sleep aid, but it may just be that you are stuffed full from that amazing chicken recipe. (It is THAT good!)
Easy Herb Infused Olive Oil
Herb infused olive oil is so good and so easy to make! I love to have infused olive oil on hand for bread dipping, using in bread recipes, and mostly for cooking Italian dishes. Amazon has a nice 2 pack of 8oz olive oil bottles, and I have also seen bottles at Michael’s and JoAnn that would be perfect, too.
Ok, ready? I’m telling you it is so easy to make herb infused olive oil.
- Wash fresh herbs, pat dry so all of the water is removed.
- Put fresh herbs into your bottle.
- Pour your favorite olive oil into your bottle.
- Let sit in your pantry for 2 weeks to infuse.
That’s it! Ta da! So easy you almost have to have some in your stash!
My favorite combos:
-Rosemary & garlic
-Taragon, Rosemary and thyme
-Cilantro + lemon rinds
-Basil & garlic
-Oregano & Thyme
So many reasons to plant a kitchen garden! I hope you enjoyed this post- it was fun to put together and prompted me to make a note in my phone for next year since I didn’t think to add a couple herbs to our garden that we would definitely use. I would really like to plant some “bruschetta gardens” for my girlfriends who like to entertain next year. I completely forgot about it this year! They are so simple to plant and super easy to maintain. All you need is a nice planter, tomato plants, basil plants and garlic bulbs. Super easy and such a creative gift! If you’ve made a bruschetta garden I’d love to hear about it! I am also going to try to remember to freeze my remaining fresh herbs at the end of the season in olive oil ice cubes to use in the cooler months. I always forget and I am sure this year will be no different!