These days I personally run hot and cold in the kitchen department. I’m guessing it’s because I’m a widow and only have myself to cook for. When my grown son moved in with me two years ago, I told him he could do his own cooking. That was easy, he’s a vegetarian. But, in order to give his dishes some taste, I’ve encouraged him to experiment by adding herbs.
Selecting culinary herbs to grow is a personal choice and depends on what you and your family enjoy eating. Basil is always a staple in my garden. I got carried away one year and planted my 4-foot-wide, 20-foot-long bed in so many different basils I couldn’t keep up with it. Of course, no one can eat that much fresh basil. I always dry basil when it begins to flower so I had enough of the dried herb to last for what seemed like several seasons. It was a good thing my husband loved spaghetti and other Italian recipes. A ‘New Age’ acquaintance told me I had been a witch in a past life and that’s why I plant basil. Well … I’m not sure about that, but if it’s true I’m sure I was a good witch.
Today I grow herbs in pots on my patio. There is always the ever present basil, marjoram and thyme.
Here are a few seed companies that package and blend their herbs, making it easy for us to select what we want. I encourage any good cook to try new herbs each year.
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds offers a culinary herb collection that features the most commonly used herbs in European cooking and includes Genovese Basil, Plain Leaf Parsley, Chives, Oregano, Sweet Cilanto, Marjoram, Dukat Dill and Thyme.
Bountiful Gardens offers many herb collections from tummy soother to tasty tea, but their culinary herbs collection consists of culinary basics: Thyme, Sage, Flat Parsley, Savory, Chervil, Basil and Chives.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds makes herb planting quick and easy with an herb disk collection. Six different seed disks complete with pots and saucers. Included are Cilantro, Chives, Parsley, Thyme, Genovese Basil and Arugula. Remember that cilantro grows best in cooler climates.
Burpee has a complete herb garden kit that includes Oregano, Basil, Parsley and Chives. The kit includes a biodegradable container, soil and the four herb packets.
If you love Asian recipes, Kitazawa Seed Co. has an herb garden that features a collection of essential herbs for Asian cuisine. Each herb has an intense flavor and scent. It includes Ao Shiso Green Perilla, Evergreen Nebuka Japanese Bunching Onion, Broad Leaved Nita Chinese Leek, Kintsai Chinese Celery, Leisure Cilantro Chinese Parsley, Mitsuba Japanese Parsley and Sweet Thai Basil Red Stem. Kitazawa Seed has a variety of chef specialty garden collections.
Have fun growing culinary herbs you may not be acquainted with, you can always offer fresh sprigs to friends.
Karen Newcomb is the author of The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden Book, in bookstores February 2015.