With summer in full swing, so is my garden-fresh inspired cooking. The hot afternoons and only slightly cooler evenings have seen me craving light veggie-loaded dishes for lunch and dinner. Dishes such as homemade pasta salad, herb and olive oil marinated chicken, and fresh tomato sauce spaghetti have been staples on my table for the past month. And the reason these dishes keep making appearances? Fresh, homegrown, herbs.
I love having a ton of fresh herbs to cook with. I find it super inspirational to create dishes using them and they make my kitchen smell heavenly.
So, if you have a small patch of garden, a sunny window sill, or warm porch here are six herbs you should be growing!
If you only have space, or the patients, to grown one herb, grow chives. When freshly picked their flavor is stunningly pungent and way tastier than any chives you can buy in the store. They can be added to any dish for a boost of flavor or they can be used as a fresh garnish.
Chives are also easy to grow. Plant them in a sunny spot in early spring and make sure they are kept watered. You can start harvesting your chives 60 days after you have planted them if you started with seeds or in 30 days if you started with a transplant. In mid-summer your chives with blossom with pale purple flowers. These flowers are edible and are lovely in a salad.
Finally, if you want to kick your chive growing up a notch, plant garlic chives. They will add a hint of garlic flavor to any dish you add them too.
Parsley is the ultimate garnishing herb. However, it is more than just a perfect plate decoration. Did you know, for example, that parsley is super-rich in iron and vitamins A and C?
When planting parsley from seeds, make sure to follow that package instructions for germination. Parsley can be slow to sprout so, be patient and make sure to keep the soil in your pot moist. Alternatively, you can start your parsley by buying a transplant from your local garden or hardware center.
Your parsley is ready to harvest when each stem has three different leaf segments on it. Harvest your plant from the outside in to keep it growing all summer long.
I love to add handfuls of freshly chopped parsley to my pasta salads and summer soups to give these dishes a pop of color as well as a pop of nutrients.
Rosemary has an unmistakable sweet, almost soapy, smell. It has a wonderfully aromatic taste and can be a beautiful addition to any garden.
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to four feet tall. It is not too picky about where it is planted outside and it can also be grown in a pot indoors. You can harvest up to a third of your rosemary plant at a time and you should use the young (or just grown) stems for the freshest flavor.
If you are unsure how to use your rosemary try it in a simple marinade. In a small bowl mix together a bit of olive oil, dijon mustard, and your rosemary which has been crushed or finely chopped. Stir these ingredients together in a bowl to combine. Finally, rub it onto lamb, pork, or chicken about 30 minutes before cooking.
The quintessential Italian herb. Basil is lovely cooked, raw, and in pesto form. The plant grows wonderfully in a pot on a sunny window sill. And, while you can grow basil outside, it will only grow in the warm summer months and it is sensitive to heavy rains.
I prefer to grow my basil indoors because it makes my kitchen smell incredible plus if I have my plant in arms reach I tend to use it more.
You can start harvesting your basil as soon as the plant is six to eight inches tall and to keep it producing all summer ensure that you harvest often. If you do not have an immediate use for your harvested basil leaves you can freeze or dry them until you are ready to cook.
My favorite summer time basil recipe is appetizer-sized caprese skewers. To make them simply sandwich a folded basil leaf between a piece of mozzarella and a cherry tomato on a cocktail stick. Layout your assembled skewers on a serving plate and finish the dish off with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Yummy.
Thyme is a super pungent herb that goes wonderfully in pasta sauces and, if you are feeling adventurous, in lemon cake!
It is, however, notoriously difficult to grow from seeds so, I suggest you buy an already sprouted plant from your local garden center. Once the plant is six to twelve inches tall you can begin to harvest your sprigs. Continuing harvesting stems throughout the summer to keep the plant from getting leggy.
A fun fact about Thyme is that there are over 50 varieties of the plant. English thyme is the most common variety used in cooking, however, Caraway and Lemon thyme are worth a try if you want to grow something a little different.
Sage; the essential Christmas stuffing herb. While this herb is best known for the winter dishes it usually accompanies it’s also fantastic in summer meals. Just try it in a light white wine pasta sauce with paired with bacon and you will agree, it deserves a spot in your summer repertoire.
To grow sage in your own garden, it is best to start with a cutting from an established plant. If you do not have access to a mature sage plant, head to your local nursery and purchase a started bush. Sage is a perennial plant and it will last for years in your garden. So, make sure when you plant it you like its location!
The year you establish your sage plant you should harvest it lightly, however, in subsequent years you can harvest it heavily throughout the summer and into fall.