Welcome to the second guest post on the tasty tRuth! I was excited when greenthumb Mackenzie contacted me interested in writing a guest post. I told her I'd love to hear any tips she has for maintaining an "indoor garden," as that's about all I can hope to manage as a resident of NYC. She shared some great tips about growing and cooking with herbs indoors. Thanks Mackenzie! Mackenzie Kupfer loves spending time in her garden more than almost anything else and loves experimenting in the kitchen with her harvests. She currently writes for the houseplant accessory provider, Avant Garden.
Growing Your Herbs Indoors
Little compares to using fresh herbs when creating a culinary masterpiece (or even a quick lunch for that matter). Despite the superior taste of fresh herbs, many people tend to rely on dried versions because of the price difference and convenience. It’s true that buying fresh herbs from the store is not only expensive but it can also be extremely time consuming. The best way around this is to just suck it up and grow your own herbs. Even for those of you that have brown thumbs, it is worth growing your own. You don’t even have to “garden” per say. You can actually grow plenty of herbs indoors at an extremely low cost and with little maintenance.
There are a lot of different kits that will help you do this but they are just a waste of money in my opinion. You are way better off spending that money on quality ingredients for your dishes. All you need are some terra cotta pots, a windowsill, seeds, soil, and water. If the thought of growing herbs from seeds is a little intimidating, you can purchase already grown plants at a higher cost. For a basic indoor herb garden, I recommend parsley, basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme. Of course you can alter this list or add to it depending on your culinary needs.
There are a couple of different kinds of parsley so make sure you pick up the right packet of seeds. I recommend using Italian parsley because I enjoy the taste better but curly leaf is attractive to look at. Parsley needs a lot of sunlight so it’s best to keep it in the windowsill, making sure to rotate it every few days to make sure it doesn’t suffocate itself against the window.
I grow as much basil as I possibly can because I use so much of it in my cooking. I simply cannot get enough of the taste. Pesto pasta is a frequent dish in my house and I love garnishing my flatbread pizzas and other dishes with it. Basil takes a little bit longer to sprout than other herbs so it is important to be patient and follow the directions on the packet of seeds.
Mint tends to be a little tricky to grow indoors but as soon as you have your first mojito with your homegrown mint, you will never want to try it another way. Like parsley, there are a few different types of mint so make sure you get the one you want. I generally grow sweet mint but you can experiment with what works well for you. One of the biggest downsides of growing mint indoors is that is doesn’t do as well as it does outside and will need to be replanted each year.
I never really know what to do with rosemary but I grow it anyways. I’m sure those of you with more culinary experience than I have probably use it fairly often though. One thing to be careful of when growing rosemary is overwatering it. This is probably one of the more difficult things for me because I tend to drown plants as opposed to underwater them. To avoid drowning your rosemary, let the soil dry before watering it again.
I think that thyme is one of the prettiest herbs to grow even if you don’t like using it in your cooking that much. Thyme is another herb that prefers to have full sun or bright light so recommend setting it in your kitchen windowsill as well. It needs less watering than other herbs because it is somewhat drought resistant so make sure that the soil completely dries between waterings.
A Few Extra Tips
-All herbs benefit from a small amount of water daily as opposed to a weekly drench.
-Don’t get over zealous when picking herbs from your herb garden. Picking too much at one can actually kill them.
-Stay away from using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. I won’t go into the debate on using chemicals on your other plants but you definitely don’t want to do so on something you plan to ingest.
-If you find yourself at a loss, talk to your local nursery. They can give you plenty of tips for your specific concerns.