Want to have fresh herbs and save money on your monthly grocery bill? An herb container garden is a great way to have your favorite fresh herbs just outside you doorstep. A container garden allows you to select the ideal location for your herb garden and if the growing conditions are not suitable all you have to do is move the container. Container gardens also provide color and wonderful fragrance to your outdoor living area.
Basil is a classic herb that goes well with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and olives. Basil likes at least 6 hours of sun each day and requires moist rich soil in order to thrive. Ground with garlic and olive oil into a paste, basil is a prime ingredient in pesto. Try adding fresh grated parmesan cheese and pine nuts for a traditional pesto. You can freeze pesto in an ice cube tray and add to pasta, garlic bread or grilled shrimp. Make sure you leave the cheese out if you are freezing the pesto.
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs and has a wonderful aroma. Growing rosemary from seed can be difficult so buying a plant is the better option. Since rosemary requires the soil to dry between waterings, it is best to plant in a separate pot. A traditional marinade for lamb combines rosemary with garlic and lemon juice. Marinade overnight and serve with grilled potatoes with rosemary. Another great way to add the flavor of rosemary is adding fresh sprigs to a bottle of your favorite olive oil or vinegar for a little extra flavor when cooking. Try adding finely chopped fresh rosemary to soups, salads, and sauces.
Thyme blends well with other herbs especially rosemary and has a pungent slightly sweet flavor. Thyme prefers full sun, well draining soil and will grow to 12-18 inches. To flavor stocks for soups or stews, make a Bouquet Garni from leek, celery, fresh thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. For a great spread for toasted cocktail bread combine sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, scallions, and marinated artichoke hearts. Sauteed green beans with lemon, shallots and thyme pairs well with an Ballymaloe Irish Stew.
Oregano has a warm aromatic and slightly bitter taste and was introduced in the US after World War II by soldiers returning from Italy. Grown in full sun, oregano reaches 12-18 inches when mature. Oregano is a perennial that requires regular watering and well draining soil. Oregano has become an essential ingredient in many Italian dishes including pizza, pastas, and roasted vegetables. Traditional Pizza Sauce combines tomato puree, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, and pepper and goes well with provolone on grilled foccacia bread.
Sage is slightly bitter in flavor, highly aromatic and is one of the main ingredients in poultry seasoning. Sage prefers well draining rich slightly acidic soil, will reach 24-36 inches in height, and do best in separate pots. It enhances meats and poultry as well as most vegetables. Having a long history as a digestive aid, sage pairs well with fatty foods, such as liver, pork, and sausage. Sage goes well with mild cheeses , try some hand rubbed sage on a grilled cheese sandwich made with fontina cheese and dark rye bread. Marinate goat cheese with olive oil, garlic, peppercorns, and a few small leaves of sage.
Chives have a mild onion flavor and are related to leeks and garlic. Chives are a perennial that prefers well drained rich soil and will grow to 12-18 inches in height. In the kitchen chives are often added to soups, salads, omelettes, potatoes, and bread. Fresh chives are always preferred over dried and should be added to your dish just before serving for the best flavor. Pan Fried Polenta – Prepare polenta by mixing chicken stock, half & half cream, salt & pepper, fresh chives and polenta. Spread onto sheet pan and refrigerate overnight. Cut into pieces and fry in olive oil and serve with your favorite fish and a glass of wine.
Parsley is one of the most popular herbs and can be used as a garnish or added to soups, salads, and sauces. Parsley prefers rich, well drained soil and can overwinter in extreme cold if properly mulched. Rub fish or chicken with butter, olive oil, and parsley and grill. Mix chopped parsley with butter or olive oil and spread on toasted french bread and serve with angel hair pasta. Try a salsa verde prepared with garlic, olive oil, and parsely served over grilled steak. Warm up on a cold day with Parsley Soup made with leeks, flat leaf parsley, olive oil, zucchini, and white wine. Pair it with a Pinot Gris, a crunchy baguette, and the sound of a crackling fire.
Cilantro, the leaves of the coriander plant, has a pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Asian, and Caribbean cooking. Cilantro, is a fast growing annual that reaches 12 – 24 inches tall. The leaves, the seeds and roots are all edible and can easily be grown in container gardens. As the plant gets older the leaves get a stronger and sometimes unpalatable flavor. Be sure to harvest seeds after the leaves and flowers turn brown. For a great marinade for meats or a dressing for salad, blend vegetable oil, lime juice, cilantro, soy sauce ginger, garlic, cumin, and jalapeno. For a classic salsa combine cilantro with onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt & pepper. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips and a bucket of coronas on ice.
Start your own container herb garden with these suggestions: