There is something incredibly satisfying about snipping your own home-grown herbs to add to your meals. They can be grown in the garden, in containers on the porch or balcony or even on a kitchen windowsill. Start off by picking two or three of your favourite herbs. You can grow them from seed, but if you are a novice, it’s easier to buy the ready-grown seedlings.
Prepare the flower bed in a spot that gets both sunshine and shade during the day and then add compost to enrich the soil. If you are using containers, make sure they have good drainage holes at the bottom. You could add rocks at the bottom of the pot to assist in drainage. Put good quality potting soil on top.
The advantage to using containers is that you could easily move them around to find the spot the plants are happiest in. Carefully follow the directions on your seed packet or seedling – spacing out the herbs as directed. Make sure you keep the herbs watered, but take care that they don’t become water-logged.
Some herbs are annuals (meaning that they survive just one year) whereas others are perennials (meaning they last more than two years). Here are some common herbs you could try growing and ideas of how to use them.
This is one of the easiest herbs to grow in the Caribbean. It is a usually an annual plant. There are many different varieties, so choose one that suits you.
Uses: Basil and tomatoes are a classic culinary combination. Try making your own home-made pesto to serve with pasta. Basil is also an essential ingredient in spaghetti sauce. It goes very well with whole baked fish.
A perennial herb, chives are part of the onion family with a more delicate, crisp flavour. Simply trim back the hollow green stalks with a pair of scissors, and snip into little pieces.
Uses: Chives require gentle cooking and they are best added to a recipe just before serving. They are particularly delicious in egg dishes such as egg salad or omelettes. You can add them to vinaigrette dressing for salads; or mix with cream cheese as a topping for crackers.
There are different varieties of mint, but it is usually a perennial plant. It can become invasive in the garden, so it is better grown in pots. Mint prefers moist soil.
Uses: Mint has an affinity to peas; simply add a few torn leaves to the cooking water. Moroccan mint tea is very refreshing in a hot climate. Start your weekend off right with a mojito; there is a wonderful smell as you muddle the mint with the mortar and pestle. Mint also goes very well as a garnish over sweetened strawberries.
A perennial herb with a strong earthy flavour, oregano is popular in Italian cooking.
Uses: Sprinkle the leaves on salad, on top of your pizza or in tomato sauce. Oregano can be used with red meats, poultry, seafood, roasted vegetables and meatballs.
This is an ideal herb to try growing as it is a hardy perennial and can stand up well to drought. Rosemary has a distinct earthy, pine-like flavour. It has woody stalks and needle-like leaves.
Uses: Rosemary has a strong flavour and goes very well with fatty meats like lamb or oily fish. It’s a great addition to stews and casseroles. Add whole sprigs to the roasting pan when you are baking potatoes. The sprigs should be removed after cooking. Rosemary can add a unique taste and appearance to gin cocktails. It can be used to make a flavoured oil to serve on rustic bread.
Be careful not to overwater thyme – it prefers well drained soil. It is a perennial herb. It has woody stalks with tiny leaves. Cut off a sprig and pass it through the prongs of a fork to remove the leaves.
Uses: Thyme has a pungent flavour, so use sparingly. It goes very well in stews and stocks, with roast meats and in pasta dishes. It is one of the ingredients in jerk seasoning.
Sage has woody stems and soft grey-green leaves with a strong, smoky flavour.
Uses: Sage goes well with fatty meats, especially pork. It can be used in beef, duck and chicken recipes. Chop and mix with melted butter as a simple dressing for pasta or gnocchi. Sage and onion stuffing is an excellent traditional accompaniment for turkey.