Herbs can add a little sprinkle of magic in your cooking, so why not grow your own? Ellen Mary Gardening shares her secrets to successful herb harvesting.
Herbs are an easy way to start growing your own food and it doesn’t matter if you have a garden, balcony or kitchen windowsill, they can thrive in most situations with the right care. Herbs are packed full of goodness, perfect for using in a plant-based diet. Just a small amount of herbs can give you a huge boost of nutrition. Rosemary for example is a great source of vitamin A, C, B6 and dietary fibre. A sprinkle of Coriander on your curry is a great source of dietary fibre and the leaves are full of Vitamin C, K and protein.
Sow and Grow in Containers
Most herbs can be grown in containers, which is great if you have a small space or want to spruce up a patio or balcony. They can easily be sown from seeds, which are cheap to buy from nurseries or garden centres. Tender herbs such as basil, coriander and French tarragon can be sown indoors in spring and then planted outside in containers after the last frost in late spring.
Other herbs that are more weather-tolerant such as mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage can be left outside all year as long as they have been given the chance to establish first. Sow these indoors in spring, or directly in the container where they are to grow outdoors in May. They will need some good root space, so use containers with some depth and fill with a mix of compost and horticultural grit for good drainage. All you then need to do is keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater and place the containers in a sunny spot – outside or on your kitchen windowsill.
Follow the sowing steps above and when the herbs are bigger, they can be planted outside in beds and borders. Alternatively, you can buy herbs that are more established already from your local garden centre or nursery. Some will even be available in biodegradable pots which means you can plant them directly where they will grow, in your garden still in the pot. Some herbs, such as mint should ideally be contained because the roots run riot and you will find a lot of mint growing everywhere! Just plant it in a pot and then plant the whole pot to help contain the runaway roots. Be cautious if you buy pot grown herbs from supermarkets, though, as they have not been grown in conditions that will help them survive outside.
Harvest and Cook
The key to keeping herbs is to use them. They need to be picked to continue thriving. If you pick a variety of herbs, they can be harvested throughout summer and even into late autumn. Chives are so easy to grow and perfect in salads and soups, rosemary will grow into a small shrub and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Herbs are always best eaten fresh for all of their goodness but are also great for freezing. If you harvest the herbs and have too many, put them in the freezer with a label on for use over winter. You could even add herbs such as mint to an ice tray, fill with water and freeze. A perfect way to add minty ice to your drinks in the summertime.
Ellen Mary has been an organic gardening lover since she was a child and now hosts her own horticultural radio show, writes gardening-related content, produces and presents numerous horticultural TV shows and is one half of The Plant Based Podcast. She travels across the world providing talks on how nature and gardening benefits our wellbeing and how we are intrinsically linked. And is vegan!
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