I strongly recommend that you start to grow your own herbs at home, even by just grabbing some potted herbs in your local store to begin. Then you will have a source of your own healthy organic produce which you can use at will. Hopefully this article will give you a nudge in the right direction. Here are a few of my own favorite kitchen herbs:
1. Basil – one of the most widely used herbs across the globe – originally came from India, where it was actually considered a 'royal' plant. Basil has a very pungent flavor, and is very widely used for cooking in lots of European countries – such as Greece, Italy, and France. It is actually sometimes considered as a symbol of fertility in the Mediterranean region! As mentioned, Basil gives off a lovely fresh aroma. It is an annual, and is very easy to grow in a pot. Also a great companion to tomatoes if planted out, and in the kitchen, and they complement each other perfectly in food. Basil leaves go very well with salads, cheese and egg dishes, and with pizza. Also very popular in soups and stews, and of course pesto.
2. Parsley – also one of the most widely used herbs, enjoyed all over the world, and used both as medicine and as a flavoring. A biennial plant, Parsley loves a rich soil and a sunny position to grow best. Parsley is packed with vitamins and is used in many dishes, but especially in soup. In addition, Parsley makes a great addition to salads, casseroles and omelets. And of course, it's a wonderful garnish for meat and fish, and any dish with onions or garlic.
3. Chives – belong to the onion family but boasts a much more delicious flavor. Chives grow easily in the sun, and need regular moisture and a top dressing twice a year – use a [scissors or small clippers for this. Chives are an ideal garnish, especially in egg dishes and with cheeses; fresh Chives can also be added to or sprinkled over salads and soups, or enjoyed with a freshly baked potato, with some melted cheese ..
4. Chervil – a small biennial herb with a very delicate, fern-like leaf. Origin in southern Russia and the Middle East, and today used all over Europe, in particular in France. Chervil grows to about 45cm tall, and pruning encourages a healthy growth. Fond of moisture and shaded areas. Chervil tastes [a little like Parsley, and also slightly like aniseed. Best used towards the end of cooking, great with eggs, fish and shellfish, meats, salads, sauces and mixed with vegetables.
5. Coriander – a hardy annual grown for its bright green leaves and its seeds. Coriander has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of year. It is even mentioned in the Old Testament and its use has also been recorded in ancient China. Indeed it is sometimes referred to as 'Chinese Parsley'. Coriander is one of the most commonly used herbs in the Middle East and South America. Used as the basis for many curries, spicy sauces and also chutneys and salads. Coriander's versatility is so great that different parts of the plant are known as different herbs. Grinding the dried seeds to use them in your meats, like ham or pork? This is Coriander. Using the leaves to add to some certain Indian or Asian dishes? You're now using cilantro!
6. Sage – another old medicinal herb now used in cooking. Have you ever tried eating sweet sausage with sage, then you know how awesome this herb can be as an enhancement to cooking. The dried leaves of the sage plant are a widely used as a key ingredient in the stuffing of chickens and turkeys. Many chefs additionally use Sage with lamb and pork, as well as a variety of cheese and egg dishes. Sage can easily be grown from its seeds. A Sage bush will grow for years in a sunny, well-drained position. An excellent herb to use with rice dishes like duck, goose or pork, and as mentioned great in stuffings.
7. Thyme – is a must grow for any self-respecting herb gardener. It has a powerful aroma, and there are different types – garden thyme, and lemon thyme or caraway thyme are the most common. Thyme is a [great seasoning roasting herb for just about any meat. Rub the chopped fresh leaves (you can use dried as well) onto lamb, pork or even beef before you place them in the oven. Thyme, although a bit more chewy than other herbs, can also be added to egg dishes, or cheese dishes as well as vegetables. And do not be afraid to experiment with it on your fish or poultry also. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Copyright 2009 Colin West