Ever wanted to start your own herb garden but unsure of what herbs to grow? Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself first:
1) What herbs do you often use in the kitchen?
2) Where will you be growing your herbs (indoors or outdoors, balcony, service yard, etc)? How would you like to grow them (in pots, in a patch, together in a box, etc)? Do you think you have sufficient space?
3) Are the herbs easy to grow in your country’s climate? (you can ask the staff at the plant nursery or consult your friends who may already be growing these herbs in their own homes)
For me, I like a good range of herbs that will allow me to cook a variety of different cuisines in the kitchen, and are also versatile enough to be used in various ways. I don’t claim to be an expert in growing plants, so I wouldn’t know the optimal conditions to grow them, but I do appreciate the convenience of having easy access to the appropriate quantity of herbs that I require, without having to go to the supermarket to buy more than I need.
Here are my top picks of easy-to-grow herbs that you can consider growing if you are starting your first garden:
Mint is a fast-growing plant; my little pot from Ikea grew to 3 times its size in a couple of months. It is also easy to grow, and you can either purchase an inexpensive pot or start from a few cuttings in soil or water.
I particularly like using mint in the kitchen because of its versatility: It can be used as a garnish, as a refreshing and pretty addition to a spritzer for a hot day, or to enhance the flavour of salads or meats like lamb and beef.
Curry leaf plant
Curry leaves are used in curries (duh..) but it can also be used in dishes like cereal prawns and snacks like salted egg yolk potato chips. I have also seen it being added to deep-fried calamari and potato wedges/french fries as an accompaniment to beer. The leaves have the best flavour when they are used fresh rather than dried, and you can easily purchase a pot from a local nursery or even from the wet market.
The first time I heard of rosemary was when I was a secondary school student… It wasn’t because I used it in my cooking, but I used the essential oil for aromatherapy during my examination preparation period because I read that it was good for concentration… haha. The plant is easy to grow and is pest-resistant, but be mindful that the rosemary bushes can grow quite large.
I like to use the herb in bread, to flavour olive oils, or with its partner-in-crime, chicken. You can also use rosemary stalks as skewers for your meats on the barbecue or on the grill. I also love the perfume that lingers on my hands when I rub them against fresh rosemary sprigs… Ahhhh 🙂
A refreshing way to use rosemary is adding them to your drinks to give it an interesting twist. Here’s a simple recipe for Rosemary Blueberry Smash that you may want to try out for your next brunch or dinner party.
The screwpine, or more commonly known as pandan, is a wonderful aromatic plant that is widely used in Asian cooking. Use them to perfume your rice, sweet desserts, or do what many local taxi drivers do, place a bunch of them in your car as a deterrent to cockroaches (I’m not sure how such a lovely fragrance will chase away these pests, but my hubby and I have tried it, and it works).
You can actually cultivate the pandan plant at home without having to go to a nursery to purchase a pot. You can visit your local supermarket or wet market, and select leaf stalks with tiny roots at its base. Then all you have to do is to place them in water for the roots to grow further, and thereafter, plant them in potting soil.
In Singapore, one of the most beloved ways to utilise this plant is to use its essence or extract for pandan chiffon cake, but an easier way to use pandan leaves is to boil it with ginger and lemongrass to create a warm and nourishing drink, especially for a cold rainy day. I’ve seen my mum-in-law make the drink using dried ready-made leaves that she purchased from the supermarket, so if it’s too much of a hassle to prepare it from scratch, that can be an option as well. But it isn’t all that difficult to throw the ingredients together in a pot, right? And having it fresh is always better 🙂 Here’s a simple recipe for the drink.
There are many different kinds of basil that you can grow at home, but the most common ones here are Sweet Basil (or called Genovese Basil) and Thai Basil.
Grow your basil plant in a sunny place, and you can propagate the plant via cuttings. Always use fresh basil whenever possible, and if you are cooking it, add it into your food at the last moment to retain its flavour.
There are different ways to use the herb: Genovese basil can be used with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese in a caprese salad or for a bruschetta, while the Thai basil can be used in a stir-fried pork or beef dish, or as an aromatic garnish for Southern Vietnamese pho. If you are bored of the usual tomato or cream based sauces for your pasta, you can also use Genovese basil to make your own pesto with pine nuts or walnuts. Here’s an easy classic pesto sauce recipe that you can refer to.
Also known as scallions or green onions, you can just use store-bought spring onions (cut to about 3 cm to 4 cm stalks, including the roots), place them into water and wait for the green shoots to grow before using them. Take note that the flavour of the re-grown spring onions will be milder.
I know some of you may find it too much of a hassle and would rather just pop by the supermarket to get them (true that), and to be honest, I would do that too because they are so readily available, but the process of seeing the little green stalks grow from the roots can be quite satisfying. For those with children, it can be an interesting green project that you can do with your kids. Just imagine the excitement as they see the plant grow and when they harvest the spring onions! 🙂
I do know of people who hate the taste and smell of spring onions (my hubby hates them, I love them), but I like using it as a garnish to add some freshness and colour to a dish. Spring onions can be used in so many ways, and I chanced upon this recipe of a scallion-ginger sauce in the Straits Times that can be used to accompany meats and even instant noodles… Delish!
Need some ideas on how to structure and grow your first herb garden? You can visit the following websites for some inspiration:
10 Tips To Start Your First Herb Garden In Singapore
10 Cool DIY Ideas to Grow an Indoor Herb Garden