It took me a while to become an okay cook and even longer to become superb at making meals. I am a bachelor, but I do not like to eat out or get takeaway every night. I have come to learn the joys of cooking my own meals and of making gourmet dishes for my friends.
This has introduced me to the world of herbs. And since finding out that two of my good married friends have homes with herbal gardens, I have obtained some insight into the benefits of using freshly grown herbs in my cooking.
I grow a couple of small herbal plants myself—basil and parsley—but most of my knowledge of growing such herbal plants comes from observing my friends at work in their gardens. If you have a similar inclination, then the following article will be of interest to you. It is best to focus on the herbs that can be grown indoors all year round.
Types of Herbs That Can Be Grown Indoors
This is a mild and bitter herb that will enhance the flavor of most foods. Indeed, you need not limit parsley to the role of garnishing your dishes. It can also be put in stews to help balance the flavor. Parsley is also good for the digestive system.
Parsley plants grow to be large and bushy, they stay green all winter long, and they are a great source of vitamins A and C.
You can use mint in drinks such mojitos and mint juleps. It freshens the breath and calms the stomach. If you decide to grow mint, you should be aware that it is an invasive plant. It can spread and take over your entire garden. That is why it is best to grow it indoors in a container.
This is one of the best herbs for fish, lamb, potatoes, and peas. Dill also freshens breath and aids in digestion. It has also been found to reduce swelling and cramps. This plant is easy to grow. It will also attract helpful insects to your garden.
Basil is, of course, one of the most popular herbs used in modern cuisine. I look for opportunities to use it in my dishes. Basil features heavily in Italian dishes such as pizzas, salads, sauces, and pesto. It is filled with anti-oxidants, which help prevent low blood sugar.
This is an aromatic herb that is great for seasoning meats, sauces, and vegetables. Sage has a strong taste. You must be careful with the amount you use on a dish or it will overpower other flavors. Sage can also be used to relieve skin cuts and has even been shown to help those with memory issues. The plant is relatively easy to grow and care for. It tends to attract helpful insects such as bees to your garden.
Fresh rosemary is a favorite among the gourmandise. It is filled with flavor and goes well with poultry, meats, and vegetables of all kinds. The plant gives off a delightful scent and is sometimes placed in homes exclusively for its fragrance. You should plant rosemary in a soil that is a bit dry. Take care not to overwater the plant.
It is great to taste fresh thyme in the morning. That is why the herb is used to flavor egg, bean, and vegetable dishes. It can also be paired with lamb, poultry, and tomatoes, and it is added to soups and stews to balance flavor. The thyme plant grows grey-green leaves and gives off a minty and lemony smell.
This herb is perfect for adding into spicy foods like chili and Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes. The seeds of cilantro are called coriander. The latter are what you must actually plant to grow the former. The plant grows early in the season and prefers soil of moderate temperature.
This herb is aromatic and filled with flavor. Fennel leaves are similar in shape to dill. The bulbs can be sauteed, grilled, or eaten raw. Fennel is great in a salad mix. It can also be used as a garnish.
In the United States, chamomile is most commonly used as an ingredient in herbal tea. But for millennia, it has been used as a traditional medicine for settling stomachs and calming nerves. Chamomile also helps reduce inflammation and treat fevers.
As an herb, tarragon can transform an ordinary dish into a culinary masterpiece with its spicy anise flavor. Putting a little tarragon in a chicken salad, for example, will enhance its taste fourfold. It also makes an excellent addition to sauces, soups, meat dishes, and vegetables. In short, any hearty meal dish is improved with a little tarragon.
This herbal condiment is often used in salads and dressing, and it gives dishes a slightly sweet flavor. Lavender can also be transformed into syrup and used to make scones and marshmallows. Lavender has some health benefits, including the soothing of insect bites and alleviating headaches. Lavender plants can survive in many growing conditions, but they do best when in the sun and in warm, well-drained soil.
Chives are the perfect complement to sour cream. Though native to Asia, they have been used as additives to various foods throughout the world for nearly 5,000 years. Chives go well in eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish, and soup. They are an excellent source of beta carotene and vitamin C.
This is a leafy green plant that packs a peppery punch. Arugula is similar to watercress in flavor. Its leaves are aromatic and spicy. Although the herb tastes great when cooked, it is often eaten raw as part of a salad mix. It also goes well as a topping on pizza, pasta, or pesto dish.
15. Bay Leaves
This herbal plant gives off a scent that is similar to balsam, clove, and mint. It is best used in hearty stews and long-simmering dishes. It adds a sharp and peppery taste to such foods. To get the best effect, add all the leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and remove them before serving.
16. Lemon Verbena
This herb is most commonly used in teas, salads, dressings, and desserts. Because it holds its citric fragrance long after being dried, it makes a great potpourri for the home. It can also be used in closets and drawers to freshen laundry. Lemon Verena does well when potted for indoor container gardening.
The leaves produced by this plant are quite pleasant to behold. They are flat, light-green, and lacy. As a culinary herb, chervil greatly enhances the flavor of chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, and salads. This plant is well-suited to grow indoors. It is closely related to parsley and is an indispensable herb plant in the kitchen.
18. Winter Savory
This herb adds an aromatic flavor to many dishes. With its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, winter savory also has a range of medicinal uses. As a culinary herb, it best complements fish, beans, and poultry. Though it uses some of the intensity of its flavoring during the cooking process, the herb remains aromatic. You can use it to flavor liqueurs and to garnish a salad.
Peppermint is great for aiding digestion. Indeed, peppermint tea is a favorite amongst those who have IBS and other stomach troubles. It is a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin B. It is best grown in rich soil and partial shade. It is best planted indoors, as it spreads quickly in an outdoor garden.
Stevia is part of the sunflower family. It is an attractive looking plant that can serve as a natural sweetener as it contains no calories.
This plant contains anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, which is effective against eye inflammation and can provide some defense against cancer. Lemongrass, as the name implies, has a strong lemon flavor. You can brew it in tea and use it as a culinary herb. This is another herb plant that grows to enormous proportions outside, but is smaller and much more containable when grown indoors.
This herbal plant has gained renewed popularity over the last decade. It is best used in pizzas, salads, breads, and many other dishes. Its taste is minty and slightly spicy, and it can be used as a substitute for oregano.
Bergamo has long been used as a medicinal plant by Native American tribes such as the Blackfeet. Native Americans have also used it to treat minor cuts and wounds. When brewed into a tea, it can be used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by gingivitis. The plant has high levels of Thymol, which is found in brandname mouthwashes.
This is another herb that is part of the mint family. It is native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean regions. Oregano is a highly popular herb that is used to flavor a range of Italian dishes. It gained popularity in the United States following World War II when returning soldiers hankered after the pizza herb they had gotten used to while fighting in Italy.
24. Cutting Celery
This is a leafy and aromatic herb that can be substituted for celery dishes. Cutting Celery has dark, glossy leaves with serrated edges and small sprig-like stalks. It is an aromatic herb that can be substituted for celery dishes. The leaves and stems can be used to add flavor to salads, vegetables, stews, and soups.
This herb plant is native to Europe and Western Asia and has been cultivated in many places throughout the world. It complements soups, sauces, pickles, sauerkraut, and plain bread. Indeed, the roots are quite tasty when boiled down and eaten. Carraway has also been used to treat eye infections, toothaches, and rheumatism.
A Brief History of Herbs
Herbs have a long history in human civilization. They were depicted in cave paintings that date back to 25,000 BCE. The first humans probably discovered numerous uses for herb plants that grew in the wild. When hunter-gathering gave way to farming and agriculture, herbs were one of the first types of plants cultivated.
The most prominent use of herbs was in healing ointments. People began making the latter out of fragrant plants that they combined with olive oil and sesame oil as early as 7000 BCE. The ancient Egyptians even wrote about herbs, and they were followed by the Sumerians whose written records date back to 2500 BCE.
By 700 BCE, Greek merchants were doing a thriving trade in thyme, marjoram, and sage in the markets of Athens. Nearly 300 years later, Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, used many herbal plants to treat diseases. He catalogued 400 herbs in common use in his day.
In Medieval Europe, herbs were used to preserve meat and to cover the odor of rotting food. Bathing was rare back then, so herbs were also used to cover up body odors. It was not until the 15th century that the herb garden as we know it nowadays came into existence in Europe.
Families in the 18th and 19th centuries created herb gardens to grow plants that provided them with flavoring, preservatives, dyes, and medicinal remedies. The European colonists who settled in North America in the 1600s brought herbal seeds from their respective regions to the continent.
Most colonial homes had an herb garden not far from the kitchen, and they used it to produce seasoning, sachets, dyes, and medicines. White settlers introduced plantain, mint, lavender, parsley, calendula, dandelion, chamomile, thyme, and yarrow to the continent and its Native peoples. Native Americans introduced the settlers to cayenne, goldenrod, and Echinacea.
It is important to note that herbs were very important in the treatment of illnesses and diseases in the time before clinics and hospitals. Nowadays, the first thing we think of when someone has fallen ill is to call 911 and get them medical treatment. But doctors were simply not available to the vast majority of people before the 20th century. Instead, people had to depend on medicinal remedies that were passed from one generation to the next. People dried and stored the most useful herbs for this purpose.
By the 20th century, synthetic medicines began to replace the use of herbal care treatments. Since that time, herbs have mostly been confined to use in the kitchen. Indeed, the herbs of the 21st century combine the textures of attractive foliage and fragrant flowers. However, despite the many advances in modern medicine, there are people who still turn herbs into teas and homegrown remedies for certain kinds of illnesses.