A great many herbs will grow in pots – here are just a few to start.
Coriander or cilantro is a leafy herb that grows easily from seed. The leaves are aromatic, and work well in salsas and salads or in dals and curries. Keep harvesting the leaves to keep it from flowering, and sow fresh pots throughout the season.
Recipe: Chilled Watermelon Cilantro Soup
Parsley is available in curly and flat-leaf varieties. It can be difficult to grow from seed, so buy seedlings, or buy a pot of parsley plants from a grocery store, trim all the leaves off (eat them, of course), repot in a bigger pot and wait for it to grow. Be careful not to disturb the roots – parsley hates that! Add to just about any dish you want a fresh herb flavor, including potato dishes, grain salads, fresh green salads, sauces, and dips.
Recipe: Herbed Pasta with Toasted Walnuts
Chives, which have a mild onion flavor, grow easily from seed, and will die down in the winter but sprout again in the spring. Mince and add to potato dishes, garnish poultry or seafood, sprinkle on soups and salads, and use whole to tie bundles of asparagus for a showy presentation.
Recipe: Salmon Roulade
Mint can be very invasive, so give it its own pot. Buy a plant, or grow mint from cuttings or roots – try asking neighbors, or see if anyone local has some mint on Freecycle, the stand back and watch it grow. Mint is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Use it in couscous or tabouleh (or other grain salads) and savory sauces for lamb as well as in chocolate desserts and even cocktails (mojito, anyone?).
Recipe: Watermelon and Feta Salad
Sage has beautiful slightly furred gray green leaves and is a good-looking addition to an herb garden – it also comes in purple and variegated varieties. Grow from cuttings or buy plants, and use the leaves in sauces and stuffings for meat and poultry or minced into a flavorful chicken corn chowder. Sage leaves (and, really, any herb) can also be used to infuse olive oil – simply steep fresh leaves in olive oil in a saucepan over low heat.
Recipe: Ricotta Gnocchi and Sage Butter
Basil comes in a number of different varieties, including Thai, cinnamon and lemon, and a rather nice-looking purple version. This is another herb that tastes great in salads or in Italian wraps, is used a lot in Mediterranean cooking, and is the primary herb used in pesto. It also tastes good with strawberries and raspberries, in jams, sauces and desserts.
Recipe: Shrimp and Basil Wontons
Bay trees are evergreen and can be grown outside or inside in pots, and add a depth of flavor to stocks, stews and casseroles (but don't forget to take the leaf out before serving!).
Rosemary is another woody evergreen herb, and it grows well from cuttings, and has pretty pink, white, purple or blue flowers (which are delish to add to fresh salads). Rosemary tastes wonderful with lamb and in Mediterranean dishes. The plants thicker stems can even be used as skewers for flavorful kabobs (just be sure to soak them before grilling or broiling to avoid them catching fire).
Recipe: Rosemary Flower Biscuits
Thyme comes with green, golden, silver or variegated leaves, and has varieties that smell of lemons and oranges. Thyme goes well with lamb, tomatoes, potatoes or eggs. Another fun way to cook with thyme (and other herbs) is to use the stems and leaves to infuse a bottle of vinegar – add some fresh sprigs and set in a dark place for three weeks then strain out the herb.
Recipe: Thyme and Boysenberry Scones
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