Even if you never cook with your basil, you'll enjoy it for the smell alone. The fresh, bright smell of basil will greet you every time you walk in the kitchen. (For some reason, the scent always makes us want to whip up a caprese salad or a tray of bruschetta.) You can grow your basil from seed, or jump start the whole process by buying a basil plant from your grocery store. Keep your basil plant in an herb container with plenty of drainage holes, and room for your basil to grow. We like to place our herb containers in the sink for watering, to let the water drain through before returning the container to its saucer on the kitchen counter.
If you want to boost your gardening confidence, chives are the herb for you. Chives grow so quickly and easily, they'll give you an immediate shot of green thumb mojo. Skip the seeds, and go straight for a small plant from the nursery. Place your plant in a small pot, and fill in with soil up to 1/4 inch below the rim of the pot (pick up a small bag of potting soil while you're at the nursery). Moisten your chive plant's soil with water, but do not over-water. Place the chives near a window, but not in direct sunlight. When your hollow green chive stems are between six to 12 inches, go ahead and cut them off to use in cooking, or freeze for later.
Save the sunniest spot in the kitchen for Mr. Mint. Pick up a small mint plant at a health food grocery store. Mint comes in multiple varieties -- apple mint and spearmint are some of our favorites. Once you've picked your mint, bring home your little plant and re-pot it into a larger container, filling in with soil. Mint grows like crazy, so the bigger the pot, the better. We love to make our own "spa water" by adding mint leaves and cucumber slices to a carafe of ice water. If you like something with a little more kick, pluck some leaves and muddle your own mint for mojitos.
Tarragon is a peppery-tasting herb used to flavor fish, poultry and meat. Creamy sauces and dips also benefit from tarragon's unique flavor. To get started, buy a tarragon seedling from the nursery and plant it in a container at least 10 inches deep to leave room for its lanky roots. Make sure you get the French tarragon, as opposed to the Russian tarragon, which has an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste. (We learned this the hard way.) To help your tarragon thrive, make sure it gets at least six hours of sunlight each day.
Like basil, rosemary has a wonderfully strong scent. It tastes great in soups, on meats or in breads. Start with a rosemary plant, purchased from your local nursery or home improvement garden center. Pop your rosemary in a pot with drainage holes, and keep it watered enough so that when you test the soil with your finger, it comes out moist when you stick it down one inch into the soil. If the soil feels dry at that depth, give it a drink. Rotate your rosemary plant regularly so that all sides get a turn soaking up the sunshine.
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