Even the littlest gardens can yield big rewards. You can plant a small container garden of herbs and keep it on your windowsill now. When the weather warms up, you can move it outside but keep it close to your kitchen.
When fresh herbs are at your fingertips—versus needing to run to the store—it’s easy to chop parsley into a sauce just before serving, garnish a plate with some edible flowers or cut up a few chives and add them to a salad. Fresh herbs give dishes a lighter, fresher taste.
Shelly Peach, with Anton’s Greenhouse in Evanston, helped me put together a pretty, all-purpose herb garden with thyme, basil, chives, parsley and edible violas for a little color.
She recommends starting with a container that drains well and has enough room for the herbs to grow. It’s a balance, because aesthetically your pot is going to look best packed, but then you need to be diligent about clipping and cooking with your herbs.
As far as choosing plants, Shelly has simple advice: “Whatever you cook with, you should grow. Then mix it up a little with some trailing herbs, some taller plants and add a little color.”
Next, fill the container part way with potting soil. Then loosen each root ball and put the plants into the pot. After you’ve planted your herbs, keep the container in a sunny window until it can go outside and keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Don’t be afraid to clip a sprig regularly. Your plant and cooking will both be better for it!
Here are some ideas for herb gardens based on the kind of cuisine you favor. Anton’s currently carries these and many other herbs.
Asian: Lemongrass, Thai basil, mint and cilantro
Mexican: Cilantro, epazote and oregano
Scent: Lavender, mint, sweet woodruff, marjoram and chamomile
Italian: Basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary
French: Thyme, tarragon, chives and parsley
1126 Pitner Ave., Evanston
If you’re growing cilantro, you can add it to the salsa in our recipe for Grilled Chicken Burritos.