Ever since I moved out of home I have been living in apartments, so I am yet to have a garden to truly call my own. Unit living however hasn't stopped me from having plants, plants just make me feel happier and literally bring life to a balcony!
I am one of those people that love the idea of plants but end up watching most of them die from neglect! Work and life gets in the way and I forget to look after them or bugs and animals destroy them. Over the years I have learnt to stick to herbs, they are the most practical, are not seasonal, and can live on little TLC to survive!
Regardless if you have a garden or not, if you are a plant person or not, here is my reasons as to why growing your own herbs will improve your eating!
It all starts with herbs being crazy expensive to buy at the shops. Often if you are making something from scratch you need just the smallest amount of herbs for one recipe, so you buy a bundle, use a tiny bit of it and the rest ends up getting thrown out because it dies before you manage to use it all. This often leads us to relying on processed herbs and processed flavours when we cook instead.
Value for money, the effort and the waste all leads to us opting for making meals that aren't made entirely from scratch anymore.
How many jars, cans, sauces and meal kits do you have in your kitchen right now? How often do you rely on them for making your meals?
We buy the jar of pasta sauce for Spaghetti Bolognese, it has all the flavour, it's cheap and doesn't lock us into making it on a specific date, it can go in the cupboard until we want to use it. All of these reasons for buying premixed flavours are valid ones, but is it at the expense of our health? We still think it's healthy because we have used our fresh meat and added all our freshly chopped vegetables, but have you considered that anything that lasts over a month can only do so by the use of a substantial amount of salt, sugar or preservatives?
A standard jar of pasta sauce has much sugar as a Mars bar - 9 cubes. Why waste your daily sugar intake on foods that don't need added sweetening, when you could be getting your sugars from natural sources such as fruits. Instead of using a pasta sauce jar, get a can of plain tomatoes add onion, garlic and fresh herbs instead. It will be considerably healthier, it will taste better and you will know exactly what is in it, no hidden nasties.
So how does growing your own herbs help with all of this? Well, firstly herb plants are cheap and low maintenance. Herbs can happily live in small pots anywhere where they can get some decent sun, so anyone can grow them.
Secondly they are a living resource meaning you can cut off just the amount you need, when you need it, no more throwing out wasted food.
Lastly and most importantly you are getting real, fresh flavour into your foods, and by having it readily available you will be more inclined to use them. Using fresh herbs has so much more flavour making it really easy to transform any standard meal of vegetables or meat into something delicious.
So what herbs should you start with? This really depends on what flavours you prefer. My go to stable herbs are:
Rosemary- This is a very hard plant that can survive with little water and basically no bugs or animals will eat it. It is really great on meats such as lamb and beef. I also like to sprinkle it on my potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin with a bit of oil when I roast my veggies. It's also perfect in any Italian meal.
Thyme - It is similar to Rosemary in terms of care but has a much more mild taste in comparison the Rosemary. I find myself using it in everything! It's great with both white and red meats, goes well with lemon and other citrus flavours. You can buy variations of thyme, a lemon thyme and a Italian thyme. Both are great, just the aroma of the Italian thyme smells of a pizza!
Basil - It does need a tiny bit more care than others, watering does need to happen regularly when it's hot and you may need some snail pellets to stop the snails and caterpillars from eating all the leaves if you keep it outside. The good news is that if you do neglect it, don't worry - it will come back to life! Even if all the leaves are brown and dry or all eaten by bugs, you can water it and it will come back! I do this to mine all the time!! Basil is my favourite for adding to stir fries, curries, salads and pastas. It has such a great fresh flavour that brightens up both cooked and raw meals. Basil is a common flavour in many Italian and Thai meals.
Mint - This is more like a weed than all the others! Make sure you plant/ pot it by its self as it will take up all available space! Although it is very hardy it is a favourite for caterpillars. Mint is my go-to for adding to my drinks! It's perfect for cocktails and for flavouring your water with cucumber or lemon. Never underestimate how much better fresh mint is compared to dried or bottled. It's a very versatile herb that you can have it cold and hot foods and both meat and vegetables dishes. Mint is a great flavour for many Vietnamese and lamb meals.
I should mention that Coriander is another great herb to have, I personally hate it !! However it it is loved my many. Its a big flavour found in many Mexican and Thai meals.
I hope I have inspired you to give growing your own herb plant or two a go and enjoy creating some beautiful meals with them.