When it comes to pinching pennies, if you can do it yourself, you should. We all know this. However, time is frequently a pretty big factor in whether or not the DIY approach is really an option. Herbs are one of those places that many folks feel it’s easier just to buy at the grocery. Fresh and dried herbs are both available, so why DIY? Well, there’s the cost factor, for one. A bunch of fresh Rosemary for $1 may seem reasonable, but seldom do you get exactly what you need, and thinking of multiple applications can be tedious.
Which leads to shelf life. Fresh herbs purchased from a grocery are already losing their freshness when you carry them out the door. If you don’t happen to use that Rosemary when you mean to, its quality will fade with each passing day. It’s really much easier to grow your most used herbs yourself either indoors or out. Here are 6 easy to grow herbs to get you started.
Lavender is not just for sachets and sock drawers. It is a remarkably flexible herb with applications in the kitchen, boudoir, bathroom, kennel and medicine chest. And as a plant, it’s pretty to look at! Take a peek at this list for 25 Plus Uses for Lavender. You’ll be surprised at the non-traditional ways lavender can be used.
Commercially purchased women’s beauty products are a budget drain. If you cannot do without, why not extend the frugality of growing your own lavender to making some of your own beauty products? This article tells about Ten Budget Beauty Products You Can Make at Home… without the help of Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye the science guy OR a big money outlay up front. Another benefit of DIY beauty products is that you know what’s in there. No ingredients you can’t pronounce or spell. Apply that same logic beyond beauty products to general skin care products for yourself or family and you increase your overall savings.
Rosemary is an evergreen that can grow outdoors as a landscaping element in warmer climates. It actually fares pretty well in cooler climates, too. A too intense winter, though, could be the end of your outdoor plant. The alternative is to pot the plant and bring it indoors in the winter.
In cooking, fresh rosemary is far far preferable to it’s dried sibling. The flavor is intense and aromatic fresh. Snap up your meals inexpensively with some rosemary you’ve grown yourself. If you’re not accustomed to cooking with this herb, or even if you are, this article on adding gourmet flair to any meal gives some great ways to incorporate this herb into your kitchen repertoire. If you haven’t tried or considered it, rosemary tastes absolutely brilliant in bread. Add it to a make-ahead bread mixes to let that flavor settle right in. A sprig of rosemary is a beautiful garnish on a plate, too. Or as a skewer for lamb, shrimp, chicken or beef.
Cilantro is the leaves and stems of the coriander plant and is used mostly in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. It’s pungent and looks a bit like flat leaf parsley. Cilantro lends itself very well to a pot, so can be grown in the ground or in a container.
In Mexican cooking, Cilantro is used in everything from salsas to salads to meat dishes, and its applications are only limited by one’s imagination. Cilantro is also really good in black bean dishes, which is a common ingredient in Mexican, Tex Mex, and Cuban recipes.
Because it’s a soft herb, and the plant grows quickly, cilantro pesto, which can be used fresh for frozen for later application, is always an alternative use for excess of the herb.
Chives are a mild flavored member of the Allium family along with garlic, onions and leeks. Unlike those three, however, chives are perennial and extremely easy to grow. They are a great addition to any garden, because they produce a lovely purple flower which has its own culinary applications. Whereas chives are best raw – they lose a lot of punch when they’re cooked – they are a great option for a potato topper, and not just the baked variety.
The same is true for many soups. Soup garnishes can take an ordinary soup meal up a level, making it more elegant and visually appealing, not to mention adding to the flavor profile.
The chive flowers are edible as well as attractive to the eye. A handful of chive flowers into white vinegar results in a lightly pink tinged and onion flavored condiment that tastes great in a dressing. The flowers on their own are an interesting visual and taste addition to a tossed or any other type of salad.
Mint is a really generic name for an herb that comes in at least 15 varieties, each with a distinct flavor. They are nearly all perennial. The most used varieties (e.g., spearmint and peppermint) can be grown outdoors or in a pot. The potted option is a better choice for several reasons. The key reason is that mints like catnip and peppermint are root propagators and can spread like wildfire. It is very easy to grow, but can be very invasive if not closely monitored. Because it grows so rapidly, one plant usually does the trick for normal consumption.
Mint – fresh or dried – is a good pantry staple. It is an aromatic and flavorful add-in to everything from a DIY flavored water to accompaniments in Middle Eastern cooking to a nice after dinner appertif or desert.
For non-culinary uses, mint or a menthol derivative of mint is used in aromatherapy, as a digestive for an unsettled stomach, or in the case of catnip or cat mint, as a distraction for a pet.
This herb can grow up to about 4′ tall. It is a perennial, and although it can be grown in a pot, it gets ungainly pretty darned quickly. A spot in the corner of your vegetable garden is the best place to plant dill. All of the plant is usable, except the stems. The flowers are used in pickling, the seeds in pickling or as a spice in some Eastern and Middle Eastern cooking, and the fresh leaves (“dill weed”) can be used as a digestive or, more commonly, in the kitchen. As an inexpensive way to jazz up seafood, fresh dill is the champ. Blended into sour cream with a few complimentary spices, dill makes a highly flavorful dip. A little dill goes a long way as an add-in herb to a fresh tossed salad.
If you have the room, an herb garden is a really nice landscaping element. Perennial herbs like rosemary, chives, lavender, and thyme need very little tending. They are easy to grow, they smell nice, they flower so they look nice, and there is nothing like fresh herbs to rock your kitchen skills. Plant some dill in your vegetable garden, and keep a pot of mint at hand for a change, too. In no time, you’ll find your supply of store bought dried herbs replaced by your own ongoing flavorful supply of fresh.