Whether you live on a sprawling farm or in a claustrophobic apartment, growing an indoor herb garden has numerous advantages. These range from the convenience of always having fresh herbs on hand to the environmental benefits of bringing plants into the house to grow in.
It will discuss the advantages of growing your own herbs, the best methods for starting an indoor herb garden and drying your herbs, as well as some common herbs that can be grown in the home garden setting.
Why You Should Start an Indoor Herb Garden
Herbs are excellent not only for enhancing the flavor of your food, but also for their therapeutic properties. Although the dried herbs sold at the shop are wonderful for cooking, fresh herbs always have a greater flavor since they are more vibrant. By growing your own herbs, you may avoid paying the exorbitant prices associated with purchasing them fresh.
Herbs have been utilized for medical and culinary purposes for thousands of years, dating back to the beginning of recorded history. Many ethnic and regional cuisines still make use of a range of fresh herbs and spices, providing a healthy dose of preventative medicine with every mouthful of delectable food they prepare..
Herbs are also quite beneficial to one’s health. Due to the high expense of prescription pharmaceuticals, many individuals are turning to herbal remedies as a more affordable alternative to conventional medicine. Even while herbal remedies are sometimes referred to as “alternative medicine,” they are actually derived from plants, seeds, spices, flowers, herbs, and roots that have been used for thousands of years.
Purchasing common and uncommon herbs can be rather expensive, especially when they are in high demand. Aside from the cost, already cut herbs, even if they are fresh, will only last approximately seven days, with some lasting even less. There will be some waste if you do not intend to use everything you purchase right away.
By cultivating your own herbs, you may avoid wasting food and saving money. Indoors, beside a window or outside in a planting box, this can be accomplished. You can grow herbs on a balcony or on a porch or patio using planters or plant stands.
An indoor herb garden may be kept alive all year round with a little care. Pests, worms, and weather-related harm to your plants are less of a concern when they are kept indoors.
How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden
Whether you’re looking to broaden your culinary horizons or want to stock your medicine cabinet with more natural remedies, here are some pointers for planting your own indoor herb garden.
Many plants thrive in the confines of an indoor environment. It is possible to grow plants in your home if you have enough sunlight on at least one side of your house and a small amount of space – even if you don’t have a green thumb.
Step 1 – Choose your herbs
Make a decision on the herbs you want to grow. Some plants do best when they are grown in separate containers to avoid cross-contamination of odours or tastes. For example, chives have a strong onion flavor and may be too overpowering to grow close to mint plants.
Step 2 – Choose your pots
Make use of containers that are large enough to handle the roots of growing plants and that have holes in the bottom, as well as a pan underneath it to allow for water to drain properly.
Step 3 – Add the soil
Most herbs are sold in small containers, so you’ll need to re-pot them unless you’re beginning from seed and growing everything from scratch. Completely fill the new pot with a potting mix that contains fertilizer (approximately three-fourths full).
Step 4 – Add the herb plant
Gently shake off any extra soil from the root ball of your plant before carefully removing it from its original container.. More dirt should be added to the root ball.
If you’re starting with seeds, plant them about an inch below the surface of the water in your planter.
Step 5 – Water your herb
Continue to add water until the soil is damp but not soggy. If you choose, you can group herbs with similar water requirements together in the same container.
Step 6 – Add light
Place plants in a window that gets a lot of sunlight, at least eight hours. Place shorter plants in front so all get enough sun. If sunlight is a difficulty in your space, add these very effective grow lights to help your herbs thrive.
In as little as four to six weeks, you can begin to harvest your herbs for medicinal and/or cooking needs.
How to Dry Fresh Herbs
Drying the herbs that you have worked so hard to grow is a good technique to keep them fresh for longer periods of time. When it comes to drying herbs, there are a variety of options. We will go over the many alternatives here so that you can get the most flavor and oils out of your leaves.
Herbs are a great way to give recipes a little more zip without adding fat. If you’ve ever had cuisine that had fresh herbs, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Dried herbs are the next best thing to fresh herbs.
Drying Fresh Herb Best Practices
Here are a few tips that always need to be observed when you’re planning on drying herbs.
Harvest herbs at their peak – Do you know when herbs are at their best tasting and most potent as far as oil is concerned? It occurs when they are getting ready to bloom. You will notice several buds but none will be open yet. Wait until after the morning dew has dried before cutting your leaves.
Carefully choose your leaves – Look for healthy branches that are free of disease, damage or yellowing. Also , remove any insects that might tag along on the plants. This usually isn’t a problem for indoor herbal gardens.
Wash your leaves – Remove any dirt and soil from the leaves. Use cool water and then dry with a paper towel, being careful not to rip or tear the leaves. Wet herbs will mold so make sure they are completely dry.
Methods for Drying Herbs
Bunching – This involves hanging your herbs. Remove all leaves from the bottom of about four to eight stems. Bind them together gently with a rubber band or a piece of string. Place them in a paper bag with the stems protruding out. Tie the bag closed around the stems and hang in a warm, dry area. Poke holes in the bottom of the bag for air circulation.
Tray drying – This is done for the leaves. Remove the stems and the stalks from leaves. Place the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet or a drying tray. Large leaves can be cut into smaller pieces. Place in a warm area that is dark until drying is complete.
Drying in an oven – You don’t actually turn the oven on when you do this. Gas ovens seem to work more efficiently with this method. Using a baking sheet again, place leaves in a single layer so they are not touching. Separate more than one layer with a paper towel. Dry overnight.
Solar drying – This is not a very efficient method but may work for people who live in a very warm area. Place your leaves on a drying tray or an old window pane in the sun. In order for this to work, the temperature needs to be constant with low humidity (below 100 degrees F and 60% humidity). Avoid direct sunlight because leaves will fade.
Store your dried herbs in a dry, dark place in airtight jars for up to one year. Drying fresh herbs can keep your food full of flavor all year round.
A List of Common Herbs and Their Uses
Not sure what herbs to start with? Here’s a list of some common herbs and their uses.
Let’s start with culinary herbs.
Basil – Most often used is sweet basil. Use it to season meats and vegetables. It has a flavor similar to cloves.
Anise – The seeds are used for salads and baked goods. The leaves can also be used for meat and salads. Tastes like licorice.
Chives – Have an onion flavor. Used in salads and on vegetables.
Dill – Known for use in making pickles, but also popular for dressings. Use leaves in salads and as seasonings on fish, meat and vegetables.
Garlic – Chopped, minced or as a spread, it flavors meat and vegetables.
Oregano – Used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Common on pizza, in soups, sauces and on vegetable dishes.
Mint – Used as a flavoring for mint sauce. Use the leaves in teas as a soother.
Parsley – Mostly used as decoration on dinner plates. It can make a seasoning for soup and salad.
Thyme – Found in the mix of herbs used in Italian cuisine.
Sage – This herb is used the most around Thanksgiving and Christmas. It flavors poultry as well as stuffing and dressing.
Savory – Found in dishes that contain egg, soups, sauces and green beans.
Rosemary – Great for seasoning lamb and poultry.
Marjoram – It is found in the Italian mix of seasonings. Use it to flavor meats.
Coriander – The seeds are used in stuffing and curries. It tastes like orange leaves. The leaves are used in Asian and Mexican cuisine.
Chervil – Can be used as a garnish. Often mixed with salad greens and in soups or omelets.
Fennel – Used to season fish and sometimes found in sauces. You can use the leaves, seeds and stems.
Tarragon – This is a French herb. It is an ingredient in tartar sauce, chicken dishes, some seafood and it can flavor vinegars.
Sorrel – An acidic-tasting herb that is used in soups and sauces.
Cilantro – Used primarily in Mexican cuisine for salsa, rice and meats.
How many of these herbs do you have in your kitchen? Use fresh and dried for your cooking purposes.
Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses
Now for a look at some herbs used to cure or aid common ailments. You’ll notice some culinary herbs doing double duty.
Peppermint – It is great for candy but has several medicinal purposes as well. Leaves can be steeped in tea as a muscle relaxant, antispasmodic and antacid. Use leaves on the chest as an expectorant.
Calendula – This flower is used as a healing cream to fight inflammation. Use it to find relief from poison ivy.
Garlic – Tastes great on meats and in stews. Eat fresh cloves to help boost the immune system naturally as well as lowering blood cholesterol. Garlic is also an antibiotic.
Yarrow – This root can be used to stop bleeding externally. Also used as an antibiotic when ingested. Combine with lavender to repel insects.
Lavender – The purple flowers smell great. Used in essential oils to relieve headaches and stress. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used topically without burning or damaging the skin. Use as an antibiotic and antifungal.
Chamomile – Steep the leaves in a tea as a sedative to help you sleep better. Also used as an anti-inflammatory.
Ginkgo biloba – We’ve all heard of this one for improving memory. Used as a supplement to help fight the effects of free radicals in the body.
Echinacea – Known as the “immune booster,” it is used to help fight off the effects of a cold or sore throat. When taking Echinacea, the duration of the cold is less.
Ginseng – Used to boost the immune system.
Ginger – Eating fresh ginger root can help fight upset stomach and digestive problems. Use also in tea with a bit of honey.
Tea tree oil – Used as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory.
Nettle – Used to fight muscle spasms like menstrual cramps.
Rosemary – Improves memory and blood circulation.
When using herbs for medicinal purposes make sure to check proper dosages used by herbalists for best results. Also, check with your doctor for any interactions with prescription meds.
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