Introduction to Growing Culinary Herbs:
These days a lot of people are growing herbs for both their personal and professional lives. Herbs are plants that are classified as herbaceous, whose leaves, stems, and seeds can be used to spice up the flavor of foods, make various pharmaceutical products; they are used in dye making, and sometimes they are grown simply for their fragrance. Herbs are generally classified differently than spices even though there is some overlap within the two categories.
When growing culinary herbs, you generally will only be interested in the leaves of the plants themselves, either fresh or dried. For more information on "How To Dry Herbs", enter that exact search phrase into the box above and find some great information on drying herbs. Herbs grown for culinary uses will generally have a milder flavor. Spices on the other hand typically are very strong and pungent because they are derived from the bark, flowers, fruits, roots, and seeds of the plant itself.
If you are a beginner gardener and you are not really sure which herbs to start with, try the classic varieties such as thyme, sage, parsley, oregano, dill, chives, and basil. These herbs are typically very easy to grow and also do well planted in your flower or vegetable gardens.
Start Growing Culinary Herbs:
Growing culinary herbs is really no different than growing herbs for other uses. Most herbs in general require the same growing conditions as vegetables do, with a few exceptions. Make sure you pay close attention to the unique requirements that the herbs you are growing may require. For instance many herbs are extremely sensitive to the moisture level of the soil they are growing in.
Thyme, rosemary, and sage prefer a soil that is well-drained and slightly moist. If you are growing herbs such as parsley or mint, they would much prefer a soil that retains its moisture longer. One easy way to accomplish this is to grow each herb in its own container, and use a potting soil that is specially formulated for the moisture level required. Most hardware stores and garden centers will have a wide range of soils you can choose from. If containers are not an option, raised flower beds could be the way to go as well.
Growing Culinary Herbs - Basil & Chives:
Basil: Most people who start growing culinary herbs typically start with basil. Basil is an easy to grow, tender, annual herb. The leaves of basil are highly aromatic, which makes it a favorite of gardeners and chefs alike. The leaves can be used either fresh or dried, and can have a dramatic impact on whatever dish they are added to. Since basil is a tender annual, is can only be grown outdoors in the garden when any danger of a frost has passed.
Basil plants love full sun locations that have well drained, moist soil. They typically will germinate in about two weeks and the average spacing for basil plants is roughly twelve inches. You will want to harvest your basil leaves when the plant is just prior to flowering. Be sure to leave at least six leaves below the cut so that the plant can regrow and produce another harvest in the same season.
Chives: Another favorite when growing herbs is chives. Chives are actually perennials, which means they should come back every year, and they first originated in the Orient. The leaves of chives have been used for centuries in the making of butters and certain vinegars. In modern times, chives are often known for being used in soups and salads.
When trying to germinate chives, darkness is the key, along with a consistent moisture and a constant temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. Chives take a little longer to germinate than other herbs, roughly two to three weeks. A mature chive plant reaches up to eighteen inches in height, and fourteen inches in diameter after a couple years of growth.
Growing Culinary Herbs - Dill:
Dill: Dill is another plant that is always among the top ten when growing culinary herbs. Everyone is familiar with its most common use in pickling, but not everyone knows that dill is also used to season various kinds of fish, and an array of soups. Native to parts of Russia and the Mediterranean, dill is grown as a hardy annual, and in some regions a biennial. If you are starting a butterfly garden in your backyard, consider growing dill as part of your plan because the larvae of butterflies love eating this herb. Because of its long roots, dill should not be transplanted but rather direct seeded in the spring time. When planting dill, be sure to leave about 10 inches of space between each plant. If you are growing herbs, dill is a must have!
Growing Culinary Herbs - Oregano:
Oregano: Few people are growing herbs without having a little bit of oregano worked in somewhere. Oregano is also a native of the Mediterranean, as well as parts of Asia, but it has also naturalized all along the eastern United States. The great thing about oregano is it’s a perennial, so it will come back each year, and you can propagate new plants by seed. Sprinkle a few oregano seeds in your garden, leave them uncovered on top of the soil, and let the sun do its work germinating the seeds.
The flavor of oregano plants will actually vary significantly from one seeded plant to another. If you grow a plant that has an usually strong flavor, the best thing you can do is divide the roots or start new plants from cuttings, to preserve and propagate a new plant with the same qualities. If you are growing herbs with oregano, make sure to give the plant sufficient room, as well as a site that receives full sun throughout the day. Oregano will grow up to about 24 inches tall, and 20 inches across.
Growing culinary herbs can be a fantastic hobby that you and your family are sure to love, so get out there and start your culinary herb garden today!
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