Herbs were the starting point to two of my now favorite hobbies. My love for cooking and my love for gardening were both born from simple herbs. When I was about eighteen (which sounds like yesterday but was actually ten years ago now!) I suddenly took a weird interest in Food Network. It became my favorite thing to watch, and eventually inspired me to take to the kitchen myself. I remember being amazed at all these little leaves and things they added to everything they cooked.
Of course I knew what oregano, cilantro, and sage were. But I had only ever seen them dried in the small plastic jars you buy in your local supermarket. I was amazed that people had small plants just growing in their kitchen that they pinched off of to flavor their pasta sauce! And so the first thing I ever grew was basil!
I had killed about 3 plants from the store before finally starting it from seed. I watched video after video on caring for basil to no avail. My aunt showed me hers and taught me a couple of tricks, but mine never did well. It wasn’t bolting and flowering, but it never got big and bushy. It just stayed a long green stem with a leaf every inch or two. I pruned and dried all summer never collecting more than a jar full of leaves. It was disappointing, but it had taught me so much.
Growing and cooking with herbs very much opened my eyes to the world of farm to table. It also caused me to question where my food came from, how was it prepared, and how could I have a hand in every step of the process? I’ve come a long way in ten years and still have so much more to learn. I hope this blog inspires you to start an herb garden of your very own!
Here are 5 reasons why you should grow an her garden yourself!
What are Herbs?
Herbs are defined as “any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume.” (Google Dictionary) Herbs are easy to grow and many, like cilantro and dill, even prefer to grow in the cooler months of fall or spring. Some can even handle the chilly days of winter!
Rosemary, mint, sage, oregano, bee balm, chives, chamomile, and basil are all herbs. I would list more, but I’m running out of ‘thyme’. (Sorry, I’ll see myself out.) Click here for a full list of herbs!
1. Herbs taste Great
Chances are you already use dried herbs in your kitchen daily. (If you don’t, then we are about to up your cooking game!) Almost any recipe you pick up is going to call for a couple teaspoons of dried or a handful of fresh herbs.
A simple tomato sauce becomes a decadent pasta sauce with a little garlic, basil, and oregano.
Parsley, dill, garlic, and a splash of lemon added to some sour cream and milk create a perfect ranch dressing for fresh cucumbers.
Mint transforms a simple box brownie recipe into something truly spectacular.
Cooking with herbs should come as naturally as adding salt and pepper. If you haven’t had much experience with herbs, now is the time to experiment!
When you hear ‘basil’ or ‘oregano’ think Italian- pastas, pizzas, and garlic knots.
Cilantro and Coriander (which are from the same plant) should entice you to a night of tacos or Indian cuisine.
Thyme and sage add beautifully to the bounty of fall or a hearty soup on a cold night.
Get to know your herbs and what pairs well with them, and then get creative! Take your fresh herbs, particularly ones you grew yourself, and make something beautiful and delicious!
2. Herbs have health benefits
Herbs don’t just taste great. They are also incredibly healthy, and with all that flavor, comes a wide variety of bonuses for your entire body. The funny thing is a lot of people will take vitamin supplements like turmeric, fenugreek, or cinnamon, but they are often hesitant to add them into their meals.
Turmeric is my go to when I am dealing with inflammation. I add it to nearly everything I eat and it gives everything a beautiful orange hue, which is especially beautiful in soups and stews.
Herbs are high in vitamins, fiber, and micronutrients without high sugar or fat content.
Mamas, this is such a simple way to add healthy options to your picky toddler’s plate. They may be hesitant to sit down and eat a full plate of carrots but most won’t bat an eyelash at simple herbs being added to their favorite meals. (You may have to chop them very, very fine if your child is super picky though!)
3. Herbs have medicinal properties
This is my favorite reason to grow an herb garden! I use herbs for everything, but this is their greatest quality! If you get around my kids when they are sick, you will probably first notice they smell like a pizzeria. Rafael and I have laid in bed many nights laughing about how the sleeping child between us is making us hungry.
Chest congestion? Sweat down some onions in a cast iron, wrap them in a wash cloth, and lay them on your chest. (Do not burn yourself or your child! They should cool to be comfortably warm before you lay them on you.)
Ear ache? Warm a little ginger and garlic and olive oil and rub it around the outside of the ear.
Morning Sickness? Ginger!
Bad breath? Peppermint.
Low milk supply? Fenugreek.
Runny nose? Rosemary.
If you sip chamomile tea when you are sleepy or peppermint tea for a sore throat, guess what? Herbs!
Herbal remedies are a go to for so many of us! And you can grow your own medicine cabinet!
Herbs can be used to create tinctures, salves, teas, or poultices for whatever ails you! Oregano and garlic are even natural antibiotics!
(As always, this information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or heal. Always speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before trying making changes to your diet or healthcare routine.)
4. Herbs are Beautiful and Require Minimal Care
This past winter I bought a bouquet at Kroger. As I was placing it into vases about my home I started noticing that the fillers weren’t your typical baby’s breath and greenery. It was filled with budding rosemary, chamomile, and even a dill flower. I had never really thought about an herb bouquet before that- but why not?! Herbs are beautiful! They add beauty, scent, and usage to any pot, flower bed, or landscaping.
Unlike your typical garden beauties, herbs require very minimal care. In the heat of the summer, they may bolt and grow bitter, but many can weather the chill of fall or spring. Most require nothing more than pruning. (You will want to cut them anyways in order to use them!) Most herbs are low maintenance. They will eventually take over and grow like weeds!
5. Herbs Can Grow Anywhere
Herbs are not like corn or green beans where they need wide space or fences to grow up. You don’t need to turn over your yard or spend a fortune on a new raised bed. Herbs can be grown just about anywhere. The decorative pots by your front door. The dead row in the garden. The flower bed where the summer flowers have all died away. Herbs can even be grown in a 5 gallon bucket, an old boot, or your kitchen window!
A little sunlight, a little water, and a hopeful gardener is all it takes to grow your favorite herbs!
Using and Saving
For years I have dried my herbs in the oven. That has always worked fine for me with anything I have tried. Click here for a full video on how to dry herbs in the oven.
But this year I went a different route. I wouldn’t call it harder or easier, but I love the look of herbs drying. It is purely for aesthetic reasons that I chose to dry them this way this year. I have however loved every minute of it! I simply bring in my herbs, wash them, allow them to dry, form them into small bunches and tie them together with some twine. Then, I hang them upside down to dry for about 4-6 weeks. From there, I will crumble them into jars once completely dried out. I started them on my hutch but they completely took over after a couple of weeks. (I planted a lot this year!) Click here for an in depth video on drying herbs the old fashioned way!
Rafael found this little guy on the side of the road with some free yard sale stuff and brought it home to see if I wanted it. (Spoiler alert: I did!)
Herbs can be dried, steeped into teas, made into pesto, infused into oils, or made into salves, tinctures, or even put into soaps or lotions!
Starting an Herb Garden Right Now
It is not too late in the year to begin your herbs! (Or even to do a round two if yours have bolted and flowered.) Some hearty herbs like rosemary may even be able to handle the winter outdoors. Others can be harvested before the first frost or dug up and brought indoors to spend the winter in your kitchen!
Grab some seeds (or you may even find some seedlings at your local nursery on clearance this time of year) and start planting! Grow some herbs and create something healthy and beautiful!
My Simple Herbed Bruschetta Recipe
This is a favorite in our house this time of year! It is simple, beautiful, and always draws a crowd! With fresh tomatoes coming in and so many herbs just waiting to be used, there is nothing better than bruschetta! Top your favorite toasted crusty bread, homemade, pizza, or even pita crackers- for a simple taste of the summer season!
Simple Herbed Bruschetta
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 large ripe tomato, cored (or 2-3 roma tomatoes)
- 2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano
- 1 large sprig of fresh basil
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Place a small well seasoned cast iron into the oven to preheat along with it.
- While the cast iron is heating, mince garlic and chop tomatoes into bite sized chunks.
- Once the cast iron is heated, remove from oven and pour olive oil into the cast iron. Drop in garlic and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Give a light toss with a wooden spoon.
- Top with the oregano, basil, and parmesan and put back into the oven for about 8-10 minutes!
- Serve warm with a loaf of crusty bread or on top of a pizza crust!
Grow Something Beautiful
Mamas, anytime we take on a new task or learn something new. We are growing something more than just a handful of herbs or a backyard garden. We are growing ourselves. How many of us desire that older woman who is spoken of in Titus 2? The older woman who comes alongside of us as young mothers and teaches us these skills. The older woman who steps up and sets the example for us on how to honor God, love our husbands, and raise our children. So many of us desire that and do not have it. It pains me to say this but so many older women do not want that responsibility. So we as young mamas, go it alone. Learning as we go.
But we will go together. We will glean from one another. And we will learn the things no one is willing to teach us. Most importantly, we will keep these things in our hearts. Because some day we will be the older women in our families and churches- and we can pass these things on to our daughters, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, and others. Mamas, let’s be a generation that rises up to lead the young mother coming up behind us, because we know what it is like to need that. Grow something beautiful, and I don’t just mean herbs- I mean yourself too!
Want more on canning or gardening? Click here!