Herbs not only boost your cooking and health; they green up your windowsill as winter approaches. Herb gardening and usage tips, plus a bonus herbaceous recipe.
Herbs deserve some celebrating, as they are among the most rewarding plants to grow at home. They can easily kick up the flavor of meals, while simultaneously improving physical health. As the weather gets colder, opportunities to cultivate herbs outdoors diminish, yet the need to eat well and fend off the flu only grows. In recognition of national Herb Day, celebrated October 14, now is the perfect time to start your indoor garden. With fresh herbs just steps away, you'll be able to harvest healthy ingredients in your slippers.
By Andrea Ford
Rich with vitamins and magnesium, basil promotes cardiovascular health. As with all herbs, to maximize the taste and health benefits, the key is to choose the sunniest spot you can find. A minimum of six to eight hours of full sun is recommended. If plants start looking droopy mid-winter, a supplemental plant light bulb might be a good investment.
Chives are a vitamin-rich herb thought to have cancer-fighting qualities. According to Charles Sourby, a horticultural therapist who teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, chives can be grown indoors by dividing clumps and using smaller bulbs. As with many herbs, trimming will encourage the growth of new leaves.
Cilantro—the tangy leaves of coriander—is thought to improve the appetite. Indoor herbs like this one need generous watering and misting to keep soil moist, especially since heat reduces indoor humidity.
Traditionally known for its calming properties, dill is recognized as a potential cancer fighter by the National Cancer Institute. Be sure to use well-drained containers for your dill, since most herbs don't like "wet feet."
The success of indoor herbs often depends on the variety you choose. In the case of oregano, a disease-fighting, antioxidant herb that will conjure up memories of your favorite pizzeria, smaller varieties are a better choice for growing indoors.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a pot as big as the plant's foliage, leaving roots plenty of room to develop. This is the case with ruffled leaves of parsley, which are tasty, rich in vitamins and often used to treat bad breath. Pick from the outside in to encourage sturdy new growth.
As Hamlet told Ophelia, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." Modern research has found that the aroma of rosemary can indeed improve memory. Inside, rosemary needs a lot of attention, but if you keep it alive long enough, it a makes a festive holiday plant.
Thyme is a hearty plant that will do well, like many herbs, in southern exposure. On top of its pleasant aroma, thyme can be used in tea as a cold remedy.