Easy hints for growing and harvesting herbs

Potted herbs are a delight for any home chef. Easily grown on your backyard patio or condo balcony, fresh herbs smell wonderful and enhance the flavour of any dish to which you add them. Here are some simple hints for growing healthy, abundant herbs for cooking.

Easy hints for growing and harvesting herbs

Growing potted herbs

Where space is limited, you can easily create a herb garden using containers.

The best container for the job?

Specially designed terracotta herb pots shaped like a tall urn (with planting holes around the sides) are recommended – although you can use almost any type of planting container.

To create your own herb garden

  • Place the pot in a warm, sheltered position.
  • A good quality potting mixture is essential for retaining moisture because terracotta pots dry out quickly in warm weather.
  • Water and feed the plants regularly.
  • Prostrate herbs, such as thyme or marjoram, look good in hanging baskets. What's more, when suspended near the kitchen door or a window they are handy for picking.

Mint also grows well in containers. However, it is a vigorous plant that can become invasive in the open garden and may overwhelm other herbs.

  • Mint thrives in damp growing conditions, so water often or place the pot under a tap to catch drips.

Harvesting and drying herbs

To spice up your cooking, stock your cupboards with dry herbs from your patio or balcony herb garden. Drying is the traditional way to preserve herbs.

To create a great herb cupboard

  •  For best results pick the herbs at their peak of flavour, in mid-summer, just before they start to flower.
  • Harvest by snipping entire sprigs or the top 15 centimetres (six inches) of the stems. Do this in the morning as soon as the dew has dried off and before the sun's heat has driven off any of the essential oils.
  • Wash the leaves gently and shake off the excess water. Then pick the leaves off the stems and place them separately on screens or newspaper.
  • Let the leaves dry until they are brittle and crumble easily. If the atmosphere is too humid for the herbs to dry to room temperature, put them in the oven on a very low heat (less than 65°C/149°F) for a few minutes, leaving the oven door open to allow moisture to escape.

Easy-to-grow herbs!

Nothing adds delicious flavour to your cooking better than fresh herbs – which is why learning how to grow, harvest and dry your own herbs is so worthwhile.

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