Sustainability at Home: The 10 Easiest Herbs to Grow from Your Kitchen

Alex Knutte

Written by Alex Knutte | Edited by Carol Coutinho

I was in my local Kroger yesterday, shopping in the produce section. As I looked at my grocery list, I had written down a handful of fresh herbs that I needed for a variety of recipes. Reaching for the pre-packaged cilantro that was going to cost me two dollars, I thought that there must be a way that I can get herbs for less money, or maybe even grow them at home. Thus, began my quest looking for what herbs I can grow right from my kitchen – a cheaper and more sustainable option than buying them in the supermarket. 

The first thing I looked into was logistics. Would my herbs get enough sun in my kitchen window? How often do I have to water them? What kind of soil is just right? I came up with these three tips that are sure to have your herbs growing in no time:

  1. Make sure your herbs are getting as much natural sunlight as possible. Herbs will grow the best with 6-8 hours of sunlight. Putting your herbs in front of a south-facing window is the ideal option as this direction has the brightest light and most hours of sun. East and west facing options are also good, but receive bright sun for a maximum of 6 hours in either the morning or the afternoon. Getting natural sunlight is important for both the growth and flavor of your herbs. Herbs grown in strong, bright light will have the most intense flavors, as compared to herbs grown in mediocre light. 

If you are unable to provide adequate sunlight for your herbs, you can grow them under lights such as HID and LED lights, which have the best results for indoor herb growing. Since these are not as powerful as natural sunlight, your herb will require 14-16 hours of artificial light. 

2. Aim for Moderately Damp Soil. The worst thing you can do to your herbs is over watering them. This will kill them faster than forgetting to water them! In fact, many herbs can even survive ‘drought’ periods, and will survive if soil dries out before they get their next water. Others need to be in damp soil at all times. While watering differs for each kind of herb, a green rule of thumb is to aim for moderately damp soil. Before watering your herbs, assess how much water to give them by sticking your finger into the soil. If it feels slightly damp, give them less water. On the other hand, if the soil feels very dry, give them a generous amount of water. An additional tip is to water your herbs with less water, but more frequently, to ensure that their soil stays damp at all times.
3. Herbs Thrive in Potting Soil or ProMix. Potting soil is light and fluffy, perfect for growing herbs. Avoid garden soils which are heavy and take a while to dry out after getting wet. If your herbs are planted in a container, this type of soil can even smother your plants when it becomes wet. An older soil that is tired and offers no nutrients is also not a great option for your herb’s soil. 

Herbs typically need 3-12 inches of soil for growing. If you are potting your herbs, make sure that the containers have good drainage and are large enough to support the plant’s root system. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to care for your herbs, here is a list of the easiest herbs you can grow from home. Additionally, there are many different delicious recipes that incorporate fresh or dried herbs.
10 Herbs You Can Grow From Home:

1: Chives

Chives are a herb that is closely related to onions and garlic. They are most often used fresh and raw as a garnish for many recipes. Their flavor pairs well with many recipes and they bring an aesthetically pleasing dimension to any dish with their bright green pop of color.

 

Although chives are typically used in smaller quantities in different recipes, there are different health benefits of topping your soups, salads, or potatoes with chives. Since they contain Choline and Folate, two different vitamins associated with cognitive functions, chives can improve your memory.  

 

Here are three different recipes using chives you can try out!

  1. Chives and Parsley Pesto 
  2. Creamy Chive Potatoes 
  3. Chinese Eggs and Chives Stir Fry
Fresh chives

2: Mint

Mint is a very calming herb that is used for a variety of purposes, ranging from food, to medicine, to ointments. Like chives, mint is often added to most recipes near the end of the cooking process to help the leaves maintain their flavor and texture. 

 

According to Medical News Today, mint leaves  contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid, which can reduce the symptoms of asthma. Furthermore, Mint contains menthol. This an aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. 

 

With all of the added benefits of mint, here are different recipes to try: 

  1. Cucumber Mint Salad 
  2. Homemade Mint Limeade 
  3. Raspberry Mint Brownies
Mint

3: Parsley

Parsley is thought to have a clean and peppery taste. Again, this herb is typically used as a garnish and can be a topper on vegetables, soups, and grain bowls. The flavor of dried parsley is not as intense as fresh parsley, so opting for a fresh option can really bring recipes to life.  

 

Parsley is packed with vitamin K, which is an essential nutrient for bone health, according to Healthline. Eating foods that have a high volume of vitamin K can reduce your chances of bone fractures. Vitamin K is essential for stopping blood clotting. Adding parsley to your diet is a great way to ensure getting extra vitamin K. 

 

Try out these three recipes that use parsley: 

  1.  Parsley Garlic Bread 
  2. Wild Mushrooms with Garlic and Parsley 
  3. Lemon Butter Orzo with Parsley 
Parsley

4: Basil

Basil could be the most popular of the herbs, as it is used in cuisine worldwide. There are different kinds of basil ranging from sweet basil which has more of a fresh aroma with a hint of mint, to Thai basil which incorporates more of a spicy flavor. 

 

Because of basil’s eugenol content, it can help reduce blood pressure. Additionally, basil can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression according to Medical News Today. Try out these tasty recipes that can also improve your mental health and blood pressure:

  1. Creamy Parmesan Basil Chicken
  2. Fresh Basil Caprese Salad 
  3. Thai Basil Chicken Bowls 
Basil

5: Bay Laurel

Bay leaves are a well known garnish to many soups, meats, sauces, and stews. If eaten whole, bay laurel leaves have a sharp, bitter taste. When the herb is infused to a broth, oil, or other cooking liquid, a minty flavor with hints of pepper develops. 

 

According to Health Beat, “Bay leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Also regular inclusion of bay leaves in meals promotes general health.” Plant bay laurel for improved health and these delicious recipes: 

  1. Braised Pork Loin with Bay Leaves
  2. Spanish Chicken with Garlic and Bay Leaves 
  3. Risotto with Bay Leaves
Fresh bay leaves in wooden bowl on dark background

6: Cilantro

Ah, cilantro, probably my favorite herb. Cilantro is described as having a warm spicy flavor, and is typically used in tacos, salsas, and salads because it pairs well with lime. 

 

Cilantro contains dodecenal, an antimicrobial compound that may help protect your body against infections and illnesses caused by tainted food, as stated by Nourish. That means that cilantro is an effective agent in preventing foodborne illnesses such as salmonella.  

 

Try out these cilantro based recipes: 

  1. Cilantro Lime Rice 
  2. Cilantro Chicken Stir Fry 
  3. Cilantro-Lime Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
Cilantro fresh with garlic on board

7: Thyme

Thyme tends to have an earthy, minty flavor. It is more subtle than other herbs and mixes great with different tastes and flavors. Thyme is typically used to add layers of flavor without being overpowering. It is typically used in soups, breads, and rice dishes. 

 

Thyme is packed with vitamin C and vitamin A. According to Healthline, it’s also a great source of copper, fiber, iron, and manganese. Boost your immunity using thyme in these different recipes: 

  1. Roasted Asparagus with Thyme 
  2. Creamy Lemon Thyme Chicken 
  3. Lemon-Thyme Chickpeas with Broccoli
Close up view of thyme bunch

8: Lemongrass

Lemongrass adds the tangy citrusy flavor of a lemon to any dish, but without the bitterness of a regular lemon. It has a lighter flavor and can be blended with a variety of other herbs. Lemongrass pairs well with coconut milk, cucumbers, and pears. 

 

Because lemongrass has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help decrease pain from menstrual cramps. It can even help regulate menstrual flow due to its circulation benefits, according to Sencha. Taste the flavor of lemongrass by trying out these three recipes: 

  1. Thai Lemon Grass Tea 
  2. Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
  3. Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Curry
Fresh Lemongrass

9: Oregano 

Oregano typically has a strong earthy, minty flavor. Most times it is combined with olive oil to create Oregano oil, which is used in many Italian dishes. Oregano is also highly used for marinades for meat including pork, lamb, and chicken. 

 

The benefits of Oregano? This herb is plentiful in antioxidants and it is an excellent source of iron, calcium, and fiber.  Experiment using this herb in these recipes: 

  1. Fresh Oregano Grilled Wild Salmon
  2. Roasted Lemon Oregano Shrimp 
  3. Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Oregano 
Dried oregano herb

10: Sage

Sage has strong flavors of mint, lemon, and eucalyptus. Since it is such a bold flavor, it does well in heavier dishes such as pastas, meat dishes, and it can be mixed into butter. 

 

As stated by Healthline, Sage can effectively kill the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is notorious for causing dental cavities due to its antimicrobial effects. Furthermore, it can neutralize microbes that promote dental plaque. Want healthier teeth? Try out these sage based recipes: 

  1. Butternut Squash, Sage, and Goat Cheese Lasagna 
  2. Tortellini with Brown Butter and Sage 
  3. Sweet Potato and Sage Butter Casserole 
Sage
These 10 herbs are easy to grow, beneficial to your health, and contribute a plethora of different flavors to your meals! Still not convinced to grow your own herbs? Check out these 4 reasons you should grow them yourself!
4 Reasons why you should be growing your own herbs: 
  1. Affordable 

Herbs are cheap to buy and take care of. What’s more, in the long run you will be saving tons of money by not having to buy pre-packaged herbs! 

2. Aesthetically pleasing 

Adding plants to your home brings in a beautiful nature element to your kitchen. Not only will your herbs look great, but also they will smell great too! 

3. Delicious 

Herbs bring a fresh dimension to all of your favorite recipes! Add them to anything and put a spin on how you cook. Fresh herbs have a much better and stronger flavor than the dried herbs you may get from the store.

4. Healthy 

There are so many different health benefits you can receive by adding fresh herbs to your diet. Each one has different advantages, so eating a variety will boost your health!  

CLOSING WORDS:

 

To sum up, herbs are easy to grow, easy to take care of, have added health benefits, and taste delicious! By avoiding buying herbs from the store, you are not only saving money, but also reducing your carbon footprint by avoiding pre-packaged herbs. Growing your own herbs is more sustainable than buying them from the store, as most herbs are shipped to grocery stores and are placed into plastic containers. Start out with selecting one or two herbs and give herb growing a try!

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