Easiest Herbs to Grow
Many of us have learned or remembered how to prepare home cooked meals, courtesy of the quarantine. Part of our culinary enjoyment is adding herbs to enhance the dishes. Many herbs are easy to grow both inside and outside. Herbs come as annuals and perennials Here are ten of the easiest herbs to grow at home.
- BASIL – One of the fastest growing annual herbs. The average plant yields ½ cup of leaves a week. It needs 6-8 hours of sun a day. This herb does well with lots of trimming through the growing season. It is superb to season caprese salads and is a main component in pesto.
- THYME – Perennial. Quick growing perennial evergreen that grows well in a hot sunny location and tolerates droughts. It can also withstand cold and will winter over. It’s related to Oregano and mint. Often used as an air freshener and incense.
- BAY LEAF – Shrub, best planted with a lot of compost. Grown outside, often by the front door or a window as a natural air freshener. Crushed leaves release a sweet earthy scent that is believed to relieve headaches. Dried leaves have more flavor than fresh leaves.
- LEMONGRASS – Perennial grass in Zone 10 -11. In Zones 6-9 it needs to be over wintered inside. Grow in pots to contain spread. West Indian Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and East Indian Lemongrass (flexuosus) both have a clean citrus flavor and scent. It is not uncommon to accidentally buy Citronella grass (C.nardies or C. winterianis) which have a higher amount of citronella oil in them. These are best used as a natural mosquito repellent.
- OREGANO – Shrub thrives in hot dry climates and takes little water once established. Likes soil with pH between 6.0 and 8.0. Grows best when trimmed back regularly like Basil. Grow pots inside for quick picking and outside as a hardier varietal for year round enjoyment. The dried flowers have stronger flavor than fresh. Ideal seasoning for Italian and Greek cuisines.
- MINT – “Easiest plant to grow.” Perennial. Plant in pots to control spread by underground roots. Ideal for growing in a rocky dry bed. Can even be grown in water on the kitchen windowsill. Peppermint, spearmint, applemint and chocolate mint all have similar growing habits. Use in ice creams, baking, and teas.
- SAGE – Perennial evergreen shrub both drought and frost tolerant. Plant in COOL SEASON; early spring or fall. Grow in full sun with well-drained soil. Grow near rosemary, cabbage and carrots. Do not grow near cucumbers. Leaves repel pests and propagate easily. Leaves used to flavor cocktails, pasta and fatty meat dishes. Dried leaves are often bundled and burned in spiritual practices to cleanse the air.
- ROSEMARY – Perennial ( in zone 7) evergreen shrub. Grow pot on windowsill and trim leaves often to keep compact. In the garden grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant near beans, cabbage, carrots and sage. Takes low water. Aromatic herb used to flavor cocktails, meat and as natural air freshener. One of the biggest markets for rosemary is as a preservative in pet foods. It is thought to boost memory.
- CHIVES – Perennial. Plant in pots to control spread. COOL SEASON and cold tolerant. Chives go dormant in the heat. Harvest stems three or four times a year. Flowers are edible. Some cultures keep chives by the front door to ward off evil.
- CILANTRO – (Coriander or Mexican Parsley) Annual. This plant offers two herbs in one plant. Cilantro refers to the leaves and stems. Coriander is the dried seeds. Low water needs. Grow in pots and keep pots in cool spot inside as heat makes the leaves bitter. Dried leaves lose flavor, and it wilts quickly when cut. Some people think Cilantro tastes “soapy.” They have the gene that detects aldehydes, a natural chemical used in soaps and detergents. It’s used in homemade salsa, flavored oils and with seafood.
For information about many other herbs and Spices for the New Mexico home garden, check out this NMSU brochure.