Herb gardens are tasty fun!

Some people are born with a green thumb and look forward to the growing season to raise their own vegetables, fruits, and flowers from seeds. Well, that’s not me. I’d rather be cooking than tending a large backyard garden. My type of farming is on a micro scale, and ties in with my love for the kitchen: I grow my own herbs.

For a cook, there’s something about growing herbs that’s satisfying to the soul and palate. I encourage you to give herb gardening a try.

Start small by growing plants in containers. After you bring them home from the farmers’ market, garden center or hardware store, repot them in larger containers with good potting soil. Remember to water and fertilize as needed. Check the website herbgardening.com for a wealth of information on growing herbs — from anise to watercress — inside, outside, in containers and even hydroponically.

I usually don’t plant herbs until Memorial Day. If we do get a frost or the threat of one, it’s easy to cover them with a blanket or move them to the garage. You might want to put your containers up on a bench, high enough so the bunnies won’t enjoy them before you get the chance.

I find that growing and using herbs is a treat for the senses. I see them grow – sometimes, it seems, right before my eyes. In the morning I do some tactile and aromatherapy as I touch and smell the herbs. Here are some of my favorites and how I use them.

Basil. Good in pesto, a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, on pizza and in marinara sauce. Basil is wimpy and turns limp at the first sign of cold weather. Freeze pesto in ice cube trays, and then remove the cubes to a freezer bag and use as needed for a winter treat that reminds you of summer’s bounty.

Chives. Excellent in potato or cauliflower salad.

Mint. Add to hot or cold water for flavor. Chew on mint leaves instead of gum or candy. Mint is a take-charge herb that spreads far and wide, so grow it in pots to contain it. If you plant mint in the ground, cut the bottom off a large plastic flower pot and plant the cylinder in the ground to dampen mint’s urge to roam.

Parsley. A must for tabbouleh. Hearty parsley lives up to its name. I’ve brushed snow off of it and welcomed it into the warm indoors.

Rosemary. Tasty with roasted potatoes, or on pork.

Sage. Good with eggs or chicken.

Tarragon. Transform leftover chicken into chicken salad.

Thyme. Delicious in bean salads, with vegetables and with meat.

There’s nothing like harvesting your own herbs and savoring their smell and taste firsthand. To paraphrase an old saying, the scent of the rosemary stays on the hand of the giver. Share your abundance with friends and co-workers. You’ll both be glad you did!

Patricia Salzer is a registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant at Univera Healthcare.

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