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Enjoy Fresh Herbs Throughout the Winter with an Indoor Herb Garden

Kitchen herb garden with lemon balm, sage, parsley and thyme.

Kitchen herb garden with lemon balm, sage, parsley and thyme

Cooking with fresh herbs adds a characteristic punch to most recipes, creating a boost of flavor that lets those you’re serving know that you’ve put extra effort into the dish you’re preparing. Unfortunately, fresh herbs can be quite expensive at the grocery store during the winter months, and many farmers markets are closed for the season.

Luckily, it’s possible to enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs throughout the winter months when you plant an indoor herb garden. Many herb plants are quite hardy and can be grown indoors near a sunny window. If you don’t have enough sunlight in your home, you may still be able to garden inside using a system like the Grow Light Garden. Either way, you’ll be able to cook with fresh herbs throughout the winter months.

Herbs and green tea.

Herbs and green tea

Let’s examine several herbs that lend themselves well to an indoor growing season:

Basil is fast and easy to grow, and adds a terrific taste boost to your Italian dishes. When you keep it on hand, you can quickly create pesto, pump up pasta sauces, or use it to top breads and pizzas. For the best results, start basil indoors from seed and keep the pot near a sunny window. Basil requires full sun and as much warmth as you can manage indoors, and should germinate in 5-10 days.

Chives are incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes featuring eggs, fish, chicken, and other proteins. They can withstand normal indoor temperature fluctuations, and grow best in an area where they can get around five hours of direct sunlight per day. You can prune the plant by harvesting chives as you need them for cooking and the plants will continue to grow. Chives can be started from seed, but are easier to start from the root if you have a friend who’s already growing them. As your plant gets larger, you may need to divide it into two or more pots — this is an excellent time to share your wealth and pass a plant on to a neighbor.

Oregano is a versatile plant that can be grown indoors near a sunny window, and used in a variety of Italian dishes. This hardy plant spreads from the root, so to get it firmly established you’ll need to either purchase a small plant from a lawn and garden store or acquire one from someone who is thinning out their own patch. Once it’s happily established, however, oregano is difficult to kill, making it an excellent choice for the beginner container gardener. Simply water it once or twice a week, repot it as it grows larger, and be prepared to wow your friends and family with the authentic Italian dishes you’re able to whip up at a moment’s notice.

Sage is started from a cutting of an existing plant, or by purchasing a live plant. Once it’s established, however, you can frequently prune its leaves and use the aromatic herb for a variety of pork and chicken recipes. Choose a well- lit, warm area of the house for your sage plant, as it grows best in these conditions. If you place it in an area without enough sunlight, you’ll notice that the leaves quickly yellow and turn brown. This is your cue to move your plant to a warmer area of your home so that it can thrive.

Rosemary should be started from a cutting and grown in a pot that’s large enough to accommodate its future growth. The plant can withstand some cooler temperatures indoors, but will need direct sun to grow properly. When you’re ready to add rosemary to your favorite recipes, simply clip off one or two branches, then slide your fingers down the stems to remove the tiny needles. You’ll be pleased with the fresh, pungent taste that fresh rosemary adds to the dishes you create.

Thyme can be started either from a root cutting or from transplanting an outdoor plant into a pot and moving it indoors. Thyme is fairly tolerant of indoor conditions. While it grows best in an areas that receives direct sun, it can also thrive in east and west-facing windows if it is carefully cared for. Thyme leaves make a wonderful addition to poultry dishes, savory baked goods, and more, so consider adding this beautiful plant to your indoor herb garden today.

Planting onions.

Planting onions

When you’re tired of paying grocery store prices for fresh herbs, it may be time to consider starting an indoor herb garden. This process allows you to enjoy the fun of gardening throughout the colder months, while growing fresh ingredients to use in all your favorite recipes. Container gardening is an easy, inexpensive, and enjoyable hobby that you may find yourself growing quite attached to.

About the Author
Jonathan Leger is a sponsored member of the Garden Writer’s Association and a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site dedicated to the history, education and care of a variety of roses at: http://cabbageroses.net/.
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