If you only have time to grow ONE thing in a garden, I suggest growing herbs. All they require is sun and possibly a fence if you have a lot of wild rabbits hopping around, as we have. You can pretty much totally ignore your herb plants after you stick them in the ground and they will almost always thrive and come back year after year. Yet oddly, when you buy herbs in the store, whether they be fresh or dried, they are quite pricey. I don’t know why this is since they are literally the easiest thing you can possibly grow.
The biggest problem with growing herbs is that they spread like crazy and will completely take over your garden and you’ll have to spend a lot of time weeding baby herbs out. To prevent this spreading, I plant my herbs in the holes of the cinder blocks I’ve used to build some of my raised strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry beds. The herbs can’t spread as much because I’ve lined the bottom of the holes with cardboard to prevent their roots from sneaking out, and I pull off the flowers before they go to seed:
To harvest the herbs I wanted for this evening’s meal, I used sharp scissors to snip the stems; I don’t usually cut all the way back to the plant but rather leave at least a 1/2 to 1 inch of the stem in order to encourage branching. Otherwise your herbs will become “leggy” and you’ll have tall herbs with a lot of stem but very few leaves.
I then snip the leaves off the stem into a colander and rinse them with cold water, drain them, and spread them out on a clean dish cloth to dry a bit. Please note that this is NOT the way to prepare herbs for drying; it is the way to harvest fresh herbs for the day’s use.
Our children are at sleepaway camp, so my husband and I have been cooking dinners together consisting of food we love but our children do not. Tonight I made lamb burgers and he grilled them. Here is the approximate recipe:
- 1 pound ground lamb
- fresh herbs: mint (I used peppermint), parsley, oregano – I used a total of about 5 tablespoons of fresh minced herbs
- dried herbs and spices: kosher salt, coriander, black pepper, crushed red pepper – all to taste, or about 1/2 teaspoon each
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2-3 teaspoons white wine – whatever’s hanging around in the ‘fridge. Today I had some leftover pinot grigio, so that’s what I used.
- 1-2 teaspoons of molasses, depending on how sweet you like your food; leave this out if you’re on some kind of low carb diet.
Finally, in addition to the culinary and medicinal uses of cultivated herbs, many wild plants (i.e. weeds) can be used for for these purposes as well. The best source of information on wildcrafting herbs can be found at Common Sense Homesteading in the section on Herbs and Wildcrafting.