I love cooking with fresh herbs. For the last eight summers I have been growing herbs in large pots on my deck. Not only are they beautiful to look at but I also think it is very cool to open the deck door from my kitchen and step out to harvest fresh herbs for a recipe. I have experimented with growing different types of herbs. I buy the herb plants at nurseries and plant them in May. I have not grown any herbs from seeds. I generally grow Basil, Oregano, Mint, Dill, Chives, Tarragon, Cilantro, Italian Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. There are also varieties within each type of herb, sometimes making it almost impossible for me to pick which variety to plant that particular year. I make sure I follow sun exposure and watering instructions as well as harvesting instructions.
I try to keep the herb pots organic. One year I remember finding green caterpillars feasting on my basil. I gently removed the two visitors and was able to salvage the plant. Another year I noticed green mites on parsley I had harvested. So far this year appears to be bug free. Some herbs grow like weeds like Mint, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, and Basil. Some herbs require specific harvesting instructions. For example Basil stems can only be cut if there is a set of 2 or 3 growing leaves below the cutting point. Some herbs require that you pinch back the flowers. I generally place two types of herb plants in a 15-inch pot but I have learned that some herbs do better by themselves. For instance mint has a very invasive root system so it’s best to plant alone. For the most part I have had great luck with most herbs. Cilantro and Dill can be unpredictable from one year to the next. It is easy to grow herbs in pots and very rewarding to enjoy them in food and drink recipes.
I move the pots into the house before the first frost of the season. Only a few of the herbs survive the indoors. Sage, Thyme and Mint sometimes make it through Thanksgiving. A few others like Rosemary, Chives, and Parsley survive until the following summer when I take them out again.
We use freshly cut herbs in all kinds of salads, sauces, entrée recipes, dessert recipes, and drinks. This summer alone we have enjoyed: Pesto sauces made with Basil, Colombian Chimichurri sauce made with Basil and Cilantro, Marinara pasta sauce with Basil and Oregano, lemon pasta sauce with either Basil or Mint, Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon, Chicken Saltimbocca with Sage, Chicken with Peaches and Mint, roasted pork tenderloin with Rosemary, roasted potatoes with Rosemary, roasted cauliflower with Thyme, Quinoa and Tabbouleh salads with blends of fresh herbs, salad dressings with fresh herbs, mojitos with Mint, martinis with Basil, dips with Dill, and the list is endless.
Some of our family staples include: Chimichurri and Pesto sauces. Colombian Chimichurri is a sauce made with Parsley and Cilantro and it can be used as a marinade as well as a sauce for Steak, Pork, and Chicken. Argentinian Chimichurri is made with Parsley and Oregano. Pesto is an Italian sauce made with Basil and served with pasta, pizza, and entrée dishes. Lastly, we make an awesome homemade guacamole, which always has cilantro in it.
Below I share with you links to some our family favorites.
Note about Cilantro: Not everyone enjoys Cilantro. The aroma of cilantro is generated partly by modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. Aldehydes are also found in soaps. In fact to a range of about 4-14% of the population, Cilantro tastes like soap. This is due to a shared group of olfactory-receptor genes, OR6A2, that pick up the smell of the aldehyde chemicals. This DNA variation causes this group of people to associate the smell of soap with the “soapy” taste of Cilantro. That explains why my mother-in-law so strongly despises Cilantro.
Note about Tarragon: I just came across this article on the website Tasteabout the herb Tarragon, “ A Requiem for Tarragon”. The author will be happy to know that I love and use Tarragon, Furthermore now I am determined to dust off some of Julia Child and The Silver Palate’s recipes. Vive Le Tarragon!