There is something so relaxing about gardening. Being outside, digging in the dirt, harvesting fresh foods for your family to enjoy. It’s also a great way to teach your littles about how things grow and instill a love of the outdoors from a young age. Not to mention, I think childhood should include a good bit of playing in the dirt, don’t you?
Growing fresh herbs is a great first step for any family who wants to cut their teeth at gardening. They’re almost completely fool-proof and most will come back year after year, which means after a little bit of initial work, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come. And, they’ll make your yard smell great and your meals taste better.
A few herbs that do great in this crazy Texas heat and are fun to cook with:
- Rosemary: This is basically a weed. A wonderful, fast-growing, great-tasting weed that in a few years will be the size of a bush. I love to use it in my homemade sweet potato fries or anything that includes tomato sauce. It also makes for a great gift if you tie a few pieces together with ribbon to give to your friends who love to cook.
- Sweet basil: Next to rosemary, sweet basil is my favorite herb to have on hand because it makes for a quick and easy snack when you pair it with tomato and mozzarella for some fresh caprese. I also use it in place of lettuce when I make BLT sandwiches (throw in some honey mustard for extra pizzazz).
- Sage: I’m trying to replace my Diet Coke habit with drinking more water, and creating fun fruit-infused drinks makes the water more fun. Pair fresh sage with a few slices of lemon and lime in your water or throw it in with strawberry and orange slices to keep your water tasting yummy (and not at all boring) all day. Of course, if you like to cook, there are plenty of recipes that call for it.
- Garlic chives: Friends, our garlic chives have totally changed the way we do breakfast at my house. They look a lot like monkey grass and grow abundantly, which means I never run out. I use them in place of onions when making anything with eggs. In fact, we sprinkle them on just about everything we cook for an extra pop of flavor.
- Lemon balm: There are some crazy claims for the healing use of lemon balm. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it tastes GREAT in my fruit-infused water. It goes with everything (and if it happens to lift my mood, prevent cancer, or relieve allergies, then that’s an added bonus).
If you’re an herb newbie, here’s a few quick tips to get started:
- Follow the directions when you plant. Most of mine (see above) grow in full sun and come back year after year. Spring is the best time to plant, so head out to your local nursery . . . STAT!
- I grow most of mine in the ground instead of pots or planters. I have found that they grow larger and last year after year this way. Or, to make my garden prettier, I have planted a few in planters and then buried those halfway into the ground. (Your rosemary will grow VERY large, so I definitely recommend planting that in the ground.)
- Don’t let your herbs flower. You’ll want to cut or pinch them off. With most, once they flower, they die.
- You know . . . water them occasionally. When you think about it. (They’re so much more forgiving than veggies!)
- Have fun! Get the whole family involved. Let your kids taste the herbs as they work in the garden and involve them in harvesting/cooking. I found my toddler an adorable gardening set at Target so she can feel like she’s part of the effort. And I tell her, the dirtier she gets, the better!
Gardening is a glorious experiment. Sometimes it works, and sometimes your beloved plants get attacked by a bunny. Regardless, it’s a wonderful chance to get outside with your kids, burn a few calories, and reconnect with nature while growing fresh foods you can feed your family. Happy gardening, my friends!