There are few pleasures as simple or joyful as being able to pick fresh herbs to use in your cooking. Not only are herb plants useful and delicious; their luscious leaves and fragrances can make a home feel truly alive. Keeping herbs in the home can encourage you to cook more if you’re hesitant, or just raise the quality of your dishes if you’re already a star chef. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking with herbs that you grew yourself.
Growing herbs can be intimidating for first-time planters who aren’t sure what it takes to keep them alive; here are 7 herbs that are easy to grow in your home and use to season meals all year long.
One of my favorite scents, rosemary is a sweet-flavored perennial that goes great with savory dishes like roasted potatoes or chicken, and can even go in tea and ice cream. Rosemary is a hardy herb that can be grown simply by bringing a cutting from a larger bush inside; it can thrive indoors if you make sure to meet its needs. It generally has roots that are as long as the plant is tall, so make sure to give them deep enough of a pot to live in. Rosemary is also particularly sensitive to overwatering, so keeping them in a pot with drainage, or putting some gravel into the bottom of their pot, will allow them to keep from rotting.
Rosemary loves hot, sunny locations in the summer, so placing it in a South-facing window, which are generally brighter and warmer, will suit them. If you take these steps up front, rosemary can be an extremely durable plant that will provide you with fresh flavor for years.
Rosemary, along with thyme and sage, is easy to propagate from cuttings, so if you’ve got a friend with a rosemary bush outside you can start your own plant for free!
Mint is a beautiful, versatile plant that’s easy to take care of and can be used in so many recipes (or simply to garnish your favorite tea or mixed drink). Make sure to place them in an East-facing window that is a bit cooler if possible. Mint prefers to thrive in soil that’s consistently moist, which means that keeping it in a container with drainage is important to avoid standing water.
As with most of these leafy plants, experts recommend pinching leaves off the mint plant as you remove them rather than pulling them; pinching encourages growth in lower, dormant leaf buds and keeps your plant producing viable leaves.
In the mint family, oregano is another low-maintenance, fragrant herb that makes a great, fresh addition to pasta, pizza and vegetables. It prefers a bit hotter light, meaning South-facing windows suit it best. Oregano is more sensitive to overwatering than mint, so it only requires watering when its soil is completely dry. Oregano is a short-lived perennial, meaning that it needs to be replaced or reseeded every two years.
Cilantro is a fresh-tasting herb that makes a great addition to salads and tacos. Cilantro prefers to grow in hot, bright places, making South-facing windows ideal for them. Similar to mint, cilantro thrives best in moist, well-drained soil.
Parsley might be best known as a garnish but it can be used for so much more; it can provide flavor for a lemon pesto or tabbouleh or add seasoning to a salad or soup. Similar to rosemary, parsley tends to have deeper roots and will need a taller pot to thrive. It needs bright light and good drainage to grow; parsley is used to humid environments and will welcome the occasional misting.
Most often used to top baked potatoes, fresh-cut chives can add a fresh, zesty flavor to a variety of dishes. Chives will grow best in a sunny, South-facing window and benefit from regular watering and misting. When it’s time to harvest chivies for a meal, snip off leaves with some sharp kitchen scissors; just be sure to leave at least two inches at the base of each leaf so that it can regrow, and don’t cut more than a third of the leaves at one time.
Fresh basil can add a world of flavor to many Italian dishes and can even be used to make homemade pesto. Basil craves heat and light, so make sure to keep it near one of your brighter windows in moist soil. This plant is one of the easiest on this list to care for and is even sold in most grocery stores, but as a perennial, its stems will eventually grow woody and die. To keep a fresh supply of basil, you’ll need to replenish the seeds or replace the plant on a yearly basis.