Since Covid 19 hit here in the UK, it’s safe to say we’ve been making full use of our small garden. When they’re not busy splashing in the paddling pool or attempting to discover what soil tastes like (?!) – my kids have been having a whale of a time discovering mini beasts and getting acquainted with my herb garden. They potter around with their little buckets sniffing each one before popping a bunch in their collection. It got me thinking about how much I love cooking with fresh herbs from my garden, not just for their health benefits but for their immense depth and flavour.
If you’ve never cooked with them before, have a wander round your local garden center and start with some basics on your patio in some pots, not only do they smell beautiful they look beautiful too. In the nicer weather you can sit on your patio at the end of another crazy day with a glass of something cold, close your eyes, and almost convince yourself you’re in the south of France (oh to dream right now! ).
When cooking with fresh herbs, it pays to know which herbs pair well with and complement which dish? From Rosemary to Thyme, here’s what I use a small selection of herbs for on a daily basis.
Full of antioxidants, this fresh lively green herb is gorgeous finely chopped and sprinkled over prawn spaghetti, roast chicken and fresh barbecued fish.
This spiky dry Mediterranean herb is said to be rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. Finely chopped (without the hard stalks) this is gorgeous with roast chicken, ragu, soups and lamb dishes. It’s also yummy chopped up finely and fried with a little olive oil, a full unpeeled garlic clove and small chunks of stale bread to make really great croutons – fabulous with a chicken salad and blue cheese! Bee’s also love the pretty purple flowers that bloom from them.
I’ll be honest and admit I’m cheating here, I find basil grows and keeps much better in a pot on the kitchen windowsill than in my garden (it gets ALOT of sun) but its something I use nearly everyday. On fresh pizza (we often make these with pitta breads, soooooo good). In tomato pasta dishes, mixed fresh into roasted Mediterranean veggies with some feta, tomato soup and delicious in a cheese, ham and sundried tomato toastie. Drool.
Tip – always add basil at the end of your cooking to retain its freshness, and rip it – never chop. This bruises the delicate herb.
Said to help blood sugar and even menopausal symptoms. This rich woody herb is perfect with roast potatoes, sausage dishes and butter gnocchi dumplings.
A medicinal fave, said to be beneficial for cold symptoms (if ever I feel an illness coming on, I make myself a big batch of garlicky onion soup and throw loads of this herb in). Pairs beautifully with chicken and macaroni cheese.
These fresh stalks liven up a potato salad or cheese sauce!
Best for fiery dishes, and is reputed to help clean out your blood? It’s super delicious on nachos, curry, chilli and in quesadillas (my heart literally belongs to quesadillas).
I love Ginger mint, it’s great with Greek dishes and new potatoes. I tend not to use them for this as other household members are not fans (they must be crazy). However I often brew it up for a drink or add it into a homemade cocktail – especially a fresh gin and tonic or rum and ginger. Yes!
You don’t need a big garden to do this, just a small part of a patio – or even a windowsill if you are pushed for space. Check out budget shops for cheaper pots, I prefer plain terracotta. Tiered wooden planters also work really well. You will find many come back year after year – especially rosemary bushes which will need trimming (pop some in a vase and bring them inside!). I also love to incorporate fresh Lavender as not only is it gorgeous it smells so amazing too.
Good luck! Post your own tips below, I’d love to hear how you get on trying to grow your own and cooking with fresh herbs!