I love the aromatic flavor that fresh herbs add to almost any dish. I toss fresh basil in pasta, fresh mint in salads, and sprinkle fresh cilantro over fish and black beans. However, I don’t like the expense and waste of those plastic herb packets they sell at the grocery store, so every spring the kids and I plant an herb garden on our sunny deck.
It may sound daunting, but it only takes about 10 minutes to transfer a few basic herbs from their temporary containers from the farmer’s market or garden store to pots or soil in your backyard or on your deck.
Pick a sunny spot for your herb garden. Our deck is my favorite place because it’s easy to step out there while I’m preparing dinner and snip the evening’s herbs, or ask the kids to do that. Also, the ravenous deer in our neighborhood haven’t yet mastered the steps.
I plant lots of basil (at least three pots) and one pot each of chives, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, thyme, mint, sage and oregano. Make sure to get organic potting soil, larger pots for the herbs, and water catchers (round trays) to go under the pots.
The hardest part of maintaining the herbs is keeping the pots watered throughout the hot summer so the roots don’t dry out. If your kids are old enough, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to help, while observing how plants grow. As they help you, ask them to sniff and/or taste the herbs and help them learn to identify which is which.
Some of my herbs make it through the whole season and even survive the winter, but the cilantro only lasts a few weeks, so I find lots of ways to use it up before I need to replace it. This is a simple way to prepare salmon fillets adorned with fragrant cilantro, adapted from Everyday Food magazine.
Here are some Kitchen Explorers recipes to try with the other fresh herbs in your garden:
Crispy Rosemary Potatoes
Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Sage
Fresh Tomato and Basil Quiche
Mint Yogurt Sauce
No-Chicken Noodle Soup with Fresh Parsley
Do you keep an herb garden? Which herbs do you have trouble finding enough uses for?
Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Lime and Cilantro
Use fresh herbs, like lime and cilantro, to accompany salmon.
1 – 1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet (use wild Alaskan salmon if possible)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 – 2 limes, juice only, 3-4 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the salmon (skin side down, if the skin is on the fish) on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Roast it until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through, 10–13 minutes (do not flip the salmon).
While the fish cooks, whisk together the lime juice, soy sauce, honey and cilantro. When the fish is done, top it with the lime-cilantro sauce and serve it immediately.