The “Shelter in Place” order has left us feeling a bit cooped up or confined indoors. It’s spring, the time of new growth and rejuvenation. Staying busy will help dissipate feeling of being trapped in your home. Here’s a simple idea to bring spring indoors and provide new life to your apartment during these unpredictable times.
Disclaimer: Please be mindful planting herbs in your apartment with your pets. Some herbs can be poisonous. The smells can even bother your four legged friend. Do your research so you know what’s best for your pet.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can still have an herb garden. Here are some of my favorite low maintenance herbs and how to use them in your cooking. If you already cook with herbs, skip ahead to the planting tips.
8 Fabulous Herbs to Plant
What you should know: It’s from tropical regions in Asia and Africa and part of the mint family. It hates being too wet and the roots will rot if it’s soil remains soggy. The smell is great when you rub it on your hands. It provides vitamins and antioxidants to your meal.
How to cook with basil: Add fresh leaves to you pizza or spaghetti sauce. Even the jar spaghetti sauce will pep up with the fresh herb taste. Place a leaf in a daiquiri or cocktail. Not only does the color enhance it but the smell is refreshing.
What you should know: Chives are one of the easiest herb to grow. They tolerate less light but prefer southern exposure. They are members of the garlic and onion family. Also, a fun fact is that they repel pesky aphids that eat on your other plants.
How to cook with chives: Use kitchen scissors to cut chives instead of a knife. Place them on top of a baked potato or a cream cheese bagel. They look like green sprinkles. Sprinkle cut chives in salads, on your morning omelet, and even garnish any soup with them. Freeze chives in ice cube trays to fancy up any martini. You might even like them in your Bloody Marys.
What you should know: Of all the herbs, rosemary is my go-to herb. It smells like evergreen and its used for health benefits and perfume. It’s a member of the mint family. Too much can cause stomach aches and other serious problems so don’t snack on it like a bag of Doritos. It needs sandy soil and 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
How to cook with Rosemary: I bake it with my chicken by cutting in small bits around it. I remove the rosemary before eating. I chop the leaves superfine and sprinkle on french fries before cooking them. Rosemary is heavenly on carrots. Garlic and rosemary are my favorite combinations when cooking. They are a delicious pair. Try a rosemary sprig in a gin fizz. You can thank me later.
What you should know: Mint is very hardy no matter where it is planted. It seems to tunnel and wrap around everything so plant it by itself. It will leave your home smelling fragrant and fresh. The type of mint you choose will determine how much light it needs. Spearmint likes indirect light where peppermint prefers full sun.
How to cook with Mint: Is there anything better than a cold, ice tea with a sprig of mint? Pina Coladas, Mojitos, and even ice cream topped with mint is delicious. Try to muddle mint into your salsa. The smell and taste is outstanding.
What you should know: Either you love the tase of cilantro or you hate it. My brother says it taste like soap. I on the other hand can’t image not using it in my guacamole or salsa. It is believed if you use cilantro on your food, you will use less salt. Cilantro has to have lots of drainage to grow. It needs 5 hours of sunlight. Pinch your cilantro plant at the growing tips to cause your plant to be bushier.
How to cook with Cilantro: Add it to guacamole, salsa, and fajitas. Shrimp on the grill is fabulous topped with a small amount of cilantro.
What you should know: Thyme and Oregano are from the same family. It is considered a culinary and aromatic herb. It thrives in sunlight and doesn’t need watered until the top of soil is dry. It is one of the most widely used cooking herbs.
How to cook with Thyme: It can be added to your recipe using the whole stem or by removing the leaves with your fingers. It is great on roasted meats, in soups, on eggs, and in pasta dishes. It adds a woodsy flavor to your cooking. It’s easy to try on rice or a potato when you are first experiment with the herb.
What you should know: Oregano is in the mint family. The Greeks and Romans associate it with joy and happiness. It thrives in sunlight and soil with plenty of drainage. It may help fight bacteria and is high in antioxidants.
How to cook with Oregano: Start by sprinkling oregano leaves on your spaghetti or frozen pizza. Mix it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip your bread into it. Add some on your salmon before baking it. Once you start using herbs to spice up your cooking then you will unleash your creative chef.
What you should know: Parsley is considered not only an herb but also a vegetable. It is believed parsley may benefit bone health. It prefers the brightest light possible. Don’t let those roots sit in water so if the tray under your pot has water in it. Dump it. Parsley grows well with other herbs so plant it in a mixture of herbs.
How to cook with Parsley: I use it primarily as a garnish. It is fabulous on soups and salads. Many sauces or marinades call for parsley to be ground up in them. Chefs use parsley in red sauces and breads. Bryce and I love Cimichurri sauce on our steak. It is made from parsley.
Some apartments have private outdoor spaces, where others do not. Herbs can flourish indoors with plenty of sunlight. They don’t take much space and make you look like a sous chef by using them in your cooking.
The Planting Process
- Location for your plants is key. You need natural light and a lot of it. If your space lacks sunlight, look into purchasing a grow light or fluorescent bulbs for poorly lit areas.
- Planters, containers, and pots become your herbs new home so select carefully. Measurements are important if you chose to use a window box like I did. The width and depth of the windowsill determined my purchase. Another bit of information you might find useful is to look for water trays to go under your pots. They are sold separately. The containers are your most expensive purchase. I prefer clay pots or plastic because they aren’t as heavy once dirt is in them.
- Purchase your herbs. This can be in plant form or by using seeds. I’m not the most patient person so I selected plants. This time of year hardware stores, Walmart, and even the produce section at Hyvee has potted herbs for sale. Be smart and order online for curbside pickup. Your plants can wait. Your health and that of others is way more important.
- Time to dig in and plant. If you remembered reading about the different herbs and what they needed to grow, drainage was at the top of the list. Here’s a pro tip: Take your plastic pot and flip it upside down. Use a drill or a hammer and a big nail. Make many additional holes in the bottom of your planter, not in the tray. I understand that your planter comes with holes but adding a few will help keep your roots aerated. Many planters have fill lines to tell you how much soil to place in them. I prefer using Miracle-Gro Potting mix because of the nutrients it has. Use the picks that came with your herbs to determine spacing and planting depth.
- Water your herbs immediately after planting. I find it easiest to set reminders in my phone with a watering schedule because some herbs like to dry out more than others. The glass in windows can bake your plants so them may need watered more frequently depending on the weather.
Planting my indoor herb garden was exactly what I needed for my mental health during these unpredictable times. Bryce and I don’t eat out much so preparing meals with bits from our windowsill garden was just the “spice of life” I needed. I hope this inspires you to grow an herb and use it in your cooking. Please be smart. Order online or use curbside pickup if you have to purchase anything. Wear gloves and a makeshift mask. Be mindful of where you set your purchases. Wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes. Your health physically and mentally is more important than gathering supplies to use planting. Love you all.
Until next time, spread kindness and please stay healthy.