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Tips on Growing a Global Herb Garden

Planting, growing, taste-testing, and cooking with fresh herbs can bring you (and your Little Sous) closer to international culinary traditions. While every country and cuisine has its own very specific herbal toolkit, these broad continental and cultural groupings put quite the array of flavors at your fingertips. Grow from starts or seeds sourced at a well-stocked nursery or an online source like thegrowers-exchange.com.

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Ingredients:

Europe
  • Dill
  • Chevril
  • Chives
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon (French)
  • Thyme (such as Common, French, or English)
Mediterranean
  • Basil (such as Sweet, Genovese, Lemon, or Lime)
  • Flat-leaf Parsley (more flavorful and less bitter than curly-leaf)
  • Lavender (just the flower buds are used in cooking)
  • Mint (peppermint is peppery, spearmint is sweeter)
  • Oregano (such as Greek, Italian, or Turkish)
  • Rosemary
  • Spanish Tarragon (milder in flavor but more hearty than French tarragon)
  • Thyme (such as Common, French, or English)
Asia
  • Basil (such as Thai, Lemon, Cinnamon, Opal, Holy)
  • Cilantro
  • Culantro (like cilantro in flavor but stronger, with bigger, oblong leaves)
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Rau ram (has a cilantro-mint flavor)
  • Shiso (aka Perilla or Tiato; has a basil-mint flavor)
  • Ngo Om (aka Rice Paddy Herb; has a citrusy-cumin flavor)
India
  • Basil (such as Holy)
  • Cilantro
  • Curry Leaf (a small tree best grown in a container and brought indoors in winter; has a citrus-vegetal flavor)
  • Fenugreek (leaves have a slightly maple-sweet flavor)
  • Mint
Africa/Caribbean
  • Cilantro
  • Culantro
  • Mint
  • Parsley
Latin America
  • Cilantro
  • Culantro
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Parsley

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Almost all herbs like well-drained soil and lots of sunshine. If planting in pots indoors, make sure they live by a sunny window that gets at least 6 hours of sunshine. If you don’t have quite enough sun, try planting these shade-tolerant herbs: parsley, chives, mint,* and chervil.

    * Mint can be invasive, so be sure to plant it in a container to keep it from overtaking your yard.

  2. Step 2

    It’s best to check the growing requirements of each herb before planting. Some might do best with afternoon shade, and some Asian herbs need moist conditions.

  3. Step 3

    Some herbs are annuals, such as dill, parsley, basil, and cilantro. Count on replanting these every year.

    Depending on where you live, perennial herbs, such as sage, oregano, and thyme, may die back in winter but resume growing in spring. If you live in a particularly cold zone, you can cover the plants with mulch to protect them, or plant them in containers and bring them indoors for the winter. Or treat them like annuals and replant from seeds or starts every spring.

  4. Step 4

    To encourage lush instead of leggy plants, cut off the tops about every week or two during the growing season. This makes for compact and bushy plants by encouraging lower leaves to grow, and it keeps the plants from flowering and going to seed.