Vitalise your meals with minimal effort using herbs

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Oliver Hoffmann Shutterstock
Fresh herbs, easy to grow and add flavour to food

MOST gardeners and chefs are aware of the importance of herbs for flavouring and spicing up meals to give taste that is exotic and interesting.

Herbs also give a bundle of nutrients that most vegetables do not provide.

Garnishing and seasoning adds a touch of class to even simple meals but having them fresh is always a challenge unless you have space and time for a herb garden.

It is a bother to have to find time to go to markets and find that the not so fresh herbs wilt even more by the time they are returned home and added to the meal. The easier thing is to add dried herbs but these are never as good as freshly picked herbs.

The easiest way to have fresh herbs is to have a window or planter box as near to the kitchen as possible and grow the herbs there. A simple tray with the herbs in pots in a place with plenty of light can allow you have fresh herbs right at your kitchen.

Even if you do not have green fingers you can have the advantages of fresh herbs by buying ready grown plants and just pick the leaves you need as they keep growing. When the plant cannot produce sufficient for your needs or has passed its time just buy another.

The herbs in pots are generally not expensive in comparison to buying bunches of fresh picked leaves that deteriorate so quickly after you buy them. It is better in general to buy the growing plant and use it fresh to add vitality to the meal. If you have used fresh herbs direct from plants you will know the difference.

I prefer to harvest herbs just when they are to be added to a meal so having them grow near is important.

If you have time, space and interest you can grow many from seed in a very small area and save yourself the need to buy the plants. There is a a lot of satisfaction in growing your own if you can.

The best herbs to grow are of course the one that you would use the most and that will grow in small containers. Some herbs, such as lemongrass, are too big for small containers but are fine if you have a place for large containers.

The most suitable herbs for small containers in a Mediterranean zone include basil, chives, thyme, lemon balm, oregano, parsley, various mints,  coriander (Cilantro), rosemary, sage, tarragon, stevia, camomile, dill, fennel, lemon verbena, marjoram and more.

If you buy the plants, the pot they come in is often sufficient to last a couple of months. If they are still  growing strong after this time, it is a good idea to pot them up to a larger pot to allow them space to continue to grow. If you select plants of a good size you can harvest fresh herbs at home with a minimum of fuss for weeks at a time.

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