As the weather starts changing so do our diets and cravings. We start thinking about soups, stews and our favorite winter meal, chili. These warm meals can be made better and cheaper if you add your own herbs. Have you bought fresh herbs in the store lately? You get enough for 1 or 2 dishes and pay a small fortune. For the cost of a small package of cut herbs, you can get an entire plant. Herb gardens are easy and most herbs are perennial, so you can plant them once and enjoy them for years.  Here are a 10 recommendations to get started with.

  1. Bay Laurel is the source for bay leaves. This is a  small tree or bush, so give it some room in a permanent place. In France, it is said, that if  you get the bay leave in your plate, you will be lucky. Add to soups and stews.
  2. Celery leaf is used just like celery, but grows like parsley. Personally, I wind up throwing away most of a celery bunch after using  just part of it. This one should save us money!
  3. Salad burnett is a great little perennial for part shade. It tastes like cucumber and if you like cucumber and it doesn’t like you back…this is the herb for you!
  4. Chives come in two flavors, onion and garlic. Plant them well away from each other, so they don’t get mixed together.
  5. Cilantro is a cool weather herb. It will NOT grow during the summer. Plant it now and make salsa later.
  6. Mint, so many mints…so few pots. Personally, I grow spearmint for Vietnamese Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls. Peppermint is usually the one added to tea. We strongly recommend that you put your mint in a pot, otherwise you could end up with a mint lawn, which would be wonderful to smell when you mow or walk across.
  7. Oregano comes in many forms. Upright, creeping, variegated, golden, green and most of them are hardy perennials.  No pot of marinara is right without it. Sprinkle over sandwiches and salads for extra flavor, without adding salt.
  8. Parsley comes it two basic forms, flat leaf (superior for cooking) and curly leaf (nice to look at). Replant every 2 years… it’s death at 2 years old, is normal.
  9. Rosemary is a must in your herb garden. This beautiful, evergreen plant with (usually) blue flowers grows either upright or trailing. Cut a bunch, tie it with a bow to create an unforgetable hostess gift. Amazing with chicken!
  10. Thyme is a great perennial plant that can be used in any dish you want to add a savory flavor to. Use lemon thyme on chicken or fish. English Porlock thyme has a superior flavor and holds up well in our extremes in weather. Thyme is very sensitive to being over watered, so make sure it has good drainage. Some thymes seem like they would make a great ground cover, and they do, just not  in Houston. Between the humidity, occasional month-long rains and our clay soils, it would be a challenge even for a pro.

      Some herbs are small enough that you can put 2 or 3 in a pot together. We just made up some “fish” pots with lemon thyme, onion chives and parsley. Other pots we made up for italian cooking with parley, oregano and basil. Themed pots are great because you can go to one pot and get everything you need. Even if all you have is a balcony, you can grow a bunch of herbs in a small area, save money and eat better while you’re at it.