The easiest way to cheer up your kitchen in the middle of winter? Grow herbs indoors. With a few fresh sprigs at your fingertips, you can add instant flavor to everything from smoothies to soups. Here are our best tips to ensure you’ll have a steady supply all season long.
Edible Gardening 101
Cilantro leaves have a flavor that most people either love or hate. But even if you think this bright, cool season herb tastes like soap, you should still consider growing a few plants in your garden, because cilantro and the spice coriander both come from the same plant, Coriandrum sativum. In the United States most people grow this delicious, multi-purpose herb for its leaves, but its delicious Coriander seeds are entirely worth harvesting and taste nothing like cilantro leaves.
As all of my other herbs have given up, sorrel has become my go-to winter aromatic, especially since I discovered that the more I pick it, the better it grows.
I love late summer for the food. It is prime harvest time in the garden and this weekend I squealed with delight when I realized it was time (finally!) to harvest my ‘Rattlesnake’ bush beans. These gorgeous heirloom snap beans produce wide cream and purple streaked pods that are crunchy, juicy and amazing grilled. Plus they are pretty enough to put on a post card.
Do your young zucchini or pumpkins suddenly shrivel up and die without warning, even though the plant looks perfectly healthy? If so, not to worry. Your plant is fine! The problem is with pollination. Winter and summer squash, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers all belong to the Cucurbit family. Cucurbits are monoecious, which means male and female flowers develop on the same plant.
Among passionate tomato growers, the same debate rages every summer: to prune or not to prune out suckers. Suckers are the growth that emerges where a branch of a tomato joins the plant’s main stem. If left to grow, the suckers develop into branches that eventually produce fruit. Some gardeners feel strongly that the suckers sap energy from the plant, while other gardeners are equally adamant that tomato plants with more foliage produce tastier fruit.
If you fail to pinch the plant back, it will grow tall and spindly with few, if any, branches. Not only does this mean you’ll have a measly harvest, but your basil won’t taste as delicious either. Basil begins to lose its signature scent as it ages, because the oil content in the leaves diminishes over time. Regular harvesting signals the plant to continue to put out newer—and tastier—leaves. It also prevents the plant from flowering, which is good because after basil flowers it stops producing new leaves and the leaves that do remain are not as appetizing (though they are still entirely edible, just not as amazingly delicious).