Cook with Herbs from Your Own Garden

August 6, 2020

Do you like to cook? Then you probably need herbs on a regular basis. You can buy them - or grow them yourself in the garden or on the balcony. This is easier than you might think if you know what to look out for. We have put together the best tips and tricks for you.

Herbs in the Garden

Most herbs feel at home in the sun or in partial shade. Especially Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary or thyme need a lot of sun from spring to autumn. Spring herbs such as wild garlic, lovage or sorrel, however, would burn. Look at the plants carefully before you plant them. If the leaves are large and green, the herbs prefer it shady or semi-shady and moist. If they are small, often greyish and partly hairy, they prefer it hot and dry. Herbs should be planted in spring or autumn. Perennial herbs such as savory, sage or thyme, which have to grow in first, are better in spring, while frost-sensitive herbs such as basil are better after the Ice Saints. If you are unsure which variety your kitchen herb belongs to and what care it needs, you can use the Houzy Plant Guide to easily identify the plant by photo and get care tips.

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Herbs on the Balcony

Herbs need little space. That is why they are well suited for cultivation in pots on the windowsill, balcony or terrace. Use pots with drainage holes and fill them in three layers: A layer of expanded clay at the bottom as drainage, a garden fleece in between, and soil up to the watering rim at the top. Over time the soil will settle, then you should fill up the pots so that the herbs form new roots and more leaves or flowers. Basil, dill, cress, oregano, parsley, peppermint, chives and thyme are best suited for cultivation in pots.

Garden Herbs - Basil

Not all herbs like each other

There are herbs that you can plant in the same bed or pot without any problems. They prefer the same location and promote each other. For example

  • Tarragon, sage, chives, thyme and lemon balm,
  • Savory, oregano and sage,
  • Tarragon, pimpernell and lemon balm or
  • Borage, dill, chervil, marjoram and parsley.

But not all herbs get along well. It is better not to plant these herbs next to each other because they have different requirements for the location and inhibit each other:

  • Parsley and chives
  • Peppermint and sage
  • Tarragon and rosemary
  • Marjoram and thyme
  • Dill and sage

Houzy Advice

Good to know

You should never plant basil alone in a bed or pot. Rosemary, for example, promotes the growth of basil. Besides, the two herbs are used together in many Mediterranean dishes.

Garden herbs - Parsley

Cooking with herbs

More and more people are cooking with fresh herbs. On the one hand, because they can use them to season their dishes in a refined way, they need less salt and the food tastes better. On the other hand, because herbs contain many minerals and vitamins and are good for your health. Cooks distinguish between cold and warm herbs:

  • Cold herbs should be used cold, for example in salads. If you add cold herbs to hot dishes, then only just before serving, for example parsley as a garnish. Cold herbs include wild garlic, basil, tarragon, chervil, coriander, cress, lovage, marjoram, mint, parsley, sorrel, chives, woodruff and lemon balm.
  • You can heat warm herbs without any problems. They do not lose their flavour as long as they are not overcooked. If you hold warm herbs under hot water for a few seconds before using them, they taste even more intense because of their essential oils. Warm herbs include mugwort, savory, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.


The most popular kitchen herbs

Do you want to grow herbs in the garden, on the terrace, on the balcony or on the windowsill? You need these six herbs for many recipes:

  • Basil belongs to Mediterranean cuisine like olive oil and tomatoes. You can't do without it. Basil goes well with pasta or grilled vegetables and is the basis of many sauces, especially pesto genovese. The herbs stimulate the appetite, purify and, when chewed, freshen the breath.
  • Parsley is omnipresent. It flavours soups and salads, but also vegetables and stock. Among other things, the herbs contain vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, calcium and magnesium. They stimulate kidney function, purify the blood and aid digestion.
  • Rosemary fits with many things. For example, with fried potatoes, fish or meat. The herbs are said to relieve headaches, calm the nerves and help with difficulties with the stomach, intestines or gall bladder. As an additive in bath water, rosemary stimulates the circulation.
  • Sage is slightly bitter. That is why it harmonises excellently with veal, for example saltimbocca alla romana with risotto, a classic of Italian cuisine. The herbs inhibit inflammation, aid digestion and help with coughs.
  • Chive fits with many savoury dishes, but also with fresh salads or in salmon tartare. The herbs contain a lot of vitamin C and strengthen the immune system.
  • Thyme harmonises wonderfully with fish or lamb, seasons sauces and is an integral part of (especially Provençal) Mediterranean cuisine. The spicy-sweet herbs soothe and relieve both cramps and phlegm.

Dry Herbs from the Garden
Dried herbs last longer

Use fresh or dry?

Of course, fresh herbs are more aromatic. But you must use them immediately after harvesting. If you harvest a lot of herbs or are away for a long time, you can dry them. This way they last longer and do not spoil but lose their aroma and essential oils over time. Drying herbs is easy: you can hang the bundles upside down in a dry and well-ventilated room or dry the herbs at a low temperature in the oven and then store the herbs in an airtight, well-sealed jar. It is important that the herbs in the middle of the bundle also dry quickly, otherwise they will mould.

You can also chop the dried herbs into small pieces and mix them with salt, then they will last for a year - and you have an herbal salt with which you can season many dishes. Or you can put fresh herbs in oil, preferably olive oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil, and let the herb oil mature for four to six weeks. You can use herb oil to fry meat, fish or potatoes, for example, or to mix wonderful salad dressings.

Have we whetted your appetite? Then go ahead and grow your own herbs. The Houzy Plant Guide gives you valuable tips on care and identifies unknown herbs and plants simply by taking a photo:

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