There’s more to herbs than just adding them to your favorite dishes or making a delicious pesto to top a sandwich. Herbs have many uses these days. You can easily create an herb patch in your existing garden. Most herb plants are smaller than other plants you would normally grow in your vegetable garden. If you don’t have room for a small herb garden outside, you can easily grow herbs in small containers, like mason jars, inside. You can even grow herbs on your kitchen counter! Herbs are easy to grow, which means there is no reason for you not to grow herbs and reap all of the benefits.
What are the benefits of growing herbs?
Gardening in any form has numerous benefits for you and your environment. Herb gardening is no different. There are some obvious benefits to growing herbs, like having fresh herbs on hand all of the time, but did you know there were more benefits to growing herbs at home than just having fresh basil, mint or lavender?
The top five reasons to grow herbs at home are:
- Having fresh herbs
- More variety
- Good for your health
- Save money
- More flavor
Having Fresh Herbs
This is the obvious reason that most people will choose to grow herbs at home. Once you’ve had fresh herbs, dried herbs won’t come close to comparing. When herbs are dried, they tend to lose some of their color and some of their flavor. You may even notice that the flavor profile of fresh herbs is different than dried herbs. Just like the phrase ‘there’s nothing like a homegrown tomato’, there is nothing like fresh herbs.
You can grow herbs right in your kitchen. Herb plants are small and it’s possible to grow multiple culinary herb plants like parsley, oregano and basil right on your kitchen countertop. The next time that you want to whip up a vibrant pesto or flavorful spaghetti sauce, use fresh herbs instead of dried. If you grow herbs right in your kitchen, you’ll never run out of inspiration and fresh herbs to use in your recipes.
An Herb Garden Provides More Variety
When you buy herbs in the grocery store, the types of herbs that you can buy are pretty limited. You might be able to find Italian parsley or curly parsley, but you won’t be able to find the numerous cultivars of herbs that you can get when you grow them at home. For example, did you know that there are over 30 types of basil? It’s true! You can grow different types of herbs to find the exact flavors and textures that you’re looking for.
Remember in the 90’s when purple ketchup was something that you could buy? Bring back that same feeling when you grow purple basil and make bright purple pesto. If you’re not into purple pesto, you can tone down your experimentation a little bit while still trying some new varieties. If you’re a mint fan, why not try some chocolate mint or orange mint plants? Chocolate mint can be added to baked goods or ice cream easily. Who said that cookies and ice cream couldn’t be healthy?
An Herb Garden Is Good for Your Health
Any time that you can grow food at home it will be healthier than the food that you can buy in the grocery store. Food from the grocery is always at least a couple of days old by the time you get it. If you’ve ever wondered why that ‘fresh’ bundle of cilantro you bought this morning was slightly wilted, odds are that it was actually harvested several days before you got it.
Once herbs are harvested, they lose nutritional value. The plant will use its own reserves to stay alive as long as possible, which means that you’ll get less nutrients from it the older it gets. The same is true with dried herbs.
The herbs will retain some of their flavor and some of their nutritional value, but it’s nowhere near the same as a fresh plant. The more vibrantly colored the herb, the more vitamins and minerals you’ll get from it.
Herbs have been in the spotlight lately as scientists learn more about how herbs can be used for your health. Most herbs have been shown to have health benefits. Herbs like lavender and chamomile are relaxing. Peppermint has been shown to fight off colds. Lemon balm can boost your mood, which is why it’s often called the ‘gladdening’ herb.
The task of gardening itself is good for your health. If you’re tending to a larger herb garden, you’ll be working to keep it up. Bending over, digging, weeding and maintaining your herb bed burns calories. It also gets you outside in the sun, which is also good for you. Your mood will be improved with time spent outdoors. Don’t worry if you don’t have room to garden outdoors. Growing herbs indoors will also improve your mood. Research has shown that growing plants indoors can help relieve stress, decrease anxiety and ward off depression.
An Herb Garden Saves Money
Fresh herbs can be expensive at a farmer’s market or grocery store. You can spend the same amount of money and grow an abundance of herbs. A bundle of herbs can cost anywhere from $1-3. That may not sound like much, but if you’re buying a few bundles of herbs each week, it can really add up.
Those fresh bundles of herbs have a short shelf life, too. Instead of buying herbs at the grocery, spend that money and buy what you need to grow your own herbs.
One packet of herb seeds will cost the same amount that you’d spend on a bundle of fresh herbs. Instead of getting a week or two worth of herbs though, you’ll be able to grow months’ worth of herbs with the seeds you can buy. You’ll also need containers or a small garden bed to grow them in, soil, and fertilizer. Even with these added expenses, growing herbs at home is much cheaper than buying them.
Home Grown Herbs Are Packed With More Flavor
The flavonoids that give herbs their flavor can break down over time. That’s why herbs and foods grown at home are more flavorful than what you can buy. Any time that you can grow food at home, it will taste better. Nothing tastes as good as homegrown!
You’ll be in control of how your herbs are grown. If you want to grow organically, you can. You can keep pests and weeds at bay with organic methods. You’ll know exactly how your herbs were grown, which can bring you peace of mind.
It’s also a good lesson for children to learn where food comes from. You might find that they appreciate food more when they see how much time and work goes into producing their food, herbs included.
Growing herbs at home is a good idea for so many reasons. Your health, body and palate will thank you. Experiment with different types of herbs and different cultivars to find new favorites.
Make sure that you start by growing the herbs that you use the most to get the most value and use out of your hard work. What herbs will you start growing at home?
Today’s post about the benefits of growing herbs at home comes from Shelby DeVore, founder of Farminence [https://farminence.com]. Shelby is a former agriculture teacher and a multi-generational home gardener. She currently lives on a small farm with her husband and three children where they raise way too many animals and grow a large vegetable garden each year.