Herbs and spices are essential for a delicious dish. In principle, it is precisely the spices that make a meal what it is. For this reason, many use fresh herbs instead of dried ones, because they have a stronger aroma. You can easily buy fresh herbs for cooking in the store. However, if you have enough space in the kitchen, you can easily have your own Herbal Kitchen plant by sowing any variety of aromatic plants. In today’s article we have put together some tips about planting, harvesting and processing herbs as well as a list of which spices actually go together for cooking.
Herbal Kitchen Tips – Buy Fresh Herbs
Herbs can be bought fresh in shops and supermarkets. They are offered in the form of bouquets. This is useful if you don’t have a herbal kitchen. Fresh herbs and spices are best stored in the refrigerator after wrapping them in a damp cloth. However, this means that the plants should be used up quickly, within three days. This is often not feasible and unfortunately some of it ends up in the trash or on the compost. Perhaps a better variant here are the herbs that are sold in pots, because they last longer. Whichever variant you prefer, it is important that you check the plants carefully to make sure you are getting the really fresh herbs. You can do this visually and with your sense of smell.
The plants should definitely look nice and green. This applies not only to the leaves but also to the stems. Potted plants sometimes look rather spongy. In this case, you shouldn’t expect a particularly strong aroma. Such leaves are a sign that the plants did not get enough light while they were growing. A test in which you pull on a stem of the plant is also recommended. If the entire root ball comes out of the pot along with the soil, then you’d better not go for it.
Another tool for checking herbs and spices, as mentioned earlier, is your nose. Pluck a leaf from the plant and rub it lightly between your fingers. You can now smell your fingers. Fresh herbs have a strong smell. This is how you can tell the quality of the herbs. If the herb doesn’t smell that aromatic, how can it improve your dish??
You can also play it safe and easily put together your own herb kitchen. So you always know that it is the best quality. You also always have the herbs you need at hand and don’t have to throw anything away. You only cut off the amount that you need for the respective dish. The rest of the plant can then continue to grow in peace.
Planting herbs in the kitchen – the best herbs for the kitchen
It is difficult to say which herbs are the best for you. Which herbs you grow yourself depends not only on your taste but also on the dishes you usually cook and the types of tea you enjoy most. Some dishes tolerate more Mediterranean, others local and still other exotic spices. It is best to estimate which herbs you use most often. Should you still need another type of herb in retrospect that you do not have in your herb kitchen, you can always go to the shop. It’s best to start with a smaller selection when planting fresh herbs in the kitchen. For example, if you like to drink mint tea, you can prepare it from fresh herbs in the future. Do you like and often cook Mediterranean dishes, equip your herbal kitchen with Mediterranean spices. In the course of time you will find out for yourself which herbs you also need.
It is no secret that herbs and spices have healing properties. Each herb has a specific effect. Accordingly, you can also choose the plants for your herbal kitchen accordingly. Those who often suffer from stomach pains will benefit from one spice, while others help with colds, strengthen the immune system or promote circulation. Take a look at the following list of commonly chosen herbs and find out what positive properties they have.
Herbs with healing properties
– peppermint – Peppermint is one of the most popular herbs. In the form of tea, the herb not only tastes extremely tasty, but has also proven itself in combating stomach pain. The peppermint has a calming and antispasmodic effect and also stimulates the production of bile. Peppermint can also help with inflammation. In the form of essential oils, the plant has a cooling effect and so calms the inflammation. And in summer you can use this herb to flavor any drink to make it even more refreshing.
– thyme – Thyme is one of the Mediterranean spices and is also a real miracle cure because it helps with various problems. If you suffer from a cough, hoarseness or a cold, thyme will quickly help you. The herb also has an antioxidant effect and so can be soothing quickly. In addition, there is also its disinfecting property. For these reasons, thyme is recommended in the herbal kitchen. Whether as a tea or for a pleasant aroma in the dish – this spice should by no means be underestimated.
Use herbs as home remedies
– tarragon – Tarragon has been a popular and above all helpful home remedy for rheumatism and muscle cramps in the past. But that’s not all this herb has to offer. Plant tarragon in the herbal kitchen and you will receive a digestive and diuretic agent that also contains a lot of potassium. Loss of appetite and even kidney sluggishness are quickly combated thanks to tarragon.
– Lemon balm – The lemon balm is known for its lemony aroma, which is very suitable for refining dishes and tea. The herb calms the nervous system, making it the perfect helper for those who suffer from insomnia. Simply prepare a tea from the lemon balm and fight restlessness and the feeling of stress. And what could be better than some fresh leaves from your own herb kitchen?
Chives with lots of vitamin C.
– Pimpinelle – This rather lesser known herb is also a good helper in the household. In addition to promoting digestion and metabolism, its leaves can also be very useful on the skin as they help against pimples and soothe minor burns. To do this, the leaves are simply soaked in water and placed on the areas to be treated. A great variant that you can consider for your herbal kitchen.
– chives – Chives have a spicy taste and should not be missing in the herbal kitchen for several reasons. Its high vitamin C content strengthens the immune system, which is particularly beneficial during and after winter. If you have high blood pressure, you can also try chives because it can lower it. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love to season their bread or soup with a few stalks of chives?
If you want to plant spices, you can make your own kitchen with herbs by either sowing seeds or planting ready-made young plants in the pot or in the garden. The spice kitchen can be implemented in different ways. That basically depends on how much space you have in the kitchen and how many plants you have chosen. It is important to have a bright and sunny location that guarantees at least four to five hours of direct sun and is also protected from the wind. The ideal temperature for the plants is between 18 and 22 degrees. For this reason, the windowsill is often chosen for the herb kitchen. If this is not big enough, a hanging herb kitchen is also suitable. Of course, an outdoor location is best. Whether in the garden or on the balcony, the plants will thank you with lush growth.
The frequency of watering is determined by the type of herbs. Mediterranean herbs come from hot areas and can therefore cope with dry periods. Local herbs, on the other hand, depend on a little more water. Either way, plants that are in the sun on hot days have to be watered about twice a day. Depending on how much time you can give the plants, you also choose the location. No matter how often you water, it is important that waterlogging is avoided. This damages the roots because they rot. Depending on the plant, fertilizing should not be forgotten either. The faster the herb grows, the more often it has to be fertilized. For example, parsley or chives rely on liquid fertilizers every week. The advantage of Mediterranean herbs is not only that they have to be watered less often. These plants do not need fertilizer for the herb kitchen, but they should be repotted every year.
Which herbs go well together?
Both when planting and in dishes, there are combinations of herbs that go well together and also those that should be avoided. Since the nutrients are known to be taken up through the roots, some plants complement each other while others compete with each other. The same goes for pests. Some plants deter certain pests, which can be beneficial for those who are often attacked by the same pests. Here is a list of good and bad combinations in the herbal kitchen:
– parsley you can combine it with strawberries, dill and chives.
– rosemary goes well with the basil, because the growth of the basil is promoted in this way. However, both plants need a different amount of water, which is why a sufficiently large distance between the plants in the pot should be guaranteed.
– Lemon balm is particularly undemanding when it comes to living together with other herbs. In the herbal kitchen, it promotes the growth of others. The only exception is basil.
– The also has a growth-promoting property chamomile. It goes well with dill, marjoram, chives, chervil and pimpinelle.
– sage best combine with oregano and savory.
– thyme gets along very well with all Mediterranean herbs. A list of Mediterranean herbs can be found below in the article.
– Lemon balm and basil
– tarragon and dill
– peppermint and chamomile
– fennel and coriander
– lavender should only be given enough space and thus be planted away from other plants in the herb kitchen.
– Lovage is a loner. Exceptions are combinations with fennel and parsley, which are promoted by it.
– thyme and marjoram don’t like each other at all. If planted together in a container, the marjoram will die quickly.
– Wormwood should always stand alone.
When the plants are big enough, you can start harvesting from the herb kitchen. All plants have one thing in common and that is that the best time of day to do this is in the morning. How the plants are harvested depends on the species. While with basil, rosemary and sage, for example, only the tips of the shoots are cut off so that the plants do not become bald over time and continue to form new shoots, lemon balm, tarragon or mint are cut as low as possible, i.e. close to the ground. Various variants are then available for further processing. Either you dry the spices by hanging them up in bunches or you can freeze them for up to a year or you can use them for cooking right away. The twigs of rosemary and the bay leaves are not crushed, but added whole to the dish. This is the best way to transfer their aroma to the dish. Parsley, dill or chives are chopped into small pieces. It is best to use a sharp knife that does not crush the herbs. Otherwise, you will lose much of the flavor to the cutting board.
Cooking with herbs
The right combination of herbs is also of great importance for a pleasant taste of dishes. There are groups that go well together, while other types of herbs should not be combined in the dish. In addition, some varieties are more suitable for salty dishes, while others (e.g. lemon balm, lavender, mint) can refine sweet ones. Herbs from the herb kitchen, which have a very similar taste, do not go very well together in dishes. This includes, for example, the combination of marjoram and oregano. Dill, watercress, mint and woodruff are very aromatic herbs that do not go well with each other in terms of taste and should therefore always be used individually.
Use ready-made herbal mixtures as a guide
Typical herbal mixtures are the easiest way to orientate yourself when you want to combine your herbs and spices from the herbal kitchen. This includes not only the Mediterranean herbs, which are also known as herbs of Provence, include rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, savory, basil, tarragon, fennel, chervil, bay leaf and sage, all of which can also be combined with lavender.
Herbs of French cuisine are divided into two groups and can also be used for orientation. On the one hand there is the so-called “bouquet garni” group with parsley, celery leaves, onions, thyme, savory, basil, chervil, dill, tarragon, rosemary, pimpinelle, garlic and bay leaves. The second group is called “Fines Herbes” and many of the spices just mentioned are repeated in this group. Parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives as well as sage, basil, savory, thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender, hyssop and marjoram can be included in the spice mixture and go well together.