Circa a year ago, I contributed ‘Herbs and Spices’ recipes for my BBC GF Asia column whereby one of the hit recipes was this sundried tomato, thyme and rosemary foccacia baked in a skillet. It was also around the same time that I embarked on gardening kitchen herbs. With such limited space on condo balcony my inspiration was more less retarded, I dreamt big of mango trees like my parents’ place, backyard full of foliage, shrubs and running vegetables, and basketful of tomatoes and herbs ready to be made into za’atar, sundried tomatoes and Malay galangal -lemongrass paste for Laksa. Now that our new place comes with patio, the garden dream is half-way there and I am happy to share my little tidbits on how to grow kitchen herbs and perhaps a lot more!
There are a lot of perks of growing herbs in your own lawn, not to mention about how economical it would be especially when you live in tropics and most imported herbs cost an arm. The aromatic herbs have also inspired a lot of my cooking, and sometimes it’s the herbs that dictate what will we have for dinner. The good news is, you really do not need to have a big space for planting as most kitchen herbs can thrive pretty well on sunny windowsill. There are few herbs which I personally prefer, as they are used mostly for our cooking.
A bit on herbs…
Oregano: This herb is popular for mediterranean cuisine, especially in pasta or tomato based dishes. Even though they are mostly available in dry form, the fresh leaves give better fragrance. Easily grown in sunny area.
Lemon Balm: I am not terribly familiar with lemon balm, but the lemony smell hooked on me! I drew recipe inspirations from here, and can’t wait to use them for puddings and sorbets.
Tarragon: This is used mostly in meat dishes, especially to season roasted chicken or even to be made into infused oil.
Rosemary: Perhaps one of my favourite herbs, I have used this a lot even in the recipe above, and also this beautiful wreath. As they are spiky in nature, I prefer to marinade chicken or meat overnight, then discard the herb after baking. I have not tried blending rosemary into paste yet, but that will be an idea.
Thyme: Another personal favourite, as I use a lot of za’atar in our cooking. My lovely friend Rosa ( check out her gorgeous blog!) has shared her tip on drying thyme in low heated oven for homemade za’atar. That deserves a blog post of its own.
Curry leaves: Some readers asked me if the curry leaves can be omitted from some recipes I shared here, and the answer is yes, but curry leaves gives a special aroma on tempering, so if you can get your hands on curry leaves please use them liberally. It is also one of the easiest herbs that grow all year long in sunny tropics, and used a lot in Indian or Malaysian cooking.
Marjoram: You can see that I only got a small pot here. For herbs to thrive, re-pot into bigger pot after few weeks to allow better growth. I use dried marjoram for za’atar blend, and also fresh marjoram for roasted chicken marinade.
Basil: Comes in various types and varieties, the ‘Italian’ basil is sweet basil which is commonly used for pasta and pesto. The picture above is Thai Basil, which is slightly different in terms of taste and flavours. Thai Basil is used mostly for Asian cooking,. It is difficult to differentiate purely on the leaves as they look identical but just smell them and you will know the difference.
Parsley: This is also known as English parsley, do not confuse this with Chinese parsley which is another name for coriander leaves! This is used a lot for garnishing salads. I have also used this for tabbouleh.
Pomegranate: Just to show u here as well how cute the little poms are!
How to grow plant from sprouts or seeds
Most plants can be grown from seeds, or sprouts. Here I have taken an old onion which has sprouts, perfect for planting. All you need is a perforated bottom pot, few mesh and some good potting soil. Most potting soil from plant nursery comes with fertilisers so usually you do not need to worry about the type of soil. If in doubt, ask your local gardener.
Here I filled the pot up to 2/3 with the soil and sprinkle generous amount of water before I planted the onion sprout. Hopefully with daily watering and enough sunlight, it will grow!
I hope you enjoy this slight deviation from our usual foodfare here, but it is a good idea to get your own collection of kitchen herbs at home. They will inspire you to cook in much healthier way, with less amount of salt as the herbs are adequate for flavourings if not more. And if you are inspired, feel free to try out this foccaccia baked in skillet. I have used part rye flour for added flavour here. Relatively easy, minimal fuss and only hand kneading involved!