Fresh Herbs Add Sparkle to Meals

One of the things I enjoy most about having a garden is the ability to grow fresh herbs. I grow 8 different kinds of herbs in my garden depending on the season:

  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Thai basil
  • Basil

Most of these I both use fresh and dry for my spice rack. I don’t typically dry flat leaf parsley because I don’t have any use for it dried and I don’t dry the rosemary because it grows in my garden year round.


In fact, most of my herbs survive from year to year as well because we don’t usually get a hard freeze in Houston. The exceptions being the flat leaf parsley which bolts and dies in June and I often replant in October or March depending on the weather and my needs. Because I grow my basil in a pot that also often needs to be replanted each year so it doesn’t get root bound.

I can do lots of great things with these herbs. I like using the sage, rosemary and flat leaf parsley to rub into the skin of a chicken before I roast it. It makes the bird taste much more delicious and keeps the meat moist especially if you lift up the skin and stuff the herbs under it.

Basil is probably the most versatile herb in my garden. Because of the heat I have to cut it very often to make sure it doesn’t go to seed. I chop off the tops that start to go to seed and/or blossom. My fallback for these is to make small quantities of pesto. I also like to make tomato caprese salad with the basil, particularly if I have fresh garden tomatoes at the same time. I like to also put it into fresh homemade tomato sauce. This is particularly good if served over homemade gnocchi.

The Thai Basil also needs to be regular trimmed as well. This herb is much more fragrant than the regular basil and has a slightly different flavor. There are two different recipes I like to use this in. The first is a Thai Beef salad which takes cucumber, carrots, romaine lettuce, mint, Thai basil, peanuts, and flank steak. The dressing for the salad is a mix of fish sauce, brown sugar, chile garlic sauce,  and lime juice. The second recipe is one I’ve made up on the fly. It is a spicy, basil, garlic, shrimp and green bean stir fry. You can the beans in half and blanch them. Make sure you cool them so they stop cooking and stay relatively crisp. Next saute sliced garlic in hot oil. Add the beans and stir fry. Add chile garlic sauce and saute for a couple minutes. Add the shrimp (1 lb) and saute until shrimp done. Add the Thai basil and saute for 1 minute more to release the basil’s flavor.

The two types of mints can be used in the Thai beef salad, in mojitos or if you’re adventurous, grind it up and put it in seltzer with Torani syrup (cherry is particular good). If you appreciate Greek cooking, then you can also use the spearmint in Greek meatballs. Most recipes call for it dried but you can use fresh just in a larger quantity.

The sage and rosemary are great for making bread. I have a recipe for sage popovers that is nice at Thanksgiving. One of my favorite breads is a garlic rosemary loaf.

You can see from all the items listed that having a few herbs can enable you to make some really great recipes. Herbs don’t take up much space and they can be grown in pots. So if you don’t have much space, you can make it go a long way by planting herbs.

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