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A Beginners Guide To Growing Herbs Indoors

Sugary, fatty, salty snacks, and other treats feel great in the mouth. But sadly, taking these foods beyond the recommended limits doesn’t lead to happy endings, especially health-wise.

So, what now? More and more people are opting to substitute the unhealthy food enhancers mentioned above with herbs without sacrificing flavor and nutrients.

And since growing most of these herbs is easy, many people prefer to plant them indoors for convenience, premium freshness, and even home beautification.

Therefore, here below, we shall see the basics of growing herbs indoors, including the types of herbs you can grow in your indoor garden and their recipes. Also, we shall see the health benefits you will reap from consuming these herbs.

What Are Herbs?

Herbs are flavorful and fragrant plant leaves, stems, and seeds. These plants are low in calories and are great substitutes for unhealthy flavor enhancers.

Besides herbs adding flavor to your food, they contain healthy oils that add nutritional value to food. To get these oils from herbs, you can crash, cut or cook the herbs in different dishes.

How to Use Herbs

Do you want to use herbs to substitute salt, fat, and sugar? It’s easy!

You can start by slowly introducing the herbs to your diet; this will train your taste buds to prefer the herbs over other unhealthy alternatives.

Homemade salads are one of the best foods to start incorporating fresh or dried herbs.

But, if you are thinking of buying salad dressings from the store, it will be good to keep in mind that such is often high in sodium and calories. So, making your salad dressing will give you the freedom to include healthy ingredients.

When adding herbs to your salad dressings, it is advisable to start with small portions of herbs and keep tasting. By the way, it’s easier to add herbs to the dressings than to remove them!

Moreover, you can use herbs in cooked food to add flavor and nutrients.

Hardier herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary can tolerate heat and can be added early in the cooking process. In fact, cooking enhances these herbs’ flavor and allows them to penetrate other ingredients for evenly flavored food.

However, delicate herbs like mint and basil are shy towards heat. So, cooking such herbs can damage or give them a bitter taste. Therefore, it’s recommended that you add delicate herbs to food towards the end of the cooking process or use them in the garnish.

On the other hand, dried herbs are not that choosey. You can add them during any stage of the cooking session. But, for better results, you can add them in the beginning or in the middle of the cooking process.

However, you have to be cautious with dried herbs since they have more dense flavors than fresh herbs (1 teaspoon of dried herbs = 4 teaspoons of fresh herbs.)

Other foods where you can use herbs include:

  • Steamed and roasted vegetables to improve flavor
  • Unsweetened homemade iced tea and water- you can add fresh herbs, then allow it to sit overnight in the freezer. This drink is a perfect option when you want to cut on sugar intake.
    Additionally, this is a perfect drink for those hot summer days or whenever you want something to sooth your digestive system.
  • Water combined with lime and cilantro; add a quarter wedge of lime and one cup of chopped cilantro to half a gallon of water.
  • Cold tea made with edible flowers such as hibiscus, lavender, rose, and citrus blossoms. But, ensure that all the ingredients you use here are 100% free from pesticides.

Benefits of Herbs

Besides herbs improving food flavor and helping you cut on unhealthy sugar, salt, and fat, they have other benefits.

For example, most herbs act as antioxidants, which help strengthen your immunity against chronic illnesses and inflammations.

Advantages of Indoor Herb Gardens

The best thing about having an indoor herb garden is that you can grow plants according to your cooking preferences and tastes.

Here are the more advantages of container gardening over growing herbs outdoors:

  • Pots or containers are versatile and easy to manage than gardens
  • You can use different herb pots, each with a different potting mix in the same space to grow different herbs
  • Weeds and pest management is easy when growing herbs in containers
  • Indoor gardening uses minimal space

How to Grow Indoor Herbs

Hereunder we shall see how to start potted herbs, the soil requirements, and identify herb garden locations.

  • How to start herbs

Like many other plants, herbs start with seeds or cuts. For an annual herb, like basil, you can plant them afresh from seed each year.

On the other hand, for hardier perennial herbs like rosemary and mint, you can get cuttings from the market or borrow from your neighbor to start them in your pots.

However, there is something here I want to whisper into your ears – mint is notorious – it can take over your entire herb garden in no time! So, control its movements.

  • Potting soil

Most herbs love well-draining, sandy or loam soil mixed with organic matter. 

However, loam soil is often recommended over sandy or clay soil due to its drainage, aeration, nutrient exchange, and water holding capabilities.

Additionally, you can add fertilizer to your potting soil according to what is recommended for each herb type. Moreover, you can find many products in the market meant for raising herbs.

  • Indoor garden location

You can position your herb garden near your house, at the kitchen entrance, on the kitchen counter, on a sunny window, or in pots on a patio.

In addition, you will need to check the amount of sunlight accessing your fresh herb garden; herbs need 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Easiest Herbs to Grow Indoors

Here are some of the herbs for growing indoors:

Basil

Basil is an annual plant, meaning you will need to plant it from seed each year.

Additionally, there are over 25 types of this Mediterranean herb. Some of the commonest basils are the Thai and sweet basil; you can have a look at them from the following diagram.

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As you can see from the above image, Thai basil has small pointed leaves with purplish stems and flowers. Additionally, Thai basil can stand higher cooking temperatures than sweet basil.

Often, basil thrives in summer; its relationship with the sun is beyond words. Moreover, it doesn’t require shade. However, this doesn’t mean that its roots don’t need some water.

Mint

Mint, like basil, is treasured in many cultures due to its aromatic leaves and medicinal benefits

In addition, there are over 35 types of this culinary herb, peppermint being the most common among them. Peppermint has saw-like leaves and produces purple flowers.

You can use mint roots to start your mint pot. Other requirements for this herb include medium-rich soil and partial/full sunlight.

growing herbs indoors without sunlight; 10 best herbs to grow indoors; Soil for growing herbs indoors; mint herb

Thyme

You can grow thyme for both culinary and ornamental purposes. 

And like the previous two herbs we have spoken about, there are different varieties of this herb plant.

English thyme, for example, features small oval green leaves with whitish flowers. This thyme type has a unique earthy flavor, perfect for roasted dishes, soups, and sauces.

However, you have to be cautious with the English thyme since a small portion of it goes a long way. So, start small, and increase if needed to taste.

Thyme thrives in summer, though it will require some shading during scorching days. Additionally, this herb requires well-drained soil and bright light.

You can grow thyme from cuttings and water it daily during summer and less frequently during fall.

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Besides the three herbs I have spoken about above, other herbs you can plant in your indoor herb garden include summer savory, marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, chives, etc.

Storing Herbs

You will store harvested fresh herbs in the same style you store your cut flowers.

So, to begin with, submerge the stems of your herbs in water, then wrap their leaves with plastic wrap or damp cloth. 

This storage technique helps prevent the herbs from losing moisture once you store them in the refrigerator and prolong their lives.

How about dry herbs? Dry herbs tend to lose flavor almost immediately after processing. So, ensure you store them in a dark, cool, dry place to retain their quality.

Additionally, ensure you label your herbs with their production date. Also, you should use the dry spices within one year after production.

 However, if you are unsure of the freshness of your dry herbs, you can pour some on your hand and smell them; if they smell stale or musty, throw them away.

Recipes

Now that we have seen the different potted plants you can grow in an indoor or windowsill herb garden, we can now look at some of the recipes you can derive from here.

Sunflower Parmesan Pesto Recipe

What you will need:

  • Quarter cup grated Romano cheese or parmesan
  • Three tablespoons of sunflower seeds without shells
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil
  • Two tablespoons of water
  • Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or one clove of fresh garlic
  • A pinch of salt
  • Two cups of fresh basil
  • Two tablespoons of lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the above items in a blender until smooth
  2. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for not more than three days

Pesto Panzanella Salad Recipe

What you will need:

  • Two cups of cubed bread, sliced into quarter-inch pieces
  • Four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • One tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • A quarter teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper
  • Two cups of halved cherry tomatoes
  • One can (14-ounce) drained and rinsed cannellini beans
  • One medium peeled cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds intact and sliced into half-inch pieces
  • One medium, finely chopped shallot
  • Half a cup pesto (see pesto recipe above)
  • One tablespoon of red wine vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F
  2. Grab a medium-sized bowl; add bread cubes, two tablespoons of EVOO, garlic, and a quarter teaspoon of pepper, then toss these ingredients together.
    Spread this mixture on a pan and bake till golden brown (for around 12 to 15 minutes).
    Keep shaking the pan to prevent the bread from sticking.
    Once cooked, remove the pan from the oven and set aside the content to cool down completely.
  3. In the meantime, mix beans, shallots, cucumber, and tomatoes in a bowl.
  4. Whisk pesto, one tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl, then season with pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Drizzle pesto dressing on the vegetables you prepared earlier, toss this combination well, and refrigerate overnight or for at least two hours.
  6. Toss bread cubes and vegetables 
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

What you will need:

  • Half a cup of balsamic vinegar
  • One tablespoon of dried parsley
  • Two teaspoons of garlic powder
  • Half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Half teaspoon of dried basil
  • A quarter teaspoon of dried thyme
  • A quarter teaspoon of pepper
  • One tablespoon of honey
  • Two-thirds cup of olive oil
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Grab a jar that has a lid, then add vinegar, parsley, garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme, honey, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Then cover the jar with the lid, and shake the contents vigorously until they mix well.
  2. Add olive oil to the container and mix properly.
  3. Refrigerate when covered for about one hour to allow flavors to develop.
  4. Run the jar under hot water since olive oil will form clamps when refrigerated. Then shake the content thoroughly before serving.
  5. Store the remaining amount for not more than three weeks.

Bottom Line

I believe the above guide on growing herbs indoors has been helpful. As you have seen, it’s effortless to develop a herb garden.

Start by identifying your favorite herbs. Then, get the seeds or cuttings, choose the right location for your herb garden, and grow the plants.

If starting your herbs from seeds, remember to start them the right way. I have written an informative article on that: The Ultimate Guide on How to Plant Seeds.

Resources

  1. Growing Herbs for the Health of It
  2. A Review of Benefits and Uses of Sweet Basil
  3. Antibacterial Mint Leaf Extract
  4. A Focused Insight into Thyme
  5. Preserving Herbs
  6. A growers guide: Oregano
  7. Herbal studies 101 – Rosemary
  8. Artem Oliva Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  9. Growing Herbs in Home Gardens
  10. Basil in The Garden
Robert Silver

Robert Silver

Robert Silver is a writer, speaker and certified master gardener who has been sharing his landscaping experiences through personal blogs. Taking it to the next level, Robert Silver has come up with this progardeningblog.com to shine a light on new planters and experts, discussing plants, landscape projects and much more. He has published numerous research articles on horticulture that have helped many people attain fruitful outcomes.