Homegrown versus storebought Herbs

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sat, Mar 2, 2013 - 10:05pm

vs

The jar of coriander seed is $6.49 (1.25 oz). A packet of coriander seeds, which also make cilantro greens, is less than $3. And you can save seeds for next year, so that's a one-time expense.

Fresh parsley is $2 a bunch in the supermarket; parsley seeds are also $2 but you only need a few plants per season and the seeds will germinate with slight degradation for several years.  (Note - you can use carrot tops as a pasley substitute, just don't dry it as it gets very sharp - but fresh carrot greens are fine.)

Basil is stupidly cheap to grow and saving the seeds is beyond easy. I got a basil seed packet in a 3-for-$1 deal, and have used the saved seeds ever since. It's a really good potted patio or balcony plant, too: I once had a six-foot-tall potted basil when I was renting. And although it's easy to dry, the fresh stuff is just heavenly.

vs.   
 

Thyme is another one. Again, $6.49 in the store and my plant cost $3 and has lasted (so far) three years. Its low-growing habits make it a nice border plant and it drapes beautifully off a windowbox or under a more upright potted herb (like rosemary). It has lovely flowers in the spring.

Lavender is more than a soap and fragrance scent. You can cook with it--it's in herbs de Provance--and flavor candies. It's perennial. Plant one and you will have flowers and scent for years to come.

     vs.

On the left, again, dried dill weed at $6.49. On the right, fresh dill from a $3 potted plant, or in my case - free. Dill grows wild around here (and grows five or six feet tall, I kid you not) and is an outdoor perrenial in my climate (USDA zone 8). I grew it in pots in Zone 5. A bit the size of your thumbnail is enough to give a pint of pickles some zing; some snipped over fish makes a flavorful garnish. And the seeds are a nice touch on breads or salads.

And I am leaving out so many things you can grow! Chives, sage, oregano, borage (bee balm), fennel, mint, marjoram, chamomile, anise, oregano, caraway, cumin...and those are just the ones you can eat or drink. There are medicinal herbs, too, and the lists overlap. A nice selection takes up very little space; our home herb bed is 2-ft by 3-ft and makes more than we can use. It took three tries to figure out rosemary's needs and I still can't grow mint this far south, but mostly herbs are easy.

An herb bed was a showcase in American Colonial gardens. It was usually placed near the kitchen, often with a bench nearby to just sit and enjoy the aromas. Herb drying racks were a part of homes up until the last hundred years.  Here is one made out of an old wooden rake head. Mine's a curtain rod.

Should things go south with the global or local economy, remeber that spices were a tradeable comodity and could be again.  Until then, they will give you healthier, tastier meals and save you money in the process. Bon Apetit!

 

11 Comments

ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
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Posts: 56
one more reason to grow your own herbs

Wendy, you left out the fact that store bought, even from a specialty store, is selling you herbs that have been dried for an unknown length of store, does not have the same flavor of just harvested and dried and may not have any of the nutrient content because you don't know if they were dried rapidly in too hot conditions.  The great thing about herbs and spices are their taste that makes any food taste good also adds nutrients from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants.

And to add to the list to grow don't forget the ones you can use to make teas - hibiscus, dandelion, chamomile, mints, etc.  Hibiscus is without a doubt my favorite, and my Mom's.  It makes a great hot tea and a good base for a cold tea that is very refreshing, tastes great and has a wonderful red color.  My seed are coming up now.  This is my first year trying to grow my own. Sharon

Sami Jim's picture
Sami Jim
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Homegrown herbs are special

My wife has a small herb garden, and with (seemingly) minimal effort, we frequently have fresh herbs of one sort or another added to our meal all summer and fall. And the dried herbs she uses in canning, and mixes in our dried beans to add flavor for soups. We have much to learn, but anyone can get started enjoying herbs the first season trying it. 

 

Thrivalista's picture
Thrivalista
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Posts: 60
Homegrown herbs: what & why

Nice post, Wendy, thanks!  I've long known carrot tops were edible, but wasn't quite sure how to use them...

ptwisewoman, I appreciate the reminder to stack functions by adding tea herbs.  We added anise hyssop (To. Die. For.) to our herb garden two years ago.  Even anise/licorice haters enjoyed the flavor.  It didn't overwinter, but we'll be starting plants for it again this year, determined to make this semi-hardy perennial at home in our tiny 'stead.

We're too far north to grow hibiscus, (then again, we've got mints a'plenty), but did you see this about how incredibly good it is for you?

Guess who's got a big jar of dried hibiscus in her tea cupboard now...

ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
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Hibiscus

Thrivalista, thanks for sharing the link.  I'm very aware of all the good things hibiscus brings to the pantry.  It is a mild diuretic, which helps my Mom with her water retention from COPD.  And if you have some herbs you want to drink as a tea for medicinal purposes and let's say their tastiness on a scale of 1 to 10 is a -2, hibiscus does a good job at covering up some of the taste.

I'm starting my seed in the greenhouse.  I believe you can grow them in large pots though I plan to plant mine out in my orchard between the trees and my corn patch.  It will be interesting to see if I can winter them over.  I suspect not.  While our winters aren't frigid and filled with snow, we do get down drafts into the mid 20s (and sometimes the teens) around here.

I've purchased two camilla (tea) bushes as well.  They will get transplanted next Fall and will spend the Spring and Summer in pots.  I think those of us aiming for self-reliance on a homestead often forget the drinking part of the food equation.  Herbs are a great way for flavor and nutrition.  Sharon

Steady Footsteps's picture
Steady Footsteps
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Posts: 22
Growing Herbs on a Rooftop in Vietnam

I live in Da Nang, Vietnam, and do my gardening on a metal roof, so you know I didn’t grow these herbs and salad greens in a cool location!  It was really shocking to me to find that I could grow lettuce, for example, in the summertime here even though that was really difficult to do in when I gardened back in the state of Virginia where it was so quick to bolt.  It seems that daylength, or the time that the plant is exposed to direct sunlight is key.  Our day length is about 12 hours long, year in and year out, and in an urban area the shade from adjacent structures often limits the plants’ sun exposure even more.  The chief challenge in the summertime here is keeping the plants adequately supplied with water.  Mint has a very shallow root system and so is especially susceptible to drying out.  Mine does best with a bit of shade and generous watering.  It also seems to appreciate getting uprooted and replanted frequently.

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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basil

I love fresh basil, and I've done okay with starter plants from the nursery but have not had good luck starting from seed.  Any good tips on growing basil and getting it to be bushy and productive?

Parsley is a great cold weather herb, and I've found survives well in the cold frame.

Doug's picture
Doug
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ptwisewoman and thrivalista

How far north is too north for hibiscus?  We have rose of sharon which I believe is a variety of hibiscus.  Would that work for tea?

Doug

ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
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hibiscus sabdariffa

Doug

The hibiscus generally grown for hibiscus tea is hibiscus sabdariffa and it is hardy only to zone 10, which in the U.S. would be south Florida for the near term.  Above that it would be an annual and you have to save seed and replant.  I doubt the summer would be long enough in the far upper reaches of the U.S. or in Canada.  You can grow as a potted plant with a grow light or in a greenhouse.  As the growing zones creep up I should have some years when I can winter over outside but I expect to have to replant most of the time.

I've never heard of using Rose of Sharon for a tea.  You might do some online research and see if anyone has addressed that.  While it might not be poisonous or toxic there is no guarantee it would taste anything like hibiscus.

Sharon

Doug's picture
Doug
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ptwisewoman wrote: Doug The
ptwisewoman wrote:

Doug

The hibiscus generally grown for hibiscus tea is hibiscus sabdariffa and it is hardy only to zone 10, which in the U.S. would be south Florida for the near term.  Above that it would be an annual and you have to save seed and replant.  I doubt the summer would be long enough in the far upper reaches of the U.S. or in Canada.  You can grow as a potted plant with a grow light or in a greenhouse.  As the growing zones creep up I should have some years when I can winter over outside but I expect to have to replant most of the time.

I've never heard of using Rose of Sharon for a tea.  You might do some online research and see if anyone has addressed that.  While it might not be poisonous or toxic there is no guarantee it would taste anything like hibiscus.

Sharon

Thanks, We used to be borderline zone 4-5, but I think we're solidly zone 5 now.  Way too cold for hibiscus sabdariffa.  I'll have to look into using it as an annual.

Doug

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1982
large, bushy basil

Growing large, bushy basil,  woodman,  has several factors. First, what variety are you using? Genovese basil gets the biggest.

Basil needs  a lot of sun, especially in a northern climate (which I believe yours is). 6 to 8 hours of sun; in fact. However, where I live in the south (and the American southwest) basil requires afternoon shade. So soince the hottest part of the day is my afternoon, I plant my basil on the east side of the house. The seed packet usually suggests you plant it 12 to 18 inches apart, but in my raised beds I plant it 8 to 10 inches apart. I thin the bed a bit as I harvest.

Soil: Basil needs rich soil, and needs watered during dry spells. It likes a neutral pH: our soil is acidic, so we add a little wood ash. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost,or manure (we use horse droppings) to the soil. You c an pinch back the stem tips to keep it from going to seed a little longer.

Hope some of this helps!

Basil needs 6 to 8 hours of sun; in the South and Southwest, it benefits from afternoon shade.Set out transplants at least 2 weeks after the last frost in spring; summer planting is okay, too. Space at the distance recommended on the label, which is generally 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants are very frost sensitive, so keep transplants protected in case of a late cold spell.Basil likes rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Because basil is harvested continually for lots of leaves, it needs a little fertilizer. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil. Feed with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Food every couple of weeks to help keep the new leaves that are tender and succulent coming on as you pinch back the stem tips. Be sure to keep the soil moist. Dry soil stunts its growth.

In containers, use a large pot to keep the plants from drying out quickly in hot weather. Also use a water-retaining polymer in the potting soil to keep the soil evenly moist and extend the time between waterings.

- See more at: http://bonnieplants.com/growing/growing-basil/#sthash.0NkqWHzO.dpuf

Basil needs 6 to 8 hours of sun; in the South and Southwest, it benefits from afternoon shade.Set out transplants at least 2 weeks after the last frost in spring; summer planting is okay, too. Space at the distance recommended on the label, which is generally 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants are very frost sensitive, so keep transplants protected in case of a late cold spell.Basil likes rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Because basil is harvested continually for lots of leaves, it needs a little fertilizer. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil. Feed with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Food every couple of weeks to help keep the new leaves that are tender and succulent coming on as you pinch back the stem tips. Be sure to keep the soil moist. Dry soil stunts its growth.

In containers, use a large pot to keep the plants from drying out quickly in hot weather. Also use a water-retaining polymer in the potting soil to keep the soil evenly moist and extend the time between waterings.

- See more at: http://bonnieplants.com/growing/growing-basil/#sthash.0NkqWHzO.dpuf

Basil needs 6 to 8 hours of sun; in the South and Southwest, it benefits from afternoon shade.Set out transplants at least 2 weeks after the last frost in spring; summer planting is okay, too. Space at the distance recommended on the label, which is generally 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants are very frost sensitive, so keep transplants protected in case of a late cold spell.Basil likes rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Because basil is harvested continually for lots of leaves, it needs a little fertilizer. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil. Feed with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Food every couple of weeks to help keep the new leaves that are tender and succulent coming on as you pinch back the stem tips. Be sure to keep the soil moist. Dry soil stunts its growth. - See more at: http://bonnieplants.com/growing/growing-basil/#sthash.0NkqWHzO.dpuf
ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 18 2008
Posts: 56
bushy basil

Woodman, Wendy is very right on the growing conditions but you also need to pinch the tops regularly and it will bush out more.  If you love basil this isn't a difficult problem.  During the summer some fresh fried green tomatoes with a bit of basil on top with a tad of sour cream or some other cheese of choice can be a meal.  Especially if you top with some sustainably caught tuna, crab or shrimp.

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