One of the greatest things about summer is all the fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood that begin to show up in the grocery store and farmer’s market. That’s why preparing fresh and flavorful meals is easy to do during the summer – so many of these flavors are fresh and readily available, it’s easy to throw them in with whatever you’re making. However, even though there are a number of herbs that can be added to any dish, several of these herbs are especially easy to maintain right at your fingertips in the kitchen.
Below are a few summer herbs to keep in the kitchen that will add flavor to a variety of meals.
- Parsley is one of those great summer herbs that can be used as a garnish on a dish or a main ingredient to season a dish. This herb can be added to pasta dishes as well as added to a fruit salad for a twist. Not only does parsley add depth to a dish, but it also has added health benefits. It has proven to help with bone health, diabetes prevention, and cancer. Keeping parsley in the kitchen is easy to do – just keep the soil lightly moist, and empty the saucer under the pot after every watering so that the roots don’t sit in water. To give it an extra boost, add half-strength liquid fertilizer every other week.
- Cilantro is much like parsley but it is a little spicier, and because it has a stronger, distinct flavor, it also tends to be a love or hate herb for many. Cilantro is a great herb to make homemade salsa, salad dressing, or a twist to a more traditional dish like pesto. This herb is full of antioxidants that have a number of health benefits including digestive health. To grow indoors, you must have a sunny window and a pot with excellent drainage (clay pots and/or plastic containers tend to be best). Full morning sun and dappled afternoon sunlight is best for cilantro; you’ll also want to keep the soil moist without soaking the roots. Keep in mind that this plant is an annual, so plant at intervals in different pots to have a continuous supply.
- Basil is a wonderful Italian herb that can star as the main ingredient in a tomato and mozzarella salad. Basil is a great herb to keep potted in the kitchen to add flavor. It is also known for its natural health benefits like anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. To grow indoors, the key is a sunny window, nutrient-rich soil and a pot that provides good drainage. Basil plants will require at least 6 hours of sunlight (this article recommends facing the plant south), so if you don’t have a very sunny window, you may need fluorescent lighting. Basil is also unique in that you’ll need to check the pH levels of the soil every 4-6 weeks; optimal levels are usually between 6.0 and 7.5.
- Thyme is a unique flavor that is great as a seasoning for a variety of proteins. Its deep flavor is a great additive to a breakfast, lunch, or dinner dish. This herb also has natural health benefits because it is full of vitamins and minerals. To keep this herb both indoors and out, keep in mind that you’ll need bright light/full sun, light, fast-draining soil and some liquid fertilizer. This plant is quite hardy; it will thrive down to 50 degrees F or up to 80 degrees F, so it’s not nearly as finicky as basil. We recommend sticking with a 6” pot and repotting as needed.
- Up your summer herbs game with dill, a wonderful herb to keep in your kitchen garden. It can be used in dips, salads, or a marinade for fish. Dill has a fresh taste that smells and tastes wonderful. To keep it indoors, this plant is much like the others we’ve mentioned – it requires at least six hours of sunlight or even the use of fluorescent lights. Liquid fertilizer is also a good addition to the 6” pots we recommend using (or if along a windowsill, place seeds 9” apart in a row). Check out this article for advice on specific varieties that might be best for indoor growing.
This season is a great time to plant fresh summer herbs and experiment with the fresh foods that are available. Keeping the herbs in pots located in a sunlit area and watered regularly will ensure that your herbs are readily available, now and into the colder months later this year.