Spice Up Your Health: How to grow and use your own herbs and spices!
They flavour your favourite dishes, turn good food great and generally give meals that extra kick or ‘wow’ factor. But did you know herbs and spices are actually super healthy as well? That’s right, adding a sprinkling into your cooking not only boosts flavour but can also help your body fight off diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Certain herbs and spices are also rich in antioxidants and help your digestive system work more effectively. Did you also know, that when it comes to herbs and spices, fresher is always better for both nutritional and flavour benefits? It’s convenient then, that you can actually grow many common herbs and spices with very little effort! Check out our guide to five tasty and versatile ingredients and how to grow them yourself at home:
Basil Basil is a ubiquitous and aromatic herb that can add flavour to an incredible variety of dishes, including: Soups, juices, sauces and risottos. It’s health benefits include helping the body to fight stress and even cancer! To grow your own Basil: Buy some seeds and plant in a standard garden container. You should plant basil in early spring, or around 6 weeks before the last frost. Ensure your seeds are planted in rich and moist soil, then ensure that it doesn’t dry out by keeping it lightly watered. Place the pot in an area that maximises exposure to sunlight as Basil needs 4-6 hours of sun per day to grow well. After around 10-14 days, leaves will begin to show and they will nearly be ready to harvest as needed.
Ginger Used often to flavour both drinks and meals, ginger is a truly versatile spice. Raw ginger can be added to stir-frys, used to season chicken, or even made into tea! Ginger is also well-known for helping to boost the body’s digestive-system. To grow your own ginger: Start with a living ginger root, which you can acquire from nurseries or garden centres or cuttings from existing plants. Choose one that is firm and plump for best results. Soak your root overnight then plant in a pot with soil. Place the pot in a warm environment away from too much direct bright light. Continue to keep the soil moist and don’t let it dry out. After around two months, it should be ready to harvest. Move the soil around to find the stems and trim off per the desired amount. You can then peel and ground your ginger if you wish.
Garlic Garlic is a staple flavour in many dishes with its powerful taste, and is great for adding into almost any sauce recipe! Not to mention, garlic is also said to help ward off vampires!! To grow your own garlic: Garlic is best grown outside and planted in February, March or 6 weeks before the last frost. Acquire cloves from seed companies or nurseries/garden centres as grocery-store bought cloves are not always suitable. To prepare for planting, ready a furrow then loosen the soil with a fork. Plant your garlic cloves pointed-end up, pressing them 2-3 inches into the soil, and space out along the furrow. Water your bulbs every 3-5 days. Harvest the garlic in late spring/summer when the plants have four or five green leaves.
Mint With it’s strong, unique taste and powerful scent, mint is a versatile and essential addition to many dishes whether starters, mains or desserts. Mint is also packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To grow your own mint: It is difficult to grow mint from seed, so it is best to take a cutting from an existing plant or purchase a mint seedling or small plant from a garden centre. Mint should be planted in a container that allows sufficient drainage, and should be kept separate from other plants. Once planted, you can keep the pot indoors and close to the kitchen for convenient access to fresh mint! As the mint grows, be sure to trim the flower buds before they open so the plant doesn’t grow too big. Mint needs to be kept watered regularly, don’t let that soil go dry! Leaves should appear from late spring to early autumn, and then you can pick and use as needed in your kitchen. Be sure to maintain and care for the plant and you’ll be able to enjoy fresh mint again the next year!