If you're watching the salt and fat in your diet, fresh herbs are your best friends. They contribute a burst of flavor to your recipes without adding sodium or calories. Planting herbs in your garden or potting some on your patio is the best way to enjoy them through the spring and summer. Opting to harvest herbs from your garden instead of buying the dried varieties from the grocery store can help you save money, which means you can save up to enjoy other favorite retirement activities. Another perk? You'll be getting plants at the peak of their flavor and freshness.
Dozens of varieties of herbs are used in cooking. To start your herb garden, pick a few of your favorites. Here are some herbs commonly used in the kitchen:
- Basil: Basil is an incredibly versatile and flavorful herb. It's the primary ingredient in pesto, and it tastes great in pasta dishes, on pizza, in salads, and with eggs. Plant basil after the last frost of the season for abundant growth all summer long.
- Thyme: Thyme grows in small oval leaves on a woody stem. You can add whole sprigs to soups or strip and chop the leaves to flavor pork or chicken. You can also add thyme to mashed or baked potatoes or fresh salads.
- Mint: Mint is an herb that grows in abundance and can take over your garden. If you don't want a whole bed of mint, it's best to confine it to a container. Mint is excellent for use in tea, jellies, and fruit salads, and it pairs nicely with lamb. You can dry it with other fragrant petals from your garden to create potpourri.
- Dill: Dill is an easy-to-grow plant that can get up to three feet tall. Because dill stems can be weak, you may have to prop them up with a stake. You can harvest sprigs of dill and add them to a jar with vinegar, water, and fresh-picked cucumbers to create pickles. Or mix chopped dill into light sour cream for a tasty vegetable dip.
- Chives: Chives, also called scallions, are long, grass-like herbs with an onion flavor. Chives are commonly used as a garnish on tacos, potatoes, eggs, dips, and creamy soups. They don't keep their flavor well when dried, so it's beneficial to have a patch of chives in your garden for fresh picking.
- Sage: Sage grows as pretty shrubs with soft leaves. It pairs nicely with fatty meats like duck, pork roast, and lamb because of it's rich flavor and pro-digestive qualities. You can also use it in stuffing. Sage likes a sunny garden with well-drained soil.
All of these plants can be grown from seed, or you can visit your local plant nursery to pick up herbs that have already sprouted. And since herb plants tend to be small, garden size is not an issue older adults with expansive home gardens and those with smaller gardens in retirement communities can both experience the joys of growing their own herbs. Just replant them into your garden, or pot them into medium to large container to keep on your patio.
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photo credit: daia_