Growing herbs is a very simple thing to do, whether you start from seed or just have a couple of pots from the garden centre around the house. There's nothing better than cooking with a constant supply of fresh herbs in the house, but there is plenty more you can create with an assortment of herbs from your Aerospring garden. Below are some of my favourite types from my own herb garden, all of which grow well in Singapore and beyond:
Basil is a beloved Italian herb used in many dishes and Pesto instantly comes to mind when we harvest a monster haul from our garden. There are so many varieties of Basil and I currently grow "Basil Bolloso Napoletano" which grows crinkled but very large fragrant leaves, sometimes as large as my hand! It serves as a perfect garnish or topping to pizzas, pastas, salads, but it also infuses extremely well in cocktails and drinks. My favourite is an easy to prepare Honey-Basil Lemonade made with a cup of lemon juice, a litre of water, 1/2 cup of honey and a handful of Basil leaves. Blitz in a blender for a minute, strain into a pitcher or glass bottle and serve with lots of ice and Basil leaves on a hot day!
Mint grows very well and if you aren't careful, can take over your garden. The refreshing aroma of Mint always revives up my day and I like to use it in savoury dishes, steep in hot water for tea and infuse in cocktails. You can throw it into salads, desserts and make sauces and condiments with it. A sprig of mint is always in a glass of my water! On hot days, I like to prepare a simple cucumber salad with mint and feta. Thinly slice some red onion, radish, mint leaves and cucumbers. Sprinkle with 2 tsp white wine vinegar, toss to coat then add salt and pepper to taste. Add and coat salad with 1 1/2 tbsp. Olive oil and then sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese to taste. And of course, no mojito is the same without lots and lots of mint!
Lemon Balm is a soothing herb, related to the Mint family, which has been used medicinally for centuries to treat frayed nerves and respiratory illnesses. I can never resist touching the leaves of the plant so that it releases its lovely lemony scent. It also attracts bees to my garden, so has become a staple to my herb collection. You can add it to cocktails, fruit salads and even create a tincture for use in alcoholic beverages. The easiest and most effective way to use it is to steep it in hot water for about an hour, add some honey and drink it to combat a head cold. I also sometimes crush the leaves and rub these against my skin as a natural insect repellant.
The intense aroma of Rosemary adds a distinctive earthy and fresh flavour to any dish or drink. You can pretty much throw it into any roasted meat or baked vegetable dish and it's delicious when added to desserts like apple crumble or lemon shortbread biscuits. You can infuse any leftover rosemary sprigs into olive oil for flavour as well as make the bottle a pretty showpiece for a dinner party by adding the herb with chilies and garlic. I like to chop it up and blend it with some crushed garlic in butter or add it to any marinade or coating.
Sage is one of the prettiest herbs in my garden. Also a member of the mint family but closely related to Rosemary, its scientific name literally means "to save". The distinctive and unique patterns on the leaves are attractive and the sweet herby scent seems to jog happy memories at times, don't ask me why! Sage pairs well with chicken, turkey and pork but I really like it freshly chopped in a cheesy omelette or steeped in a tea. It has significant medicinal properties and may aid any ladies experiencing hot flashes.
In ancient Grecian times, Thyme was known as a symbol of courage and admiration with the phrase "the smell of thyme" being a saying that reflected praise unto its subject. They even used to bathe in it! Thyme is a must for a lot of French and Italian dishes both for meats and vegetables. I love adding fresh thyme to potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and egg dishes. Thyme tea is known to promote good digestion, and reduce gas and bloating. This herb contains volatile oils which can cure intestinal cramping and has amazing anti-bacterial properties. There are some amazing medicinal benefits to be found in all herbs, having been used as remedies for centuries before the advent of modern medicine.
As with all natural herbal remedies though, check that the herbs are ok to use for your current health condition – some may be unsuitable for pregnant ladies and those trying to get pregnant.