Backyard Herb Garden

A few weeks ago I shared on my Instagram stories that I’d made a foray into the world of gardening. An admittedly small toe dip, I hit up Home Depot for a planter and four herb plants; basil, parsley, thyme, and rosemary. Not being much of a green thumb, and having a long-standing aversion to gardening in general, I wasn’t expecting much from my little experiment.

I wish I had taken before pictures.

The growth over the past month has been nothing short of impressive, and I’m out there with my herb scissors harvesting fresh herbs for almost all of my recipes. The plants are extremely low maintenance, requiring just enough water to keep the soil moist. Each type of herb is harvested a little differently, so be sure to read up on how to harvest the plant properly so you don’t stunt its growth.

As with last week’s Epsom salt post, once again it seems the verdict is inconclusive  regarding whether the antioxidants in herbs (both fresh and dried) are as effective at preventing lifestyle diseases as naturalists commonly claim.  But whether you believe that ­rosemary prevents brain damage or not, there’s no denying that seasoning your food with herbs and spices is significantly healthier than the common alternative, salt.

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I’ve fallen in love with fresh herbs largely because of the flavor, fragrance, and (I’ll admit) rewarding feeling of seeing how well the plants grow. I mentioned how powerful the flavor and aroma of rosemary is in my Apple Walnut Salad post, and the same is true of the other herbs I’ve grown. Nothing beats the smell of basil straight from the garden. Last weekend I harvested a few sprigs, and my entire kitchen carried the aroma for hours. I have never found that dried herbs spice up a dish or release fragrances during cooking in quite the same way, despite the fact that they’re more highly concentrated.

And you can do much more with fresh herbs than you may think. Last week I shared an under-eye parsley mask I had read about. The claim is that the vitamins in parsley reduce inflammation and lighten skin discoloration. You can also use a savory herb like rosemary to put an unlikely but pleasant spin on your morning coffee or tea.

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Rosemary Simple Syrup

½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1-2 sprigs rosemary

Heat water and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
Add the rosemary and cover. Allow to steep until the syrup is cool.

Strain out the rosemary. Keep the simple syrup in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. I find that it stores best in a glass container.

Add to your coffee as you would your usual sweetener.

 

You can substitute any herb you’d like to infuse simple syrup. I haven’t tried it yet but I think a sweet basil or mint would be delicious.

So if you’ve ever considered trying to grow your own herbs, I wholeheartedly suggest giving it a go. If I can keep them alive (and thriving!), anyone can!

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