If you think your allotment dreams are over because you don’t have any outdoor space, think again. Whilst many of us aren’t blessed with gardens or balconies, you can still utilise your windowsills and sunny spots throughout your home to get great results.
Herbs are easy plants to grow and they taste delicious. Starting a herb garden is a great way for beginner gardeners to get into growing their produce. These are our picks of the best herbs to get you going and tips and advice to keep them happy:
Basil is central to Italian cooking and rightly so – with a sweet, slightly aniseed flavour, basil livens up pasta dishes and salads, forms the base of delicious pesto, and is great combined with eggs and ripe cherry tomatoes for a mega-tasty omelette. Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window—it likes lots of sun and warmth.
Use in: Pesto, pasta, bruschetta and pizza.
With a citrusy, light and sweet flavour, coriander is a great herb for garnishing finished dishes. It’s widely used in Latin American and Mexican cooking, from chopping it up into guacamole or fresh salsa and chilli. Coriander enjoys a sunny position but appreciates a little shade during the hottest part of the day.
Use in: curries, soups, marinades, sauces and fresh salads.
With its bitter, fresh flavour, parsley is perhaps the ultimate garnish for rich dishes. Having it to hand in the kitchen will mean you’re never without the perfect finish to most recipes.
Parsley can be slow to germinate, so speed things up by soaking the seeds in water overnight before planting. Choose a spot with rich, slightly damp soil in full sun—but will grow slowly in an east- or west-facing window
Use in: Roasted lamb, beef dishes, grilled fish, chicken and topping vegetable dishes.
Sage is another hardy herb and will survive most weather conditions. It’s incredibly aromatic and goes beautifully with deep flavours, but in a very different way to the sharp taste of parsley – its powerful flavour amplifies everything around it, instead of cutting through.
Sage tolerates dry, indoor air well—but it needs the strong sun that it will get from a south-facing window. The only thing it doesn’t like is wet soil, so ensure it has good drainage.
Use in: Creamy pasta, bangers and mash, pork chops, onion soup and of course stuffing.
Mint is a surprisingly hardy herb that survives all year round if treated well. There are lots of different kinds, but the most common varieties are peppermint and spearmint. Snip leaves and sprigs for tea and mixed drinks, salads and desserts.
Mint plants usually grow quickly, and their trailing, fragrant stems make them attractive houseplants. Keep it in full sun or partial shade, the soil moist and pinch out any flower buds to encourage more leaf growth.
Use in: Fruit salad, mojitos, mushy peas, mint sauce and savoury salads.
A must for Italian, Mexican, Central American and Middle Eastern cuisines, oregano is member of the mint family. Strip the leaves from snipped stems and add to tomato sauces, meat, casseroles, soups and stews. The dried leaves are more pungent than fresh.
Grow oregano as you would other mints. Water when the surface of the soil is dry, but don't let it dry out. Give the plants moderate to strong light.
Use in: Spaghetti and meatballs, roast lamb and pasta sauces.
As a member of the onion family, chives have a similar, yet more delicate flavour. Great for sprucing up salads, chives can add a hit of freshness to savoury dishes. They are common in French cooking and taste best when paired with potatoes, eggs and cheese.
Chives grow best in a sunny spot with rich moist soil, so keep the plants well-watered.
Use in: Tossed salads, scrambled eggs, potato salad and creamy sauces.
So, you’ve chosen what herbs to start with, now all you need is these few extra tips and you’re good to go:
Choose the right container: You can plant herbs in virtually any container, so long as it has some type of drainage. You can get creative here and use non-traditional planters such as mason jars, hanging macramé and old tea tins. Pinterest is a great place for ideas
Give them sun: Warm southern facing windowsill or a warm spot with ideally 8 hours of sunlight
Soil choice matters: Potting mix is ideal as it will be composed of organic matter with good drainage
Give them breathing room: They can share containers, but ideally planting them in individual pots will give their roots room to grow
Water, but don’t overwater: the rule of thumb is to let the herbs dry before watering
Harvest a little at a time: Harvest a few sprigs with kitchen shears or by pinching leaves off with your fingers.
Hopefully we've given you enough tips now to get you going and to keep you busy whilst being at home, share with us on social how you get on. And if you would like to find out what to do with your food once you've finished, read our food waste read blog here.