Delicious recipes from your home-grown herbs
Grow your own herbs for a fresh supply of tasty ingredients that will enliven your barbecue dishes.
Do you often buy pricey herbs from the supermarket just for one recipe? As long as you have a sunny spot and a plot or pot, you can always have these aromatic and flavoursome additions at hand. Here’s how to grow your own herbs, along with some delicious recipes in which to use them.
When choosing what to plant, the aim is not to try everything. “The best herbs to grow are the ones you’re actually going to use,” says Steve Falcioni, horticulturist and marketing manager at Eco-Organic Garden. “Think about what flavours you enjoy, or look at the herbs you often buy to give you a good idea of what to grow.”
A smart place to start is with a few ‘basic’ varieties, which can complement many different dishes; think basil, parsley, mint, chives, spring onion and rosemary.
Pot or plot
Finding the ideal growing spot depends on the space you have, but herbs will happily grow both in-ground or in pots. Certain species, however, can grow quite large or spread, so it’s best they have their own pot. “Mint is best grown in large pots because it is so vigorous – it will take over a garden bed, leaving no room for anything else to grow,” says horticulturist Toni Salter of The Veggie Lady.
Whether you’re growing in a garden plot or pot, ensure you start with a good base. “Prepare your garden beds with plenty of good organic matter like compost, worm castings and general herb and vegetable fertilisers. If growing in pots, then choose a good quality potting mix suitable for growing herbs and vegetables,” says Toni. Place often-used herbs in pots close to the back door or on a sunny kitchen windowsill.
“Most herbs need plenty of sunlight to grow well, so position them in a spot that gets at least half a day of direct light,” says Steve Falcioni. After planting, water them in with a diluted seaweed solution. “Once established, many herbs, like rosemary, thyme and sage, thrive on neglect, but herbs with softer rich green leaves, like basil, coriander and mint, need regular watering and fertilising to do well,” he says.Apply a fertiliser suitable for leafy greens and herbs at least fortnightly to promote growth.
“Some herbs can be attacked by aphids, whitefly, scale and powdery mildew. If that happens, spray with eco-oil or eco-fungicide to control the problems organically,” suggests Steve. After spraying, delay harvesting for a few days, and make sure you rinse fresh herbs well before cooking and eating them.
Love a certain style of cuisine? Though not exhaustive, this selection of herbs and spices is a great starting point to suit the flavours you favour.
Vietnamese: coriander, perilla, Vietnamese mint and lemongrass.
Thai: holy basil, green peppercorn, coriander, chilli and shallots.
Chinese: ginger, chilli, garlic, chives, cinnamon and cumin.
Italian: parsley, oregano, basil, sage and thyme.
French: bay leaf, chervil, fennel, chives and French tarragon.
Spanish: rosemary, oregano, garlic, chilli and bay leaf.
Mediterranean: dill, sage, mint, tarragon, fennel and cinnamon.
For something a little different, try these four flavour sensations:
Lovage: Add to dishes for a celery-like flavour. “It’s easier to grow than celery and only a little bit is needed,” says Toni Salter.
Lemon verbena: Grow the tang of a lemon, without the tree! “Use to add a subtle lemon flavour to dishes and to make a refreshing herbal tea,” says Steve Falcioni.
Horseradish: This is most commonly used as a substitute for wasabi. Add a small amount to vegies to give them a real flavour kick.
Vietnamese mint: It’s mint, but not as you know it. This variety is spicy and peppery and commonly used to flavour salads, laksas, pho or summer rolls.
Salmon in dill, Dijon and lemon marinade
4 x 200g fillets salmon, skin-on
800g baby potatoes, halved
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Mixed salad leaves and lemon wedges, to serve
Dill, Dijon and lemon marinade
⅓ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill, plus extra tips for garnish
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Salt and cracked pepper, to season
1. To make marinade, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade for potatoes.
2. Place salmon in a small flat dish. Add remaining marinade and rub over salmon flesh. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
3. Meanwhile, boil potatoes until tender but not falling apart. Drain. Allow to cool.
4. Preheat a barbecue plate to medium. Cook salmon, skin-side down, with lid down for 4 minutes or so until skin is crisp. Use a flat metal spatula to turn salmon over carefully. Cook the other side for about 3-5 minutes, with lid down, or until cooked to your liking.
5. Add lemon juice to reserved marinade and stir to combine. Add boiled potatoes and onion and stir until coated evenly. Spoon onto one end of serving platter. Sprinkle with dill sprigs to garnish.
6. Add some extra oil to loosen any remaining marinade left in bowl from potatoes. Spread over top of salmon and serve with potatoes, salad leaves and lemon wedges.
Tip: Try this marinade on white fish fillets, whole fish, chicken breast or vegetables – adjust cooking times to suit.
Haloumi and vegetables with fresh herb marinade
300g haloumi, cut into thick slices
2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed
300g button mushrooms, stems trimmed
250g truss cherry tomatoes
Fresh herb marinade
2 tbsp chopped basil leaves, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tbsp chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus extra to serve
2 tsp chopped lemon thyme leaves, plus extra to serve
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
⅓ cup olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp white condiment with balsamic (see Note)
Salt and cracked pepper, to season
1. To make fresh herb marinade, combine ingredients in a big bowl.
2. Coat the haloumi in marinade. Lift out of marinade and place on a plate. Toss asparagus in marinade and set aside. Add mushrooms to marinade and toss until coated.
3. Heat a barbecue plate to medium. Add tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes, add mushrooms and asparagus for 5 minutes, lid down.
4. Turn vegetables and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, removing asparagus once tender. Cook remaining vegetables until lightly charred. Transfer to a plate.
5. Add haloumi to barbecue plate and cook for about 2 minutes each side or until charred. Arrange haloumi over the base of a serving plate. Arrange vegetables on top. Sprinkle with extra parsley and thyme, then drizzle with extra oil. Garnish with extra basil. Serve.
Tip: You can use this marinade on chicken, beef kebabs or fish fillets.
Note: White condiment with balsamic is sold in most supermarkets. It is possible to use dark balsamic but it will discolour the vegetables.
Inspired to start your own herb garden?
Design your own edible garden that looks as good as it tastes with our easy how-to video.
Photo Credit: Cath Muscat