There is nothing like using herbs picked straight from the garden to inspire the cooking enthusiast, especially when living on a tropical island. Salads, pastas, soups and curries are healthier and more flavourful.
Having fresh herbs right at your fingertips is handy for experimenting in the kitchen, but home cooks may find it overwhelming to grow their own. A garden and landscaping expert and a farm-to-table chef both weighed in on what works for growing an herb garden that will thrive in Cayman’s hot environment.
Great Starter Herbs
Not only is basil one of the most popular herbs to cook with, it is also easy to grow in the tropics, says chef Dean James Max, who spearheaded The Brasserie’s vegetable and herb garden.
“Italian basil does well in this warmer climate,” says chef Dean. “Thai basil also grows really well because its leaves are heartier.”
Italian flat leaf parsley is another easy plant that adds flavour and a healthy infusion to dinner. Other recommended herbs for the starter kitchen garden include oregano, rosemary, thyme, spearmint and peppermint, cilantro, dill, lemon grass and garlic chives.
“To harvest garlic chives, you just need to snip it with scissors and it keeps growing like grass. Anything that you use garlic in, you can add garlic chives instead. They are great in stews, sauces or soups, or making a fresh vinaigrette,” says chef Dean.
For the first year in starting an herb garden, Tom Balon of Vigoro Nursery recommends home cooks think about which herbs they already use as a guide. Then, he suggests speaking to experts at garden centres or a local farmers’ market, like the Farmers and Artisans Market in Camana Bay, to help them get started.
“Instead of starting from seeds, it is really helpful to start with some seedlings, so you are already out of the gate in a couple weeks,” says Balon.
Generally, the best time of the year for gardens is October through April, as the weather is more temperate, says Balon, but some herbs like rosemary and basil can grow year round.
If planting outside, put down a rubber lining in the garden bed to help control weeds and then layer on a good, balanced soil. Consider putting a short fence around the outdoor garden to keep out iguanas and rodents.
The patio or indoors is a great option for those living in a condo or home where outside space is limited. Balon recommends picking up a large clay pot from a local nursery. For cooking enthusiasts preferring to start out slow, several smaller ceramic pots are a good choice.
Author: by Shurna DeCou Courtesy of The Brasserie