Thursday, 31 March 2016

6 Herbs To Kickstart Your Kitchen

When cooking is one of your passionate hobbies, the irksome chore of running to the shop to get your fresh herbs may dampen your cooking spirits on some days. Imagine having some fresh herbs right at home – you reach out to the little patch of plants in your kitchen garden and pluck the ones you need. Now, wouldn’t that be charming!

Who doesn’t like fresh home-grown vegetables and herbs, in this era of chemicals, pesticides and toxins mixed in the veggies we eat? You could grow a few herbs at home for an everyday healthy menu. All you need is a few square feet of space in your kitchen balcony and, of course, a bit of love and care.

Here are some kitchen garden ideas and practical tips on how you can grow a herb garden right in your kitchen!

CORIANDER

Coriander or cilantro, popularly known as dhania, is commonly used in many Indian dishes. This herb is very easy to grow if you are kitchen gardening, and the plants flower within a very short time.

How to Grow It

1) To grow coriander, choose a tray rather than a pot for better growth with enough space. Fill up the tray with 80% rich soil.

2) Coriander can be grown by planting 10-12 split seeds. Sow these seeds about half an inch deep into the soil, leaving a 3-inch gap between the two seeds.

3) Spray water regularly over the seeds and see them sprout in about 15 days. Continue watering the sprouts for the seedlings to grow and leaves to be harvest-worthy.

4) Ensure that the tray has enough holes for excess water to drain out easily.

5) Keep the tray in direct, bright sunlight for better growth.

6) You could use a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser on a tray of coriander seedlings, so as to improve the foliage.

7) Coriander plants grow well in a climate that is neither too hot nor too cold. Excessive heat commonly causes the plant to flower and fruit prematurely, before the leaves are ready for harvesting.

8) It is crucial to harvest the cilantro stalks at the right time as leaving them too long without harvesting will turn the leaves tasteless. A coriander plant should be at least 6 inches tall for harvesting.

9) Collect the seeds that grow on the maturation of the cilantro plant. These can be broken into two, and used for the next cycle of potting.

10) Cilantro plants should be harvested little by little, rather than doing at a time. Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the foliage on a plant at any one point of time as doing so will make the plant weak.

CURRY LEAVES

Curry leaves are not just used for different dishes in India but also used for a number of medicinal benefits. These leaves are commonly used in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines. Curry leaf is a low-maintenance plant that is very easy to grow in one’s kitchen herb garden.

How to Grow It

There are two ways to grow curry plants. The slower method is to get some fresh curry leaf seeds and remove the hard, outer shell for the seeds to germinate and sprout quickly. The seedlings that emerge from these seeds will take a couple of years to establish fully and become harvest-worthy.

The second (and faster) method is to get a plant to transplant it to a container in your kitchen garden. Curry leaf plants grow well in containers or deep trays that have adequate holes pierced for excess water to drain out. Ensure that the container you use is filled with rich soil and change the container as the plant grows. Take care to make sure that no roots are broken during the process of re-potting.

1) Curry leaf plants need direct, bright sunlight to grow well. This plant sheds the leaves during winter and watering these plants should be cut down during this season to avoid the roots from rotting.

2) Ensure that the curry leaf plant gets a few doses of iron-based fertilisers before every harvest.

3) The berries that appear on the curry leaf plants should be cut off. This will give rise to more leaf growth.

4) It is essential to prune your curry leaf plants regularly, so as to encourage good growth.

5) A curry leaf plant is ready to harvest when it is sturdy and about 6 inches tall. At this stage, simply pluck off the leaves, a little at a time, so as to ensure that the plant does not get too weak. The more you harvest a curry leaf plant, the bushier it will grow.

HOLY BASIL

Holy Basil, aka tulsi, has a number of medicinal properties, apart from being a sacred plant in India. It is very easy to grow in a herb garden at home, considering that it is a very low-maintenance plant.

How to Grow It

You can use either containers or pots filled with a mixture of rich soil and organic compost or cow dung.

1) Tulsi plants grow from seeds, which can be sown about half an inch below the top layer of the soil. Ensure that there is a gap of at least 2 inches between two seeds.

2) Place the container/pot in a spot that receives bright, direct sunlight for at least 6 to 7 hours a day. It is essential to protect the plant from harsh draughts of cold air.

3) During summer, water the plant every day, and during winter, you can water the plant 2 to 3 times a week.

4) At a temperature of about 20 degrees C, tulsi seeds take about two weeks to germinate. At this stage, pull out the weaker seedlings and retain the stronger ones. You can transfer a few seedlings to another pot/container to give the remaining ones ample space to grow.

5) Use a general-purpose fertiliser about once a month for the plant.

6) A tulsi plant is ready for harvest when the plant looks lush. Pluck all the big leaves from the plant for your use. Periodic harvesting is necessary to promote good growth of this plant. After plucking the leaves, cut down the entire plant to about 6-8 inches above the ground as this will help the plant grow better.

ITALIAN BASIL

Italian basil leaves are used in a number of Italian and other continental dishes. This is, again, an easy plant to grow in a kitchen herb garden.

How to Grow It

1) Use a tray or wide container to grow basil and make sure that the trays have facilities for good draining.

2) You can grow basil from seeds that can be sown in a tray/container filled with 80% rich soil.

3) Keep the tray/container in a place that receives direct sunlight. In the winter season you may keep it in a warm place.

4) Using an organic general-purpose fertiliser about once a month is good for a basil plant.

5) Water the basil regularly in a hot climate, ensuring that the soil stays moist and doesn’t dry out. In cold weather water the plant every alternate day.

6) Basil seeds germinate in about a week to 10 days from the time of sowing.

7) This plant is prone to pest attacks, hence regular inspection is required.

8) Regular pruning of the plants is essential to promote good growth of foliage.

9) Your basil plants are ready to harvest when they are about six inches tall. At this stage, cut off all the large leaves using scissors. Post the harvest of the leaves, cut the plant down to about 3 inches above the ground, this will ensure good regrowth.

10) If you spot flowers growing on your basil plant, cut them off, so that they do not consume the nutrients that should, ideally, go to the leaves.

SPINACH

Spinach, popularly known as palak, is rich in iron, antioxidants, and vitamins. It is easy to grow spinach while kitchen gardening at home, as the plant gets ready for harvest in a span of six to eight weeks.

How to Grow It

Spinach plants need a wide surface to spread out and grow, hence, a tray would be better for them rather than a pot. Choose a tray with a sufficient number of holes for drainage, and fill about 80% of it with rich soil. Get good quality spinach seeds and sow them about half an inch into the top layer of the soil.

1) Water the seeds regularly, ensuring that you do not pour excess water. Make sure that the soil is moist at all times and does not overly dry out.

2) Usually, spinach seeds germinate in about a week, retain the seedlings by removing the ones that are weak. Ensure that there are 3 to 4 inches of space between the seedlings. If need be, transfer some seedlings to another tray.

3) Spinach plants must be kept in a place that receives bright, direct sunlight.

4) Occasionally, treat the plant with a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser to protect it from bugs and other insects.

5) Harvest your spinach plants after six to eight weeks of sowing. Cut off the large leaves on the plants, using a pair of scissors. The more you harvest the spinach, the denser the foliage will become.

CHILLIES

Chillies are an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes, and it can be grown in containers at your kitchen’s very own herb garden.

How to Grow It

Chilli plants grow better in plastic pots or containers. These plants need warm and humid conditions to grow well.

1) Ensure that the pot or container you choose has a sufficient number of holes for good drainage.

2) Chilli seeds need a temperature of at least 20 degrees C to germinate. Hence, early summer would be a great time to plant chillies at your home.

3) Soil mixed with organic matter like dried leaves and cow manure is best for growing chillies.

4) Get good quality chilli seeds and sprinkle them over the top of the soil in the container or pot. Cover them with a thin layer of soil, which is moderately moist at all times.

5) Ensure that the container or pot in which you have sown chilli seeds gets adequate direct sunlight.

6) When the seeds sprout leaves, pull out the weaker ones and retain only the good and strong ones. It is also a good idea to keep only one seedling in the container, at the early stage.

7) Spray a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser occasionally on the chilli plant to improve the foliage and prune the chilli plant regularly for better growth.

8) Keep the chilli plant at a warm place during winters.

9) The chillies are ready to harvest when they have a shiny finish on them.

Now that you know that kitchen gardening is really quite simple, are you ready to start your own little kitchen’s herb garden? Besides, your own plants providing you with ingredients is sure to make you feel content at home!

Source: Housing.com