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5 Herbs You Should Grow In Your Garden

by Rachel Yeoh. |


I was sitting and chatting at a posh coffee joint with my friends when the topic of discussion took a domestic turn. Everyone was suddenly prattling enthusiastically about plants; from succulents, terrariums, house plants like the monstera and spider ferns, to edibles.

Oh gosh, is that what being an adult is like? An adult in the 21st century? No kids, just work, and a lot of bills to pay.

Maybe.

Being a cheapskate, I didn’t just want to grow and nurture pretty plants. I wanted to eat what I grew. I decided to plant herbs and propagate them whenever possible. Here, I share the rewards I reaped - recipes included.


SWEET BASIL

I was done buying packs of sweet basil from the supermarket. At a whopping RM6.90 a bag that was about the size of both my palms, it was expensive. One day, I took the time to pick the freshest out of the bunch for propagation. The roots developed, and I moved my precious baby cutting to its new home - my lightweight (and cheap) plastic pot.

It THRIVED!

That was how I started being a crazy plant lady.

You see, I love me a good pesto pasta. When my sweet basil flourished, I propagated more and more, until one pruning harvest fetched me about two cups of sweet basil leaves.

How to propagate?

  1. You need a 4-inch basil cutting just below one of the leaves (because that area has hormones that will encourage the growth of roots).

  2. Stick it into a cup or shallow bottle with about 1-2 inches of water. The roots will start growing after a few days. Change the water every 4-5 days.

  3. Once the root has grown up to 2-3 inches, you can pot it with potting soil.

Here's what you can do with your harvest:


Easy Pesto Recipe

You’ll need:

1 cup of fresh basil leaves

3 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of pine nuts (you can use walnuts too)

⅓ cup of Parmesan

⅓ cup of olive oil

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

  1. On a pan, lightly toast the pine nuts and skinned garlic.

  2. Drop all the ingredients (including the toasted pine nuts and skinned garlic) into a food processor or a blender.

  3. Blend it until you get a coarse mixture.

  4. Toss it with your preferred pasta or keep in an airtight container, in the refrigerator and consume within one week.



HOLY BASIL (also known as Thai Basil)

Okay, I might just be a little obsessed with basil but trust me, Holy Basil is different from Sweet Basil. I use Holy Basil to satisfy my Thai food cravings, specifically Pad Kra Pow. I think Holy Basil is used in Vietnamese cuisine as well. If you love Southeast Asian cuisine, go ahead and get some Holy Basil planted at home.


Source: Seedsheet from YouTube

Propagating and growing Holy Basil is similar to Sweet Basil but they look different. Sweet Basil produces rounder leaves while Holy Basil produces leaves that look sharper with jagged edges.

How to propagate?

  1. See above.

Here's what you can do with your harvest:


Pad Kra Pow Recipe

You’ll need:

250g minced chicken

5 cloves of garlic (smashed or minced coarsely)

4 sliced red chillies (add more if you like that spice in your life)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

½ teaspoon light soy sauce (or you can use Thai Fish Sauce)

½ teaspoon dark sweet soy sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

1 cup Holy Basil leaves

  1. In a heated wok, add oil. Once hot, stir fry chillies and garlic.

  2. Toss in the minced chicken once the chillies and garlic are fragrant.

  3. Once cooked, add in the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark sweet soy sauce, and sugar.

  4. Toss in the Holy Basil and stir fry it until it begins to wilt. Cut the gas and serve with rice (plus fried egg if you wish).


LEMONGRASS

To put it broadly, lemongrass is a type of grass. Hence, it is quite easy to grow. Though it sells for cheap in markets (about RM1 for three stalks), you might want to have a few stalks growing out of your pot or a garden bed because it is said to be a natural mosquito repellent. Citronella is an essential oil found in lemongrass. So ladies, who needs to buy essential oils when you can just plant lemongrass amirite?

Image: Chowhound

How to propagate?

  1. Cut off the shoot, leaving 2 inches from the stem.

  2. Place the stem upright in a cup or shallow bottle with about 1-2 inches of water. The roots will start growing after a few days and shoots from the top.

  3. Once the roots reach about 3 inches, transfer the lemongrass into a pot or garden bed.

Here's what you can do with your harvest:


Fresh Lemongrass Drink Recipe

You’ll need:

3 stalks of lemongrass, roughly chopped and pounded

3 cups of water

2 tablespoons of honey

4-5 slices of ginger (optional)

2-3 lime wheels (optional)

  1. Boil water over high heat in a pot/saucepan.

  2. Add lemongrass (and ginger) and allow it to boil for about 5 minutes.

  3. Simmer it for another five minutes and pick out the stalks (and ginger).

  4. Stir in honey and drop in the lime wheels. Serve hot or chilled.


ROSEMARY

Rosemary is a shrub that grows wild in temperate countries. Though you can get dried rosemary in a bottle for about RM15, I very much like a rosemary plant in my house - just because it looks pretty and smells nice. Although it may be too hot to survive under the scorching hot sun, it makes for a very useful kitchen (or room) plant. It does not need too much water, so gently spraying it with water every day will do.

You can use rosemary with anything you want to roast. Plus, if you want a clean kitchen that is still functional, just marinate your meat and pop it inside the oven with a rosemary sprig or two while you are at it.


Propagating rosemary is not as easy as the plants above (I failed). To save your time, I would advise you to just purchase the seedling or the plant itself.

But if you really want to know...

How to propagate?

  1. The rosemary cutting should be 2-3 inches, taken from soft or new wood from the original plant.

  2. Remove leaves from the bottom (about two-thirds of the cutting) and put in in a well-drained potting medium.

  3. Place a clear bag over it and place it under indirect sunlight.

  4. You should see new growth in a week or two, then you can remove the plastic and transfer it into a pot.

Here's what you can do with your harvest:


Rosemary Potato Roast

You’ll need:

500 grams of potato (pick or mix any kind you like, just ensure that it is washed thoroughly)

Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

3 cloves minced garlic

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

  1. Preheat the oven to 200℃.

  2. Cut potatoes into cubes or wedges (with the skin) and toss it with all the ingredients above.

  3. Once the potatoes are all coated, dump it on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour.

  4. Serve hot. You can sprinkle it with mozzarella cheese or drizzle it with lemon for a bit of extra oomph.


PANDAN

Pandan is from the screwpine family, though it looks quite like grass. It smells really nice and repels cockroaches!

‘Nuff said.

Image: Amazon

The benefits don’t stop there. If you are adventurous in the kitchen, you can make loads of stuff with it. Think onde-onde (I tried and failed though), pandan chicken, nasi lemak, bubur cha cha, and more. Plus, your parents and grandparents will be so proud!

How to propagate?

  1. Find someone with a pandan plant.

  2. Cut off a segment of the pandan plant with part of the root still attached to it.

  3. Plant it in a pot or garden bed (it can grow really wild!)

Here's what you can do with your harvest:


Pandan Steam Cake

You’ll need:

3 eggs

100g sugar

80g softened butter

130ml pandan juice (using a blender or a food processor, blend the pandan leaves with water at a level where it just covers the leaves)

1 ½ cup wheat flour, sifted

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar by stages until it becomes yellow and frothy.

  2. Add in softened butter and pandan juice. Continue to beat on low until it is mixed well.

  3. Add wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the mixture.

  4. Pour the mixture into your cupcake mould and steam on high for 15 minutes.

Start with these herbs and you can slowly expand your little garden. Other plants you could introduce later on are the chilli plant, curry tree (for its leaves, you can grow it in a large pot), coriander (if you like them), parsley, lime, and more. If you live in an apartment, buy brackets so you can run your mini-farm on the balcony or windowsill. Most of them are low maintenance. I mean, it is just water every day and fertiliser every week. You don’t have to clean up after them, but you can eat them!

I don’t know about you, but plant babies sound like the perfect living thing to care for.

You can also learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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