Herbs and spices – A garden on your windowsill

Herbs and spices

Of all the herbs and spices that you use on your favourite dishes, many can grow quite happily on a sunny windowsill. They can stay there until the weather warms up outside, or if you don’t have the space, you can simply leave them indoors. Since you would normally use just a small amount of seeds or leaves from each plant, you can enjoy the benefits of your own private herb and spice garden each and every time you start cooking.

Lemongrass

Just buy some fresh sticks of lemongrass from the supermarket and scrape off the dried up layer at the base, where it has been cut. Then place it in a glass of water and leave the lemongrass until you start to see the roots coming through. At this point, you will want to plant the herb an inch deep in gritty compost. In order for the plant to survive, it must be kept warm, so keeping the pot indoors may be a good idea. It’s not likely that the plant will give you any new stalks, however its leaves can give an equally welcome citrus flavour to your cooking.


Thai basil

Buy these seeds and scatter them on top of a tray filled with moist compost, and then cover. Once the seeds germinate, remove the cover to give them some sunlight. Once the plants are large enough to be moved, empty the tray and move them into small pots – put no more than four plants in each pot. They don’t require an awful lot of watering, so wait until the pot feels light before quenching their thirst. Thai basil has an interesting aniseed flavour in addition to the standard basil taste you know so well. It works very well in salads, as well as Oriental dishes.

Fenugreek

Simply spread some seeds into pots of moist compost, or even plant them outside when the weather is warm enough. When the plant is sufficiently grown, the leaves can be cut and used for a variety of uses. Fresh fenugreek leaves have a tasty, nutty yet sweet flavour that can be steamed or sautéed and are a particularly welcome addition to currys and soups.


Chillies

Chill seeds will germinate well in a small pot of compost when covered with a plastic food bag – just use a food clip, elastic band, or food tie to seal the bag, and place the pot on a warm (preferably sunny) windowsill. Remove the cover as soon as the plants begin to sprout and, if desired, they will also live quite happily outside in the summer months if placed in a sunny, but protected, location. Just remember that some species of chilli may grow well indoors but must be pollinated by hand, using a small paintbrush to gently brush the flowers. Sowing chilli seeds is best done as early in the year as possible, in order to maximise the number of fruit and the time they have to ripen before autumn arrives.

Coriander

Once again, scatter the seeds on a tray filled with moist compost, and cover (just like with the Thai basil). Once they germinate, remove the cover and when the plants have grown to be sturdy enough, move them to small pots, placing three or four plants in each pot. Coriander’s aromatic oils begin to deteriorate from the moment it’s been cut, so for best results, use this herb fresh. Use the leaves to garnish salads and add its distinctive flavour to asian-inspired cuisine.

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