Budget Kitchen Fundamentals: Grow Your OwnPosted: November 25, 2008
Along with our grocery budget, we’ve been trying over the past year to make our diet more sustainable and economical by growing some of our own food. If you’re an urbanite looking for tips on how to start a garden despite your lack of arable land, I suggest The Urban Homestead, written by the folks who run the Homegrown Evolution blog (actually, they were kind enough to link to our site recently, motivating me to finally finish up this post).
Last spring we laid out some cash for soil, pots, and seedlings from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in hopes of reaping a harvest of tomatos, squash, strawberries, snap peas, and herbs; all from the five by five foot balcony off the back of our apartment. Ultimately, we managed to collect one tomato and one very small strawberry. The rest was devoured, or just wantonly torn apart, by packs of vicious, sadistic, nihilist squirrels (Sciuridae horribilis). I can’t understand how they didn’t get an explicit mention in the ten plagues of Egypt.
From the wreckage, however, we were able to salvage our herb plants, which we have since transplanted into smaller pots and brought inside. And here we get to the point: an indoor herb garden is attractive, fairly easy to maintain, and will save you a load of money when compared to buying fresh herbs from the store every time you need them.
First, a couple household articles of faith concerning herbs:
1. Dried herbs in plastic canisters, while they will do in a pinch, can never stand up to flavorful fresh herbs. Yes, there are tips and tricks you can use to get the most flavor out of your dried herbs (e.g. don’t store them above your stove), but all in all it’s a losing battle.
2. Packs of herbs that you buy at the store are expensive, and almost always give you more than you need for a given recipe (unless you’re buying basil to make pesto, for instance), leaving you with the choice of either finding a bunch of recipes to use the rest up before they go bad or maybe drying them yourself for later use. For the latter, refer to article 1.
With a relatively small cash outlay, an indoor herb garden can provide you with a perpetual supply of your favorite herbs and you don’t have to worry about using them up before they spoil. Aside from watering and occassional pinching, you don’t have to put much work in.
At the moment, our garden provides us with basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, marjoram, and lemon verbena. We use one or the other of them several times a week, often to delicious result. And in case you’re having trouble thinking of something other than tomato sauce that benefits from the application of fresh herbs, here are a couple great ways to showcase your herb garden: