If you like cooking with herbs and spices, you’ll be familiar with the little pots of kitchen herbs sold in supermarkets and food shops. In a well stocked supermarket you will find not only parsley and chives, but also thyme, rosemary, coriander and others.
We’ve all tried to keep them alive on the window sill after using only a portion of the fresh herbs in our latest recipes, but most of the time they either get used up, or don’t survive very long.
The reason for this is the method of how they are raised. These little pots are meant to be consumed and replaced. They are grown quickly and are meant to be replaced by a new pot soon after using them.
When growing herbs to be kept as a potted plant or for planting outside, it is important to give the seedlings enough space and time to get established. After sprouting, the seedlings are separated and planted in individual pots. Depending on the plant this is sometimes done 3 or 5 to a pot. This ensures the plants grow strong and receive enough light and nutrients. As they grow, the tips of plants like thyme, rosemary or basil are pricked out several times, to encourage the plant to branch out and become bushy.
Supermarket herbs grown for fast consumption are sown closely together, often 20 or more seedlings to a pot. They are raised too quickly to become established, and their stems are competing for light and space, so they remain thin and weak. Instead of a strong plant that produces lots of leaves, you get many individial plants that produce few leaves, but as there are so many, you end up with a sufficient amount to use for cooking. When transplanted into a larger pot or outside, the stems of the supermarket herbs are usually too weak to support a healthy plant, and are prone to fungus and bacterial diseases.
Establish your own herb garden
Whether you plant a little herb garden outside, or in pots on your balcony or windowsill, it is worth getting strong, healthy plants that can be harvested many times as and when you need them.
The easiest way is to buy established plants from a nursey. If you want to raise them from seeds, buy good quality seeds from a nursery or garden centre. Most herbs don’t require outside conditions to grow well, and will happily grow on your kitchen window sill.
Make sure the pots are large enough and use good quality compost when potting them up.
Your own herb garden will save you a lot of money in the long run. Established plants can be harvested again and again, while the expensive supermarket herbs will only last until they’ve been eaten.