Growing herbs: good for your health and your food

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

Living in a small apartment or dorm room can make it difficult for students to keep medium-to-large-sized plants. Finicky plants can also be tricky because of the amount of time it takes to ensure their survival. Because of these difficulties there are very few students who keep a plant growing in their homes, yet multiple studies released from NASATexas A&M UniversityThe Journal of Environmental Psychology and more have proven the many benefits that come from having plants in your home. Some of these benefits include decreased stress levels, increased productivity, lower blood pressure and a longer attention span.

Growing herbs is one way to avoid the issues associated with growing larger houseplants and still reap the many benefits. Herbs are small, edible plants used mainly for flavoring food and are very easy to grow. 

Each of these herbs can be grown on a desk or window ledge and will provide you with the joys of keeping a plant, as well as the extra benefit of being able to add flavoring to your meals.

Rosemary

Aside from its excellent smell and savory flavor, rosemary is beautiful to look at when in bloom. (Andy/Andrew Fogg/Flickr)

Rosemary is a perennial herb, meaning that it continues to grow for many years, and has a strong, savory fragrance. This plant’s leaves look similar to evergreen needles, but a bit thicker and not as sharp. If you are looking for a blooming plant, rosemary also produces blue, purple, white or pink flowers if left uncut.

A recent study by the British Psychology Society found that the aroma of rosemary could actually boost your memory and increase your ability to perform memory-related tasks. This is great news for students growing this herb in their study spaces. 

Rosemary requires direct sunlight and should be watered when the soil at the top of the pot starts to dry. To use this herb, cut off the top few inches of a stalk and add the needle-like leaves to your savory dish. Rosemary leaves become even stronger if dried first, which requires hanging the stalks upside down for about two weeks before use. 

Try this recipe: roasted peaches with rosemary

Ingredients:

2 peaches, cut in half with pit removed
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Set peach halves face up in a baking dish and arrange rosemary inside the dish and inside of the peaches
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of the peaches
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes and serve hot with ice cream

Mint

Mint plants are particularly easy to grow indoors. These herbs should be kept in indirect sunlight and watered when the soil at the top of the pot is drying out. You can test this by feeling the soil with your fingers; if it feels cold then it is not ready for more water, but if it feels warm then it is dry enough to add more. 

There are many different types of mint plants and each has a unique aroma and taste associated with it. Mint can be used in a large variety of foods, including smoothies, fruit salads and even ice cream. You can also use mint leaves to make your own tea, free of pesticides and additives. To harvest, simply cut the leaves from the stem of the plant. 

Try this recipe: Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh mint
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup baby spinach
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups ice

  1. Blend all of the ingredients together
  2. Pour into a glass and garnish with mint leaves before serving

Basil

This easy to grow herb has bright green, waxy leaves that give off an incredibly strong smell when touched. Though it is best known for making pesto, basil can be used in many dishes ranging from pastas and soups to drinks and desserts. Basil plants are also known for detoxifying your liver. If you are experiencing a hangover, help your body by adding some basil to your breakfast.

Basil requires lots of sunlight and should be watered either every day or every other day depending on the temperature, with less watering required during the colder winter months. Growing basil requires a good drainage system, so make sure that the pot has holes in the bottom for water to drain out. Basil is harvested by cutting off the leaves in the same way as mint plants. 

Basil plants are used in dishes around the world including Italy, where pesto was first made. (Amanda Slater/Flickr)

Try this recipe: Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

  1. In a large pot, melt butter on the stove over medium heat and stir in garlic, carrots and onions
  2. Cook until onion is soft, then add chicken or vegetable stock and water
  3. Simmer for 20 minutes
  4. Stir in tomatoes and simmer 10 more minutes
  5. Remove from heat and blend the soup until smooth
  6. Stir in basil and parsley and add salt and pepper to taste
  7. Serve hot with basil garnish on top

Thyme

There are two varieties of this herb that can be easily grown indoors, lemon thyme and German thyme, both with unique flavors and smells. These two types grow quickly and need to be trimmed down, but maintain a small shape that is easy to keep in an apartment or dorm room. Thyme should be grown in full sunlight and watered once the soil at the top of the pot is dry.

To use this herb, simply cut off a few stalks and remove the leaves from the stem to use for flavoring. You can also dry thyme similar to rosemary for use later on. In addition to the leaves, thyme has flowers, which can be collected and used as a flavoring or garnish.

Try this recipe: Lemon Thyme Salmon

Ingredients

4 salmon fillets
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/3 cup honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. In a bowl, mix together thyme, honey, garlic, pepper and salt
  3. Stir in lemon juice and pour this sauce over the salmon fillets in a separate bowl
  4. Evenly coat the salmon in the mixture
  5. Place the marinated salmon on a parchment lined baking sheet and pour the rest of the mixture over the fish
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes and serve warm with thyme sprinkled on top for garnish

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