If you are new to herb gardening, you may be excited to grow a wide range of culinary herbs in your polytunnel. But what should you do with those culinary herbs once you have grown them? If you are not exactly a whizz in the kitchen, you might wonder how to use those herbs once you have grown them.
Choosing When Culinary Herbs to Grow
Before we take a look at how to use common culinary herbs, it might be useful to take a quick look at some of the things you should take into account when choosing which ones to grow. First off, of course, it is important to think about the conditions in your polytunnel and your area.
What is the climate like? What temperatures do you expect in your polytunnel during each season? Will you be growing herbs in the ground, or in containers? And if you are growing them in the ground, what is your soil like? Is it damp or free-draining? Is it fertile? What is the soil pH?
Herbs can be very useful not only in the kitchen, but also in the garden. Looking at which herbs are good companion plants for the fruits and vegetables you are growing can also help you come to a decision.
Looking at the basics is always important when choosing which plants to grow.
But you should also think about the things you and your family personally like to eat. Examining the different uses of different culinary herbs can help you make sure whether they will have a useful place in your diet.
There are of course a huge range of other herbs that you could grow. But here is a brief guide to twelve common culinary herbs and how to use them:
Rosemary is a traditional culinary herb that is used to add flavour in a range of recipes. It can work well when used as whole sprigs in roasting meat or vegetables, and when used to make an infused oil or butter. When chopped, it can be used fresh or dried to accompany meats, cheeses or earthy root crops or tubers. However, it is best used in moderation due to its intense flavour.
One of the most popular Mediterranean herbs amongst both gardeners and cooks, thyme is often added to dishes alongside meat, potatoes or eggs. It can hold its own against other strong flavours and withstand the cooking process. An interesting thing to note is that in addition to growing a classic thyme in your polytunnel, you can also consider growing variants such as lemon thyme, which adds a zesty lemon-like flavour to dishes.
Oregano is another common herb in Mediterranean cooking. It adds a sweet, slightly peppery, earthy flavour and is commonly used to add flavour to tomato-based recipes. It is often used in pasta dishes, on pizzas, and in tomato-based soups and stews.
Not to be confused with oregano, sweet marjoram has a somewhat less strong flavour and aroma, and is usually used fresh, and added only towards the middle or end of cooking. It works very well in poultry recipes, egg recipes, and in herb butters served alongside earthy vegetable flavours.
Sage is commonly used in stuffings, along with onions, in Christmas and other holidays. It works particularly well with butternut squash, and other squashes, and with other hearty fall vegetables. This is another herb that can be used fresh or dried. It is used as a pot herb, or to make a herb butter to flavour a range of dishes.
Coriander can provide both a leafy green herb and seeds that are ground for spice. The leaves have a strong, pungent, citrus flavour and care commonly used in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and East Asian dishes. The seeds of coriander are commonly used in a wide range of curries.
Basil is another of the most popular culinary herbs. It is a member of the mint family and has hints of mint and pepper in the flavour. Basil is frequently used to make pesto, and is also a common ingredient in tomato-based Italian dishes. It is also used in many other cuisines. It is best used fresh, though can also be used dried.
Fresh mint is most commonly used in sweet recipes, from ice creams to fruit desserts. It pairs well with strawberries, and with other soft fruits, as well as chocolate. Mint is also used to make mint sauce for potatoes, or for lamb. And it is also used in Vietnamese pho and Thai stir fries. Dried mint is used to make mint teas.
Parsley is used in cooking not just for its own bright and slightly bitter taste but also for its ability to emphasize other flavours in a dish. It can be used in soups and stews, in tabbouleh and to make chimchurri sauce. Most commonly, it is added as a garnish at the end of cooking.
This is a classic herb commonly used in French cuisine. It is one of the fines herbes of French cooking, and is typically added fresh at the end of cooking. Cooks also use it in the classic Bearnaise sauce. It has a subtle anise flavour.
Dill is another popular herb which can be used as a garnish or added towards the end of cooking or to cold salads etc.. It is commonly used in potato salads, with fish or egg dishes, or cream cheeses. Dill is also a source of seeds used in pickling.
Chives are of course a member of the onion family, and can impart a mild onion/garlic flavour to a range of dishes. They work well with cream or cream cheese based sauces or dips, with eggs, or in salads. And they are frequently added as a garnish to dishes after cooking.
Other Uses For Culinary Herbs
It is important to remember that culinary herbs can be useful in other ways. In addition to eating the herbs mentioned above, it is also possible to use them in a range of other applications.
While in growth, many aromatic herbs can, as mentioned above, be useful companion plants.
But even after they are harvested, culinary herbs can also be used in other ways. For example, many herbs that are used in cooking can also be used to make soaps, household cleaners, bath products, beauty products, and more. Many also have medicinal properties that you can take advantage of in a number of different ways.
Using culinary herbs in a range of new and inventive ways can be one of the pleasures of herb gardening in your polytunnel. It can be fun to experiment and try new things. Though a process of trial and error, you can quickly find your own favourite flavour combinations.
How to you use culinary herbs from your polytunnel? Let us know in the comments below. Share your tips and suggestions to help others make the most of all the herbs that they grow in their polytunnel or elsewhere in their gardens.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.