by Carol Cain
Spring gardening in the Finger Lakes can be an adventurous endeavor, requiring hyper-awareness of the weather and a lot of planning. Luckily there are some herbs that have what it takes to survive the switch between the chills and warmth of the outdoors in spring and don’t require much investment of time or money to get started. These are also fun to grow on your window sill all year round, making seasoning your food with fresh flavors something you don’t have to wait or pay for. Here are some herbs to grow now and make part of your culinary stable. Also make sure to check out these tips on where to begin from Edible’s Gardening Writer, Petra Page-Mann.
This herb loves cooler sunny days, and shade when it is hotter. It takes about a month to grow and is usually harvested quickly as leaves start to brown. What the many global cultures that use this herb love the most about it is how the entire plant is edible and flavorful. Cilantro refers to the leaves, coriander refers to the seeds. The thing to most watch out for is the bolt, which tends to deliver a bitter flavor. Our Grilled Corn with Cilantro Lime butter is a flavorful dish to welcome the warmer season.
This aromatic herb is one we like to start indoors, especially if there is still a threat of frost. Cutting off the flower heads pre-bloom ensures your basil plant will keep sprouting new leaves all season long. The plant tends to offer a generous amount of leaves that can be used for salads or soups and of course fresh pesto, which comes in handy in recipes like our Oven-Roasted Haddock with Pesto and New York Hothouse Tomatoes.
It is best to start the plant indoors and bring it outside when the threats of frost are gone. This aromatic plant can be quite generous in its growth, serving both as an edible option and garden display, especially when the flowers bloom. It grows well near carrots, sage, and cabbage, and some gardeners even plant it near less deer resistance fruits, such as tomatoes to keep them away. We are huge fans of rosemary and use it in many of our dishes, from oven-roasted french fries to roast beef. But, it’s also a wonderful herb for homemade skincare products and facial scrubs!
Dill is a pretty easy herb to grow and maintain. Though an annual, if you let it go to seed, it can be enough for gardening year after year. Dill is also a favorite of beneficial insects and is a host plant for the caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly. We really loved how dill complimented the flavor in the dressing used for the Kindred Fare Kale Salad.
Parsley, of the dill family, likes a lot of room to grow and sunny spaces. If started indoors, take care of the delicate roots when transplanting outdoors. The difference in flavor between store-bought and fresh parsley is quite noticeable, and can easily become a favorite one to grow year-round. It also makes for a wonderful flavor component in Emma Frisch’s Meatball Burger.
Chives love the sun and partial shade. Keep the seeds planted in rows so the seedlings have room to spread. They are a beginner gardener’s favorite as these perennials are easy to grow and can be a stunning addition to any garden. The flowers are loved by pollinators and serve as potent repellents to harmful critters such as Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies. It is easy to use in everything from salads to sandwiches due to its mild onion flavors and an ever-present flavor component in the easy-to-prep micro bowls.
To learn more about the herbs that grow and thrive in the Finger Lakes, visit this list of herbs and their uses from Cornell University Cooperative Extension.