I’ve always loved using fresh herbs to brighten up my cooking, but since I like to vary the cuisines I serve, rarely do I use oregano, cilantro, basil, or even parsley several days in a row. I’m constantly removing wilted herbs from the vegetable bin in my refrigerator and replacing them with another batch. So I thought it might be fun to test a pretty, fun, and practical solution to my herb dilemma. I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but the ready-made kits available today can make even the worst gardener feel like a seasoned horticulturist. Fresh herbs can add zip, color, and fragrance to pretty much anything, whether it's a refreshing cocktail, an herb-heavy salad, a fish slathered in butter, or an herby sauce for your steak. Take a look at what you’ll need to create, maintain, and enjoy an indoor herb garden, no matter what climate you live in or how much space you have on your windowsill.
While anyone can pick up a seedling at the local plant store or flower district, there is something very satisfying about watching that first little green shoot poke its way through the soil. The experience brought me back to my fifth grade science experiments, and reminded me of how wonderful it is to be connected to the foods we eat and the farmers who grow them. These kits make great gifts and consist of everything you need to start your garden. They all include potting soil or compressed soil discs, seeds, and biodegradable planting pots and most, like this one from the Sustainable Seed Company contain organic heirloom seeds.
Indoor herbs like room temperature conditions (65-75℉) and good, bright light—south or southwest facing is the best—for at least 6 hours a day. If you don’t have a window with the perfect temperature and exposure, your herbs will do better with an alternative light source. We like this one for its compact profile and its 2001: A Space Odyssey gestalt, but also appreciate that you can plant your herbs in decorative pots of your choosing to create a customized feel to your garden. For the more confident grower, pick up some seed starting soil, well draining pots, heirloom seeds, and a copy of Zia Allaway’s reference guide, Indoor Edible Garden to get growing.
If you are growing your herbs in soil, keep in mind that most plants like slow and infrequent watering in pots providing good drainage. One ingenious alternative to remembering when you last watered your herbs is to pick up a convenient self watering herb planter.
With two sizes (which fit either three or nine plants) and a wide variety of seed pods available - from chilis to hyssop, Click and Grow simplifies the herb growing process. This self contained unit includes an overhead LED light that operates on a timer to optimize the growing cycle. Seed capsules can be purchased separately, according to the types of herbs you’d like to grow, and you can augment your herb garden with other edibles like tomatoes and lettuce. It is easy to see when water needs to be refilled, and we had sprouts growing in less than a week.
For another user friendly option, I am impressed with the many options available from Aerogarden. The Aerogarden grows herbs hydroponically and also operates on a timer for it’s built in LED lights. No window sill required! Choose one for the kids which comes with an activity book, or opt for a high-end model with room for nine plants. It even connects to an app through WiFi to inform you when to add nutrients or water.
Now that you’ve watched your little babies grow into full fledged plants (or cheated a little and brought home seedlings from your local store), it’s time to harvest your haul and use your herbs as needed. We are fans of the Williams-Sonoma herb shears and herb snips. They feel nice in the hand and look fresh and clean in your utensil drawer.
While garnishing a dish with whole herb leaves lends a rustic and homey look to your food, often a recipe calls for minced or chopped herbs. If you want to give your chef’s knife a rest, we like the OXO Good Grips Herb Mincer for soft, leafy herbs. It rolls easily, cleans easily, and comes with a safety lid for secure storage. For stronger, woodier herbs like thyme and rosemary, we also like the Microplane Herb Mezzeluna. It is comfortable in the hand, does a fine job of chopping, and the blade folds away for efficient storage.
My new, yet familiar, favorite gadget is the OXO Good Grips Little Salad and Herb Spinner. Like it’s larger sibling that I’ve had in my kitchen for years, this prep workhorse effectively and quickly dries small batches of herbs and greens after a good soak or spray. This is a great tool for herbs since spinning them dry makes chopping easier and less messy. In addition, cleaning and drying herbs before storing them in the refrigerator also helps extend their lifespan and saves you time when you pull them out to use later on.
In order to save your precious bounty, I also like the OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Herb Keeper. It comes in a variety of sizes and fits nicely in the refrigerator to keep herbs protected and hydrated. If you happened to have harvested more than you need, this vessel will extend the freshness of your herbs so you can use them again later in the week.