There’s nothing quite like grabbing a fresh sprig of rosemary or plucking fragrant basil leaves from your garden to bring your cooking to an entirely different level. Their powers extend well beyond seasoning dishes and wowing dinner guest with their aromatics. They connect you with people. Whether they’re harmonious or a complete disaster, relationships affect your life in practical and profound ways. If you’ve ever reached for chocolate or ice cream when feeling lonely, or been overwhelmed with stress due to drama with coworkers or friends, or experienced how being in love makes everything vibrant and alive, you know first hand how much relationships are essential to health and happiness. Culinary herbs have the power to strengthen and heal relationships. They can change the way you interact with yourself, your food, the natural world, and those around you. You don’t need a huge yard or expensive pottery to do it—just a little soil, some love and attention, and a desire for connection. There are certain herbs that are cheaper to grow yourself and are oh-so gratifying to pick outside your doorstep. I recommend these versatile herbs to anyone interested in growing their own.
- Mint (Caution – will take over your garden! Only plant in containers)
Starting out by growing just a few of these herbs can spark your creativity in the kitchen, and inspire you to find more ways to explore your relationships.
You take the time to think about what herbs you love to cook with. You sow seeds of your favorite varieties or lovingly plant seedlings you picked up from the farmers market or local garden center. You spend time outside, giving them the nourishment they need to thrive. In return, you get to bask in their beauty, their fragrance, and the magic they bring to the food that nourishes you. It’s an act of self-love, really. Homegrown culinary herbs can shift your relationship with food itself. I find that I get more creative in the kitchen and inspired to make healthy and nutritious meals when I have exciting ingredients to work with. I’m more likely to make food choices that serve my body, and be more focused on getting all of my primary foods. You know that dish that you make 3 times a week (that you’re honestly getting a little bored with)? Transform it into three totally different meals with your garden’s harvest. Try changing up the herbs and spices you use, adding in a new ingredient or two, and you have three new meals. I tried this with black beans (a staple part of my diet) and it has changed my world. I use oregano and thyme from the garden, or go for cumin and black pepper, or just season with a little parsley for a cold bean salad—same ingredient, different herbs and spices, totally different tastes.
Fun with Friends and Family
People have been gathering around food and creating community meals for thousands of years. Communities and cultures around the globe each have their own unique way of using herbs and spices to flavor their food. Herbs and spices have brought people together and they have also been the cause of wars. Harness this potential and use it to create stronger connections with the people you want in your life. Bring over a freshly harvested bundle from your garden to share with your friends at the monthly potluck dinner. Share your harvest and swap with your neighbor for herbs you aren’t growing. Invite grandma over and ask her to share her secret drying techniques so you can enjoy them year round. Spend some time in the garden with dad and listen as a whiff of fresh basil unleashes an entire evening filled with stories from his childhood.
Bridge the Generation Gap
Gardening and growing food is making a comeback in popularity. Budding gardeners and food lovers around the world are seeking greater connection with their food sources, and are hungry for information. Instead of relying solely on websites and gardening books, try turning to the elders in your life for some gardening knowledge and wisdom. Whether you’re seeking advice for your own herb garden, or helping your parents set one up, gardening is good for health. It’s a wonderful activity that aging parents and grandparents can enjoy being a part of, regardless of their mobility. You can build raised beds that are easy for them to sit next to, put them in containers that are at sitting height, or plant on in a nice pot in the kitchen window. As the gardener, you become an integral part in the cycle of life – growth, nourishment, and death – bringing you more in tune with the world around you. You become more aware of your connection to natural world, the dance of life, and sometimes even your own mortality. Time spent caring for and observing the life cycle of a single herb plant might also bring about a certain level of calmness and acceptance around death and new beginnings, for both parent and child. Plants not only nourish us, but also teach about what it means to go with the flow and fully accept life, stormy weather and sunny days alike. They are powerful teachers for us all, from curious school kids with open minds to wrinkly grans with decades of life experience.
Conscious Connections for Kids
With all the technology that young people are plugged into these days, it’s important to find ways to connect with them beyond their screen. Struggling with that a bit? Just mention the idea of growing a pizza garden and they’ll be on board (most adults like pizza too, so everyone wins). Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and maybe a homegrown tomato or two, and you’re well on your way to a delicious, homemade pizza. Growing kitchen herbs is a fun and tasty way to teach children how to nurture and care for living things, and to connect them to their food source – the earth. Something as simple and small scale as growing a few plants with young people can teach them to become stewards of the earth, to understand the cycles of life, and the importance of healthy eating. Whether it’s your own kids, your younger cousins, nieces or nephews, or even children around the neighborhood, grab a packet or seeds or a few plant starts, and encourage them to get dirty! Wherever you are in the world, starting a kitchen herb garden can be an amazing way to infuse fresh inspiration into your cooking, create a greater sense of community, and deepen the relationships with those you love.