The pleasant aroma of basil wafts through the living room as I pick a handful of fresh leaves from the garden and put it in a jug of water; it’s intoxicating in a nice way. Visitors to the house are often greeted with a glass of fragrant basil water that lifts the mood instantly; kind of a sudden jerk to the senses. I brought home five saplings of basil in April that have grown into a mini jungle now. The basil you see in the picture above is after heavy pruning over the past week.
Herbs are easy to grow. The herbs in this post are growing on the ground, but I have all of them on the kitchen windowsill as well in small pots. Thanks to their medicinal properties, they require little care and have a natural protection against pests unlike other plants. I have four herbs growing in my garden now: basil, lemon grass, betel and brahmi. Nestled between basil and lemon grass is curry leaf that is seeing a growth spurt.
Tips to for herbs to grow well:
- Sunlight, water, and growing medium can make a world of difference. Too much sunlight may not be good herbs such as betel and brahmi. Similarly, soil that is hard for roots to penetrate and breathe may not be good for basil and brahmi.
- I have five basil plants. Two of the plants that receive ample sunlight grew rapidly and flowered. The other three saw a subdued growth. I gave the rapidly growing plants support though bamboo stems as high winds can uproot them.
- Allow the plants to flower. Dry the seeds and store in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can also propagate the basil plants, by cutting them 3 inches above a node and placing them in a glass of water for the roots to develop before putting in soil again.
- Use a mix of cocopeat and soil. Only red soil make the roots of the plants hard to breathe.
- Plant betel plant in shade. If it receives a lot of sunlight, then the plant wilts and dries soon. The same goes with brahmi. The brahmi plant received full sunlight for the first few weeks, and most of the leaves dried. I moved it a few feet to the left to a shady spot; the plant has since seen a new lease of life.
- Lemongrass on the other hand should have thrived, but has seen subdued growth because of lack of sunlight. I have replanted it in a pot and moved it to sunny spot.
- The beauty of herbs is they can be grown in small containers on a windowsill and don’t necessarily need to be grown on the ground.
How I use the herbs regularly:
- Basil: a few leaves washed and put in a jug of regular drinking water. In homemade tomato-basil sauce, tea, pesto sauce, soup and rasam. I make the tomato-basil sauce once a week and store it in a sterilized glass container. It stays fresh for a week. The tomato-basil sauce goes into pasta, and almost all curries like rajma masala, chole. Traditional recipes do not used basil in rajma and chole, but all of us love the flavor.
- Lemongrass: in thai curries, herbal tea, and lemon-coriander soup. It’s a wonderful remedy for cold/cough when used along with ginger and basil. A persistent cough last month that kept me up most nights for weeks in a row month suddenly subsided when I had the basil-lemongrass-ginger-garlic concoction for two nights.
- Brahmi: This is ayurveda wonder herb for immunity, memory, and hair growth. It can be eaten raw everyday or used in rasam/soup.
- We known the onslaught of mosquitoes in the evening. Each one of us experiences it in most places in India, especially during the monsoons. It is tough to sit on the front porch for a few minutes without being attacked by the mosquitoes. On the contrary, the backyard, despite the lush green lawn is pest-free. I attribute it to the herbs. I’m moving a few basil plants to the front now to keep mosquitoes at bay.