Gardening to add flavor and fun.
Things in the kitchen feeling a bit bland? A couple of OKC experts have a suggestion to spice things up: Grow an herb garden. Herb gardens can feel intimidating for those with the colloquial black thumb, but they don’t have to be.
“It’s really common for a newbie to buy hundreds of dollars worth of stuff and then feel overwhelmed. Start small — one or two pots — and let it be something you enjoy,” said Beth Lyon, culinary director at Special Care, Inc.
A novice may be wise to begin with woody herbs, as they can withstand the drastic weather shifts in Oklahoma. Rosemary, lavender and lemon balm are sturdy bets for a beginner, but it’s also important to consider your palate.
“I’d recommend starting with herbs you like eating,” said Angel Bench, chef and general manager at e Boxcar in Moore.
Both Lyon and Bench advise sourcing your seeds from a local nursery or farmers market, as well as choosing an organic potting soil with vermiculite to keep chemicals to a minimum and provide an easier draining process. Native or zone-specific plants will also increase your chances of success, as will an organic fertilizer or a homemade compost.
You don’t need fancy pots, either. e goal is simplicity, after all, so a clean soup can will work as well as a stylish terra cotta container. Where you grow them matters more than what you grow them in.
“I usually stick to eight to 12 hours in light, so a bright window sill would be ideal,” said Bench. Grow lights are also an option, if you’re interested in investing a little more time and money.
Though proper watering often feels elusive, it really can be simple if you lean into your intuition. “If the dirt feels dry, feel a half inch down, then water it. And let the soil dry out completely before watering it again,” recommended Bench.
Pruning your herbs keeps the plant’s energy focused on growing leaves, so it’s important to pinch the flowers off as you see them throughout the growing season.
Speaking of seasons, if you reach the end with an abundance of fresh herbs, you can celebrate with an elegant visual arrangement. A variety of cut leaves in a vase is both simple and exquisite. For a more practical and long-term approach, you can dry them for later use.
“Lay some paper towels down on a sheet pan and spread your cut herbs out. Leave them in a warm place to dry, and then store them in mason jars,” advised Lyon, who is known for blending the dried leaves into teas or grinding them into spices to give as gifts.
When asked how she knows which herbs to grow and which herbs to blend, Lyon encourages letting go of the idea of right and wrong.
“Go experience different cuisines the metro has to offer,” she said. “Note what you liked; and then from there, it’s trial and error. Experiment, because you can literally do anything — and all that matters is that you enjoy it.”