There are various varieties of basil that you can grow. The most common is sweet basil that comes with a tinge of natural sweetness. There is also lemon basil, which has a citrusy taste, Thai basil, which has a liquorice-like, sweet-spicy flavour, and cinnamon basil, to add a cinnamon-y taste to your recipes. It is an incredibly versatile herb that you can use to create your own pesto, or use them fresh as part of your soups and pastas. The herb requires plenty of sunlight and water to thrive. Once you see flowers, remember to cut away the buds so that they can continue to grow.
This fast-growing herb is a great addition to recipes, especially desserts and salads. Or create a refreshing summer drink with fresh mint leaves. Pluck a few and add them to freshly squeezed lemon juice for a midday perk me up. This herb also requires a lot of water and sunlight. As they can overtake other herbs in the same pot, make sure your mint leaves have their own planter to grow.
3. INDIAN BORAGE
This herb looks like mint, but it actually isn’t. You can boil the leaves and they will be good as a remedy for coughs. Other remedies include taking chewing the fresh leaves, or steaming them before squeezing the leaves for the juice which is then taken. In recipes, the Indian borage can also be used in place of the oregano herb (which is a more difficult to grow plant in Singapore), due to their similar aromas. Ensure that the herb is grown in a semi-shaded area with sunlight. Full, direct sunlight may cause this herb to turn yellow. Avoid overwatering this herb. It is succulent in nature, so it is able to endure very short periods of drought.
4. CURRY LEAVES PLANT
Besides their use in curries (you should add them before you add your curry spices), they can also be added to dishes like cereal butter prawns for an extra kick and to cut the richness of the dish. Or use the leaves to add an extra zesty dimension to your flavoured rice. Curry leaves should not be consumed fresh and should be used in cooking. The plant can grow to a few metres in height, so make sure you are growing it in a sturdy pot.
Pandan is as ornamental as it is useful in cooking. They are often used in Chinese desserts like green bean soup or in local dishes such as nasi lemak. Wrap pandan leaves with your meats and then oven bake them. The fragrance from the leaves seeps through to the meat during the cooking process, making for a very delicious appetiser that will please the whole family. Pandan leaves can also be used to make your own pandan extract to add natural flavouring to your bakes. The best way to grown pandan is to start with an already growing pandan plant. Make sure the plant is well watered as it will become dry on the edges of the leaves if there is insufficient water.
TIP: As a general rule, always grow your herbs in a spot where there are at least 2-4 hours of filtered sun coming through i.e. sunlight comes through a shade.
We ask urban farmer Cynthea Lam of Super Farmers, a gardening centre that sells supplies, produce and hosts gardening workshops, for additional tips on how to make sure your kitchen herb garden thrives.
1. Always transplant your herbs into a new pot.
If you bought your herbs with pots, don’t keep them in their original planters as the roots may have become overcrowded and would be fighting for space and nutrients in the pot. Your herbs would end up turning yellow or wilting. Also, the original soil that came with it may not be the most ideal kind for that particular herb. It is thus imperative to transplant your herbs into a new pot after purchase. Put it in a bigger pot and fill it with a good soil medium for your plants to thrive.
2. There is a science to watering.
Coincide with the plant’s time to make food once it receives sunlight. The most optimal times to water your plants are very early at dawn or the night before if you can’t wake up at dawn. Roots should not be logged with water as it causes them to rot. Water once a day if the space you place your herbs in isn’t too warm or windy, and twice a day if the space you place your herbs in dries the soil up too quickly. Ensure pots have drainage holes for water to go through to prevent water logging. Use a soil medium that promotes water drainage.
3. Your plants need food.
Plants require three main minerals to maintain their basic functions – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Normal soil usually doesn’t provide enough minerals, which is why there is a need to add fertilisers. There are a variety of those out in the market, some are chemically made and some are organic.
4. Pinch to grown an inch.
Especially true for growing herbs because we want more leaves to add to our recipes, pinching is necessary for your plants to grow. Pinching is also known as topping, which encourages your plant to double its growth by developing new growth at the pinched site, and it also helps to keep the plant to keep reproducing new stems and leaves. Pinching the flowers off herbs is also necessary to keep them alive and not bitter. As a rule of thumb, pinch off about 4-6 inches from the top of the steam and no more than one-third of the plant in total. You can use gardening shears or your fingers to do so.