It’s surprisingly easy to create a little herb garden, even if you live in a city, and even if you’ve never grown anything before. The following herbs are easy to find in Asia, and may be available in other parts of the world as well. So, here is the step-by-step for growing basil, mint, lemongrass and sawtooth herb on your porch.
These herbs all require medium to full sun, and drink lots of water (once per day). They can be planted in individual smaller containers, or in a large box, etc. Just make sure that the container has adequate drainage (or punch some holes in the bottom).
Basil is used in tons of dishes. There are many varieties, but the most common ones in Asia are the common one pictured above (the leaves are a bit narrower than the wide-leafed Italian basil that is often used at home), and also Thai (or spicy) basil which has a purple tint to the leaves.
Basil is grown by seed. Look around for a basil plant, or ask a neighbor who is growing it for some seeds. I’ve made friends with several neighbors just by asking to trade plants : ) Anyway, the seeds are tiny and black when ready (i.e. when the flowers are getting old, but not too old and dried up), as you can see in the photos. Plant the seeds in loose, damp soil. Until the seeds sprout, it’s best to keep the pot in the shade or covered with something to keep it from drying out.
Basil is prolific, so you can often find small seedlings sprouting up around a “mother” plant. You can dig these up (make sure to dig deep enough around the roots) and transplant them in your own container. It is best to transplant in the evening (water well!) so that the transplants have the best chance of surviving.
To keep your basil plant healthy, pinch off flowers as they emerge.
I love this leaf. It has the exact same taste as cilantro (great for Mexican food!!) but is way easier to grow. Here’s what you do: go buy some at the market (for those of you in Cambodia, it’s called jee roh-nah). Cut off the bottom 2 inches of the clump, pick off any dead outer leaves, and stick it in the soil at about an inch depth. That’s it. The plant will begin growing new leaves from the center of the clump within days.
To harvest, just pick off outer leaves as they emerge. It should keep growing continuously for several months until it develops spiky flowers and gets too tough. Then, replant : )
Tea, mojitos, salad. Mint is a great plant to grow. Collect a few healthy sprigs (ones with big, bright green leaves) from either the market or a neighbor. Plant the sprigs (“cuttings”) in soil so that the stem is buried about 2 inches deep, and the top still has a few leaves on it.
Mint grows like crazy and can over-take other plants, so people often plant it in its own container. I planted mine in a basket and hung it from our jackfruit tree so that the mint can grow out the bottom or sides or wherever it wants : )
Lemongrass is an essential ingredient in Asian cooking. It also makes a great tea. It grows to be pretty tall, so make sure you plant it in a large enough pot. If you have access to a lemongrass plant already, you can plant your own through a propagation technique called “division”. Basically what you do is dig a shovel down along one of the stems, dividing it from the rest of the plant. Once you have your stem (or however many stems you want), remove any dead outer leaves and cut the top of the stalk off so that it is about one foot in length. Plant this stalk in soil at about 2 inches depth, and tilted to the side a teeny bit (instead of straight up and down).
Alternatively, you can go to the market and buy a bundle of lemon grass (see above). As long as it is fresh enough, you can cut these stalks to one foot length as well and plant them.
Posted by Daphne | Prey Veng, Cambodia