For many people, planting and keeping up with a vegetable garden isn't in the cards, whether for lack of space or time. But even high-rise apartment dwellers can manage to grow some fresh ingredients for their homemade dishes by planting an indoor herb garden.
Herbs add flavor to meals and drinks, they have medicinal benefits and they require little attention to thrive. All you need is a sunny window sill and a little TLC to grow a number of herbs year-round.
Although you can grow herbs from stem cuttings and live plants, the least expensive and perhaps most rewarding route is to grow them from seeds. You'll need a lightweight soilless mixture (mostly peat or a peat substitute like composted coconut husks), small pots with drainage holes (terra-cotta pots work well) and seeds. Fill the pots with the soilless mixture and soak them in small bowls of water. After the soilless mixture is saturated, remove the pots and plant the seeds. Next take plastic baggies and place one over each pot to retain moisture and create a warm environment. (You can also plant the seeds in dry soilless mixture and then mist the plants with water.)
Make sure the soil is loose and the pots can drain easily as your plants start to grow. Keep an eye on their water levels and make sure they are always damp to the touch but not soaked. You may want to check on them every morning until you've figured out how often they need watering. Once the plants have sprouted you definitely do not want to over-water them as this could cause root-rot.
Basil, rosemary, sage, parsley and mint are great starter herbs, but if you have more room, try growing oregano, thyme, dill, chives, tarragon, lavender and lemon balm. You can pick up the seeds at a local nursery, farmer's market or grocery store, but make sure you purchase compact seed varieties. The regular seed varieties are for outdoor herb gardens and require more room to grow.
Once your herbs have started to grow, start clipping. Use them to flavor poultry, beef, fish, vegetables and breads. Try fresh mint in mojitos and mint juleps. Infuse olive oil with your herbs. Make fresh pesto with your basil. Make a home-made herbal tea. Garnish a dish with fresh parsley. You can also use dried herbs for bath scents and potpourris.