Garden to Kitchen

How-To Tips for Growing and Cooking Your own Produce

Garden to Kitchen

Creating connections between your kitchen and garden can be so rewarding. From having a convenient source of herbs and produce to getting exercise to enjoying nature, there are so many benefits to gardening with edible plants. Each month, the Poe Center’s expert health educators post how-to instructions for growing and maintaining edible plants and how to use them in the kitchen.

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Meet the Authors

Anna Glasgow


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Lacey Anderson


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Herb Gardens

Growing herbs is a rewarding way to garden. They thrive indoors and outdoors, are fairly pest free, and are low maintenance.

If you don’t have an herb garden, follow this link for steps to make a simple herb garden at home with the whole family.

Tips for Your Herb Garden:

  • Herbs love sunlight. Put them by your sunniest window if indoors or in your sunniest location outside (often on the South-facing side of your building). Herbs prefer 6-8 hours of sunlight and 8 inches of well-drained soil.
  • Cut back or prune your herbs regularly. Cut the longest stems with scissors regularly even if you don’t plan to use them right away. This will encourage the plant to grow more. Just be sure to leave at least one third of the plant intact at all times. Basil especially loves to be cut regularly! Live clippings can be put in a glass of water or in a ziplock in the fridge for a few days before adding them to a recipe.
  • Water your herbs slowly each week. It is actually possible to water too much or too fast! If you water too quickly, the water can drain straight through the soil before roots can absorb enough. Herbs like for the soil to dry out some before the next watering. If you touch the soil and it is damp, wait a day or two. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Feed your herbs with an organic fish or seaweed based fertilizer if they look alive but unhappy.

Be sure to enjoy your herbs, use them in a recipe like this Kale Pesto recipe.

 


Additional Resource:

Culinary Herbs Are Easy to Grow

As daily temperatures and sunlight decrease you may be wondering if your herbs will survive. With the right care, many of them can!

Tips to Help Herbs Survive Fall and Winter:

If your herbs are indoors…

  • Keep them indoors in a nice sunny spot. The best growing temperature is 60-70F. If an extra cold night is predicted, pull your herbs away from the window about 6 inches to keep them cozy. It’s also a good idea to move herbs away from any heat vents to avoid drying out.

If your herbs are outdoors, a few options are…

  • Dig them up and bring them inside. You can do this in stages. Transfer your herbs to pots, water well, leave the pots outside in partial shade for 1-2 weeks, and then bring them in. This is especially recommended for your parsley.
  • Leave cold-tolerant herbs outside and winterize. A layer of organic mulch 2-3 inches thick around the base of the plant will help protect the roots from cold damage. In the spring, you should see new growth emerge. This technique works well for chives, oregano, and thyme but will not work for tender annuals like basil.
  • Take cuttings and root them indoors. Herbs like basil, rosemary, and lavender can grow roots easily from clippings.
    • Cut at a node (where leaves attach to the stem) around 4-6 inches from the top of the plant.
    • Remove lower leaves. Place in water.
    • After a few weeks, roots should appear, and it’s ready to be planted in a pot with soil.

Parsley is so delicious that sometimes black swallowtail caterpillars eat it down to the stems in a matter of days. Amazingly, parsley can recover. Harvest and enjoy when the plant looks lush again.

Try this delicious recipe for Parsley Puree. Use it as a dipping sauce, spread on sandwiches, or drizzle on top of a protein!

 


Sources:

NC State Extension Publications – Winterizing the Herb Garden

Illinois Extension – Herbs All Winter: Grow Them Indoors

You may find that chives are the last herb standing in your herb garden. This is because chives are surprisingly tough. They are cold and drought tolerant.

Read below for more fun facts, tips, and uses for chives.

Chives Facts:

  • Chives are a perennial herb meaning they come back year after year. 
  • Chives are in the onion family. They grow from underground bulbs in clumps.
  • Chives have long hollow leaves and produce edible purple flowers in the spring. You can eat the whole plant!
  • Eating chives can help improve heart and bone health, as well as boost your immune system.

Chives Tips:

  • How to harvest – regularly cut leaves 1-2 inches from the base.
  • How to store – best when fresh, but store in a ziplock back in the fridge or freezer to make them last longer.
  • How to divide – in the spring, dig down to the bulbs of your outdoor chive plant and pull a clump of 10+ bulbs away from the group. Plant this bunch in a new spot. Repeat every 2-3 years.

Chive Uses:

  • Create a chive border outside – divide chives over the years and transplant along the edge of a garden bed. The border will be edible, beautiful, and may even deter some pests.
  • Clip chive flowers in the spring to make a lovely bouquet.
  • Experiment with chives in fun recipes like these:

Sources:

Almanac – Chives

Nutrition and You – Chives Nutrition Facts

University of Illinois Extension – Herb Gardening: Chives

Kids Do Gardening – Growing Chives

GrowVeg – How to Harvest Chives All Year Round

Rosemary is an evergreen herb originally from the Mediterranean. It is deer resistant, drought resistant, and delicious all year.

Read below for more about the planting, maintenance, and uses of rosemary.

Rosemary Growing Tips:

  • Start from Cuttings:
    • Clip stems 4-6 inches from the top of the plant.
    • Remove the lower leaves.
    • Place the stems in a jar of water on a windowsill.
    • Wait 4-8 weeks for the roots to grow.
    • Plant in a potting soil/sand mixture.
    • Transplant outdoors once you see new growth and after the last spring frost.
  • Where to plant:
    • Full sun – Rosemary thrives in 6+ hours of sunlight a day.
    • Well-draining soil – Plant uphill or on a mounded area if possible. Avoid heavy clay and low-lying areas where water pools.
    • Plenty of space – Rosemary can grow to a 4 foot tall 4 foot wide shrub.
  • Harvesting/Pruning:
    • Rosemary can be harvested at all times of the year, but is best after new growth in the spring.
    • For ideal flavor, harvest from the tips just before flowering when the oils peak. Harvesting in the morning after the dew dries but before midday heat also enhances flavor.
    • Feel free to prune (cut back) severely after the blooms fade. This will encourage dense growth and allow you to shape the shrub.
    • When pruning, always leave at least one third of the plant for photosynthesis purposes.

The Many Uses of Rosemary:

Nutritional Benefits of Rosemary:

Rosemary is high in antioxidants and can help boost the immune system. Even smelling rosemary can help reduce stress!

Storage:

  • Store fresh rosemary in a glass of water or loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.
  • Dry rosemary by hanging several sprigs upside down in a cool, dry place with adequate airflow for several days. Once rosemary has dried, store in an airtight container for later use.

Recipe:

  • Rosemary compliments most meats and poultry, along with roasted vegetables and stews. It pairs well with garlic and oregano.
  • Rosemary can be used dried or fresh in many recipes thanks to its bright but earthy flavor.
  • Tip: Make rosemary-infused olive oil by adding a sprig of rosemary to a jar of olive oil.
  • Try rosemary with this recipe for Chicken, Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Hash.

Sources:

North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox – Salvia rosmarinus

Almanac – Rosemary

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension – Rosemary: Its Flavor Makes It Indispensable for Every Kitchen

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

This more sensitive annual herb gives us edible leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds. Did you know that cilantro and coriander are the same plant? “Cilantro” refers to the leaves and stems whereas “coriander” refers to the seeds. Both pack a unique flavor and are used in kitchens around the world.

How to Grow:

  • Start from seed: Cilantro is a cool season crop preferring 50-85F. Plant seeds outside from Feb-Mar for a spring harvest and in late Sept for a fall harvest (Central and Eastern NC). Space the seeds 2-4 inches apart in a sunny, well-draining location. Water regularly.

Plant Part Tips:

  • Lower Leaves: the outer lower leaves are most flavorful and best used fresh in recipes. Cut stems that are 4-6 inches long near the base of the plant just before mealtime. Removing these older leaves encourages the plant to “stay young” by focusing energy on new leaves.
  • Upper Leaves: You may notice thin fern-like leaves starting to grow as the weather warms. Your plant wants to bolt upwards to produce flowers. Avoid bolting as long as possible by cutting out these leaves at their base. They are also edible but more bitter.
  • Flowers: When your cilantro eventually bolts, it is okay and even a good thing. The white to pink flowers attract beneficial insects like butterflies and predatory hoverflies. The flowers can also replace leaves in a recipe for a more mild flavor.
  • Seeds (a.k.a. Coriander): If you’d like to harvest the seeds, be sure to allow flowering and pollination. When the seed heads look brown, cut them off, hang upside-down in a paper bag in a cool dry place, and let the bag catch mature seeds as they fall. After fully dried out, store your coriander seeds in an airtight container.

How to use fresh cilantro:

Cilantro makes an excellent addition to many dishes thanks to its fresh and vibrant flavor. It can be finely chopped and incorporated into mixed dishes, or sprinkled on top for added flavor as a garnish.

How to prepare cilantro:

  • Thoroughly rinse the cilantro stems and pat dry with a towel. Allow cilantro to completely dry before using.
  • Cilantro leaves provide the most flavor. Remove the leaves by picking them off the stem. Young children can help with this easy kitchen task. Alternatively, you can cut the leaves off the top of the cilantro bunch in one chop, and remove the stems by hand.
  • Next, chop the cilantro to your liking. Bunch leaves together in a pile and roughly chop for a garnish or topping. Finely chop if incorporated into a mixed dish like salsa or sauce.
  • Want to use the stems and the leaves? Turn the cilantro into a pesto or sauce (see recipe below) to use both the leaves and stem.

How to store fresh cilantro:

  • Place fresh cilantro stems in a glass of water. Cover the leaves with plastic wrap or a bag to keep them fresh. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Store already chopped cilantro leaves in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container to absorb extra moisture. Change out the paper towel every few days to keep chopped cilantro fresh. Make sure that cilantro is fully dry before storing. Cilantro leaves may turn brown and soggy if stored wet.
  • Have lots of leftover cilantro? Mix chopped cilantro leaves with some water or oil and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze cilantro cubes and add to cooked dishes for extra flavor, year round.

Recipes:

1. Use freshly chopped cilantro in this Poe Center recipe, Peach-Mango Salsa.

Ingredients:

    • 1 mango
    • 2 medium peaches
    • 1 jalapeno (seeds removed)
    • ½ bunch cilantro
    • 1 red bell pepper
    • 1 medium tomato
    • 1 lime
    • ½ red onion
    • 1 clove garlic
    • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

    • Dice mango, peaches, bell pepper, tomato, and red onion into uniform pieces. Combine into a medium sized bowl, including any juices as a result of chopping.
    • Finely chop jalapeno and cilantro. Mince garlic. Add into the bowl and stir until combined.
    • Squeeze the juice from 1 lime into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste preference. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    • Note: you can adjust the flavors of this recipe by adding more garlic, onion, cilantro, or jalapeno depending on your preference.

2. Try out coriander in this Roasted Falafel Chickpea recipe.

3. Use both the cilantro leaves and stem in this Cilantro-Herb Pesto.


Sources:

MasterClass – How to Plant Cilantro

North Carolina State University: NCSU Edibles – Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

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