5 Favorite Herbs of the Latin American Kitchen

Enjoy fresh herbs all summer long by learning how to grow them on your own!

Author : Enriqueta L.

There's nothing I like more than to cook with fresh herbs; the zest they add to soups, salads, meat, chicken and fish is delicious and one-of-a-kind. You can even use fresh herbs in fruit juices, as well as in flavorful sauces such as pesto.

Fresh herbs can be expensive and highly perishable, and so I've found it best to cultivate my own favorite herbs such as basil, cilantro, tarragon, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme.

You can grow your own herbs from seeds; however this requires time and special care. The planted seeds must not be exposed to extreme changes in temperature during the day and night, and should only be transplanted once they are a certain size.

My recommendation is to buy herbs that have already grown into a decent sized plant, and transplant them into pots or planters. If you buy them from a place where they were kept under a roof, try to protect them from direct sun between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the first 48 hours.

If you're going to transplant them into a garden or in a large flowerpot, each plant should be separated from the others by 15-20 inches, so they have sufficient room to grow. Herb plants which have been properly planted, watered, and given good sun, (at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day) grow and repay the little work you've put into caring for them. Here are a few that compliment Latin American cuisine best:

Parsley and oregano – Parsley, as well as mint and oregano, can last for years if in summer you keep the soil moist and the plants pruned. In winter you should keep them in a warm place with a lamp that simulates sunlight.

Basil – With good sun, the different varieties of basil grow quickly, and if pruned grow even lusher. It's preferable to prune them before they bloom, as the flowers cause the flavor of the leaf to change a bit. When temperatures rise about 90 F, even when they're well watered, the herbs may appear limp due to the heat. If you have them planted in direct sun, it may be necessary to simulate dew and even create shade for them using green, nylon gardening fabric.

Mint – If you're going to grow mint in any of its varieties, make sure you confine it to a flowerpot or planter by itself and not in the ground as it has a tendency to grow far and wide, taking over the garden and even grassy areas.

Cilantro – The best way to grow cilantro is in a shallow pot, about 8-10 inches deep. Before planting the seeds, mix at a proportion of 1 tablespoon of seeds to 3 tablespoons of sand, and distribute the mix into moist potting soil within the pot, then cover the seeds with more potting soil. If you keep the soil watered and the pot receives good sun, in 7 to 10 days the cilantro will germinate. Just keep in mind that cilantro is a little delicate and doesn't like to have too much heat.

What is your favorite herb?


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