Being able to grow the herbs that you can use to create spice mixes is the best way to control the flavor of your dishes. Creating custom spices is the preferred choice for so many cooks, especially when you know what flavors and rubs your family likes that most. Herbs are a huge part of traditional spice mixes, and they can be combined to create customized mixes too.
Add these herbs to your herb garden and you’ll be on your way to creating some of the best mixed spice combinations.
Fennel is not an herb that you find in a lot of home gardens, but it is used in a lot of different spice mixes because it has a sweet, slightly licorice flavor. A lot of Italian based seasonings use it, but it is also used in Indian and Asian based spice mixes. Fennel needs very loose soil to grow successfully in and as the bulb expands, you should hill the soil around the bulb. The flavor packed seeds are what you will be using for the spice, so once your stalks have fully grown and the flowers begin dying back, use a paper bag to shake off all the seeds.
Oregano is a popular meat dish herb, and is used in a lot of Latin American and Mediterranean spice mixes. The way the herb is grown greatly changes the amount of flavor the leaves have. Keep this plant in full sun and well watered, but avoid letting water sit in the soil. Oregano likes poor soil, so don’t add the seeds to organic rich soil. Pinch leaves off or cut the stems of the entire plant and hang to dry.
A main ingredient in Italian seasoning, basil is a classic herb that can be used in so many spice mix combinations. Add this herb to the garden when the danger of frost has passed and make sure that it is able to get at least 6 hours of sun. Basil does prefer good soil, so a container is ideal and continuous water is needed as well. Harvest the leaves continuously throughout the growing season and dry them as you go.
Rosemary is a spice mix ingredient for combinations that are used to cook poultry. The plant is best added to the garden as a transplant, and can handle being added to poor soil, rock gardens, in a container or as a second planting in a garden. Grow in full sun, allowing for the soil to dry out between waterings for the best flavor results. Harvest stems to dry and then remove leaves to add to spice mixes, as is.
Depending on the flavor profile you want for your spice mix, a traditional thyme or lemon thyme is the best option. The herb can be grown outdoors as a perennial herb, or in a container indoors in a sunny spot. It is able to thrive in poor to nutrient rich soil, but needs to be added as a transplant in order to be able to survive in a garden with less than ideal soil. Before the herb begins to flower, snip stems and bundle them up in a dark corner of your cabinets to dry. Strip the tiny leaves from the stems and only add the leaves to your spice mix.
Pam Buttikofer is a co-founder of Imperfect Women. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 37 years and enjoys spending time with her husband, sons and her lovable pups.