How to grow 7 essential Asian herbs right in your own home
It’s easier than you think!
If you’re big on Asian cuisine, you must use a lot of Asian herbs in your cooking. So instead of continually buying your herbs, why not grow them yourself? Read on to learn about which Asian herbs to grow in your home, and how.
Asian cuisine isn’t a monolith, and the huge continent’s flavours vary from country to country. But one thing these different cuisines have in common is their use of Asian herbs. And so whether you’re putting together a Thai salad or whipping up a Malaysian curry, it really helps to have these herbs easily on hand. And what better way than to grow them yourself?
7 Asian Herbs To Grow At Home
Lemongrass, as its name implies, has a fresh, citrusy flavour. It’s used in plenty of Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Chinese cooking. You can boil lemongrass to create a soothing tea that’s also said to relieve bloating and boost oral health. People also use lemongrass oil as a bug repellent, and also to promote sleep and relieve pain.
How to grow lemongrass at home
Growing lemongrass indoors is relatively easy, which makes it one of the best Asian herbs to grow at home. All you need is to buy lemongrass with green centres and the bulbs still intact. Place the bulb in a glass with just a few inches of water and wait a few weeks — but don’t forget to change the water frequently.
Once the new roots begin to grow, plant it a large container with moist (not wet) potting mix, as lemongrass spreads and grows pretty tall (a few feet high). Make sure that the container has enough drainage holes. Keep your pot under the sun — if you don’t have a garden, keep it somewhere with plenty of natural sunlight.
Water and fertilise your lemongrass plant frequently, and once it grows, don’t be afraid to harvest it frequently as well. This encourages new growth and keeps your plant healthy, so you’ll have more reason to cook yummy Asian food!
2. Vietnamese mint
As its name implies, Vietnamese mint is a peppery herb used in plenty of Vietnamese dishes, from pho to salads to deep-fried pork. Vietnamese mint is also traditionally used to reduce fever, to reduce inflammation, to improve skin conditions, to reduce nausea, and much more.
How to grow Vietnamese mint at home
To grow Vietnamese mint, your best bet is to use clippings. Buy a plant from a nursery or grocery, cut a 15cm stem from the plant, and pull off the bottom leaves. Then, place the cutting in a glass of water until it grows roots. This process should take around 3-4 weeks — don’t forget to change the water periodically!
Then, transfer the plant to a spot with partial shade. You can fill a large pot with loamy, slightly acidic soil to help your plant flourish, then place it next to a window. Though it’s native to the tropics, as long as you keep your Vietnamese plant warm and damp, it should do well.
Water your plant frequently, keeping the soil consistently moist. You can also fertilise your plant with liquid seaweed fertiliser every month — twice a month during warmer months, and once a month during cooler months. Don’t fertilise more than twice a month, as this can ruin the taste. Wait a month before harvesting with gardening shears — but wait until the plant is dry until you do so.
Also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, coriander is used in cooking all over the globe, from Mexico to Thailand. Coriander is also used to relieve digestion problems, as well as to treat infections and other pains.
How to grow coriander at home
Coriander is one of the tougher Asian herbs to grow at home, but if you give it the proper TLC, you can have coriander fresh from the garden all year round. Coriander thrives in weather that’s not too cool but not too warm either. The best time to plant coriander in tropical climates is during cooler, dry times. Coriander grows best in a garden, but if you’re growing it in a pot, choose a large one as they grow big taproots.
After filling the post with fast-draining soil and some fertilizer, moisten the soil and sprinkle the seeds over the soil evenly. Then cover with half a centimeter of soil. Cilantro needs a lot of sun to grow, so place your cilantro in a sunny windowsill if you’re keeping it indoors. It should take your seeds around two to three weeks to germinate.
Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist — pouring water might displace the seeds, and coriander hates being moved around. Once the coriander stems reach 10-15cm, you can harvest them by cutting up to two-thirds of the leaves every week.
4. Thai basil
Thai basil has a lovely fresh, aromatic, liquorice-y taste that’s a lot stronger than its Italian counterpart. It’s used in plenty of Southeast Asian dishes, from curries to salads. Thai basil is also traditionally used to relieve digestive problems like constipation and gas.
How to grow Thai basil at home
You can buy Thai basil plants from the nursery or plant them as a seed. Thai basil plants are usually planted outdoors, but it’s a low-maintenance plant that can also flourish indoors, provided they get enough light.
Use well-drained, nutrient soil that should be kept moist, not soggy. If you’re growing your Thai basil plant indoors, make sure that you fertilize it regularly. Basil requires at least six hours of natural sunlight or 10 hours of fluorescent lights, so keep it in a well-lit place.
5. Garlic chives
Garlic chives look like chives but taste like garlic, hence the name. Also called Chinese chives, they’re used in plenty of Chinese dishes, and even herbal vinegars, cheeses, and compound butters.
How to grow garlic chives at home
Chives are pretty easy to grow — just make sure that they’re watered regularly. Fertilizing them at the beginning of their growing season is also a good idea. To foster new growth, prune the stems regularly, clipping either all the way to the ground or with 2 inches remaining.
6. Kaffir lime leaves
A key ingredient in Southeast-Asian cuisine, kaffir lime leaves are very aromatic and flavorful. They’re used in plenty of Thai recipes, such as green curry and chicken fried rice. The acidic kaffir lime isn’t normally consumed, but is used to produce household cleaning products.
How to grow a kaffir lime tree at home
To grow a kaffir lime tree at home, you can start by planting a seedling in a 6 to 9-inch pot, but a 2-3 year-old plant needs a 10-14 inch pot to thrive.
Keep the seedling in an outdoor area that gives it full sun for at least eight hours a day, but shields the tree from wind exposure. Let the soil dry completely before giving it a 6-inch deep watering once or twice a week. If you notice yellowing leaves, that means you are over watering your plant.
Ginger is used all kinds of cuisine, making it a great Asian herb to grow at home. Ginger is also used to relieve nausea, and when boiled into a tea, can soothe a sore throat.
How to grow ginger at home
Growing ginger at home is pretty easy. First, get yourself a living ginger root from a nursery or garden centre. Choose a firm, plump root with tight skin and several buds. Cut the root in sections per bud — these will grow into individual plants.
Soak the ginger root in warm water overnight, then plant it eye bud pointing up in a shallow, wide plant pot, because ginger roots grow horizontally. Cover the root with 1-2 inches of soil. Place the pot in a warm spot that’s not exposed to too much bright light, and keep the soil moist, but don’t over water.
It will take a while before you can enjoy your first harvest, so be patient. After 2-3 weeks, you should see some shoots, and after a few months, you can harvest small pieces of ginger. Cut out small amounts of stems at the edge of the pot and replace the soil so it keeps growing.
Want to grow your own herb garden at home? Make it grow with these helpful tips!