LIFE | MELINDA MYERS: Homegrown garnishes add flavor, nutrition and eye appeal to meals

By Melinda Myers

Make your meals just a bit more special with homegrown garnishes.  You invest time and money growing, purchasing, and preparing quality ingredients. But do not stop there.  Add a nutritional and decorative flair as you plate your meal by adding a garnish of homegrown herbs. 
 

Parsley is a traditional garnish that is usually left behind on the plate.  But the dark green leaves should not be ignored.  This herb is high in Vitamin C and A, has cancer and inflammatory disease fighting qualities, and promotes heart health.  A perfect fit for your healthful eating goals. Although the curly varieties add texture to your plantings and plate, you and your guests may find the milder flavor of the flat leafed variety more palatable.  All this and it helps freshen your breath too. 

A sprig of mint looks good next to or on top of most desserts.  Its cool flavor will help settle your stomach – an asset when we overindulge.  Like parsley, it is high in Vitamin C and A and helps in the fight against cancer and inflammatory diseases.  In addition, it relieves breathing problems. 

And the best part; both are easy to grow right in your kitchen window. Start by purchasing healthy plants from your local garden center or the produce section of your grocery store. 

Plant them in separate containers or together with other herbs in a larger pot.  Either way, make sure the container has drainage holes and a saucer to protect the windowsill or furniture it sits upon.  Gently loosen any tangled or girdling roots before planting your herbs in a well-drained quality potting mix.  Plant them at the same depth they were growing in their original pots. 

Grow these and other herbs in a sunny window.  Add a grow light to boost productivity or grow your garden in lower light locations. New LED plant lights are now more affordable and use less energy. Water the soil thoroughly after planting and whenever it is slightly dry.  Be sure to pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer to avoid root rot. Another option is to add pebbles to the saucer, elevating the container above any excess water that remains.

Use kitchen shears or pruners to harvest the herbs.  Cut mint just above a set of leaves and parsley at the base of the stem.  Trim the sprigs as needed to dress up your holiday meals. 

Your guests will be thrilled and more likely to take a bite of these healthful garnishes when they discover you grew them yourself.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has 30 years of horticulture experience and written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening.  Myers is the host of The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

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