Pesto and a raft of other sauces, Italian dishes, sandwiches, marinades: Is there any dish basil can’t improve? Grow this heat-lover from seeds or small nursery seedlings in a south-facing window, and pinch off leaves as needed. Maintain a constant supply of this fragrant, versatile herb by planting new seeds every few weeks in rich and moist but well-drained soil.
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A staple of French cooking and an essential ingredient in béarnaise sauce, chervil has a mild taste (somewhere between anise and parsley) that makes it a delightful complement to eggs, fish, and steamed vegetables. Grow chervil from seed, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Chervil prefers moderate light, so try an eastern exposure. Clip the fresh leaves as needed.
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With a mild, onion-like kick, chives add color and flavor to potatoes, eggs, salads, soups, and vegetable dishes. Start with an established plant (you can purchase them at nearly any nursery), and place it in a south- or west-facing window that receives plenty of sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist, and harvest by clipping the leaf tips, leaving at least two inches for regrowth.
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The leaf of the coriander plant, cilantro lends its unique flavor to Mexican and Asian dishes as well as chili, soups, and stews. It’s a short-lived annual, so plant cilantro from seed sown every few weeks to prolong your harvest. Grow cilantro in an east-facing window where it receives morning sunshine, and water it regularly.
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Used in pickling, and delicious in egg, tuna, or potato salad, dill is also a tasty topper for salads and soups. Grow it from seed sown every few weeks for a longer harvest. Set your dill in a sunny window that faces south or west. Water only when the top of the soil is dry.
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Lemon balm, a relative of mint, has a strong, lemony flavor that is delicious paired with fish, steamed vegetables, fruit salads, and sorbets. When prepared as an infusion, lemon balm can be used to treat insomnia, tension, and indigestion. To grow this little cure-all, start with an established plant, place it in a sunny—but not hot—window, and water regularly.
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Add a sprig of mint to cocktails or lemonade, toss it into fruit salads, serve it with chicken, or brew it as a tisane; this hardy herb is extremely versatile. Start with an established plant, and grow it in an east-facing window that receives plenty of morning sunlight. Mint is hardy but invasive, so though you may feel tempted to transplant it from your windowsill to your garden, don't.
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Related to mint, oregano is a must for Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American recipes. The easiest way to grow your own is to start with an established plant. Place it in a sunny, south-facing window and let the soil dry slightly before watering. Keep your oregano growing strong by harvesting leaves; this will encourage regrowth.
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Though most familiar as a garnish, parsley also lends color and flavor to soups, stews, salads, and sauces. Start with an established plant of either the flat-leaf or curly-leaf variety, and place it in a warm, sunny window facing south or west. Harvest leaves from the outside to encourage new growth in the center, and keep the soil evenly moist to keep yourself in leafy goodness all season.
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More than just a seasoning for savory meat dishes and potatoes, rosemary's strong scent makes it a natural air freshener and aromatic addition to homemade cleaning products. This evergreen will thrive in your sunniest window if watered and pruned regularly. Rosemary grows slowly, but show a little patience and you can train this potent herb to develop into a small tree.
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Sage is a fast-growing herb, so keep it contained in the kitchen by choosing a dwarf variety. Place the plant in a south- or west-facing window where it can catch a multitude of rays, then clip and snip its flavorsome leaves as needed. Word to the wise: Don’t overwater sage; the soil should be just dry to the touch.
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There are many varieties of thyme, from creeping thyme to lemon thyme, but all have similar flavors and growing habits. To grow thyme successfully, you don't have to be much of a gardener. Simply choose an established plant, and set it in a warm, sunny window that faces south or west. Water generously during the growing months, and let the soil dry out slightly between waterings.
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