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Spice of life


Story by Bailey Gilliam

Take a culinary trip around the world by growing flavorful herbs and spices prized by different cultures in faraway lands. Multicultural horticulture can be cultivated in your yard or on your kitchen counter and can bring an international aroma and a savory kick to your homegrown cuisine. From basic basil to pungent ginger, freshly harvested seasonings can transform your meals and transport your taste buds. Spice is the variety of life, so get ready to taste the difference.


Cuisine: Thai
Flavor: Sweet and savory taste profile with peppery and minty undertones.
Dishes: Spicy Thai basil, basil chicken, basil beef, mango salad, Panang curry
Plant: In summer outdoors or when the temperature is above 50 degrees
Harvest: Start picking basil leaves as soon as the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. If you pick regularly, 12 basil plants can produce four to six cups of leaves per week.
Storage: The best method is to package whole or chopped leaves in airtight, resealable plastic bags and place them in the freezer.


Cuisine: Scandinavian
Flavor: Herbal warmth like a fragrant cross between eucalyptus, mint and pepper.
Dishes: Swedish meatballs, cardamom buns and bread, cardamom ice cream, blueberry soup, smoked salmon
Plant: Anytime if above 50 degrees
Harvest: At the base of the stalks, the plant forms long bracts of flowers that develop into seed pods that can be harvested by hand in the fall, 30-40 days after flowering.
Storage: Thoroughly wash the harvested pods, removing stems and extraneous matter. Begin the drying process soon after harvesting to retain flavor. Dry the pods in a dehydrator at a temperature no higher than 120 degrees, or dry in the sun.


Cuisine: Japanese
Flavor: Mild onion-like taste
Dishes: Chive and egg rice bowl, stir-fried pork, egg drop soup, niratama donburi, sautéed garlic and bean sprouts
Plant: Early spring, four to six weeks before the last frost.
Harvest: Once they are large enough to eat, cut from the outside of the clump about 1/2-inch above the soil to allow for regrowth.
Storage: Use fresh or chop and freeze.


Cuisine: Mexican
Flavor: A stronger version of parsley, with a tangy citrus flavor.
Dishes: Cilantro lime shrimp, cilantro sauce, cilantro lime chicken tacos, cilantro lime rice
Plant: Spring or fall; the plant will bolt if planted in summer.
Harvest: Harvest while it is low. When the cilantro grows its stalk, cut off the plant after the seeds drop and let it self-seed. The large leaves can be cut individually from the plants. For the smaller leaves, cut them off 1-1/2 to 2 inches above the crown.
Storage: To store the seeds, called coriander, cut off the seed heads when the plant begins to turn brown, put them in a paper bag, hang the bag until the plant dries and the seeds fall off, and then store the seeds in sealed containers. To store cilantro leaves, you can either freeze or dry them.


Cuisine: Italian
Flavor: Robust with a peppery bite and a sweet, almost minty aroma
Dishes: Lemon oregano pesto, Oregano tomato sauce, Italian beef stew, Italian seasoning, pizza
Plant: Anytime in spring
Harvest: Harvest the leaves with sharp shears as you need them once the plant is several inches tall.
Storage: You can freeze the leaves to use during the winter. It is easily dried and lasts for months if kept in an airtight container.


Cuisine: Greek
Flavor: Deliciously fresh, citrus-like taste, with a slightly grassy undertone
Dishes: Tzatziki sauce, Mediterranean grilled chicken, arakas, lemon dill orzo, lentil Greek salad
Plant: Begin sowing seeds after the danger of spring frost has passed. You can harvest several crops during the summer and fall by planting seeds every two to three weeks through midsummer.
Harvest: Harvest foliage anytime during the growing season until the umbrella-like flower clusters open. To harvest the seeds, cut the flower stalks just before the seeds begin to ripen and turn a tan color.
Storage: If using fresh, do so quickly after harvesting; seeds and leaves can be dried.


Cuisine: Korean
Flavor: Sweet, herbaceous, pungent with slight sulfurous notes
Dishes: Pickled garlic, cream cheese garlic bread, garlic sesame kimchi, soy garlic fried chicken, egg fried rice
Plant: Plant in the fall between September and November or in the spring.
Harvest: The following summer look for yellowing foliage.
Storage: Dry bulbs by hanging upside down in a dry place for two weeks, then brush off dirt, trim roots to 1/4-inch, cut tops to 1-2 inches and store in a dark, dry place for several months; do not refrigerate.


Cuisine: Chinese
Flavor: Slightly peppery and sweet, with a pungent and spicy aroma
Dishes: Ginger chicken, hot and sour soup, ginger beef, ginger-soy steamed fish, ginger tea
Plant: Year-round
Harvest: Eight months after planting the root, wait until your ginger plant stems have died and the soil has dried out before you harvest.
Storage: Unpeeled ginger in the vegetable crisper wrapped in a paper bag will last for up to a week, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag will last for up to one month, peeled and covered with sherry or vodka and placed in a sealed jar will last up to three months and frozen will last about three months.