As one concerned about your family’s emergency foods, it’s inevitable that you one day wonder how to grow your own herbs.
Among emergency foods, herbs are a bit like frosting on a cake.
Let’s face it: the most critical foods in most survival food pantries can be, well, a bit boring. After all, there’s only so much room for variety, so if an emergency forces you and your family to eat a somewhat restricted—boring– meal plan for days on end, it does not make for a happy experience.
That’s why you’ll want to add herbs to your list of emergency foods.
A sprinkling of the right herbs on an emergency meal can make a world of difference between flavors that are just OK versus those that are heavenly delicious!
So as you stock your pantry, don’t neglect to include herbs in the mix for both seasoning and medicinal reasons. You can grow them indoors or out, harvest fresh crops frequently, and even dehydrate them for addition to your long-term emergency food supplies.
Choose from a Wide Variety.
Herbs can be grown from seeds or seedlings, most of which are available at your local gardening center.
You’ll find both food seasoning and medicinal varieties, plus some that are favored for their attractive fragrances or for their ability to attract pollinators. We always try to find good matches for the foods in our long-term storage supplies.
Getting Started: Sun, Soil and Water
Herbs need lots of sun—as much as 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. So be sure you find a location that meets that criterion.
If your entire yard is shady much of the day, you can still grow herbs. Bay laurel, lemon balm, mint and parsley all do well in shady areas.
In addition to plenty of sun, you will also need an area with both good drainage and good soil. Most herbs grow successfully in soil that has some type of compost incorporated into it, with an acidic-to-neutral pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Containers, window boxes and raised beds, incidentally, are great ways to raise herbs when you don’t want to plant them directly into the ground.
Seeds or Seedlings?
The decision to grow your herbs from seeds or seedlings often depends upon how soon you want to begin harvesting. Seeds take longer than seedlings, so if you’re in a hurry, start with seedlings.
Just plan on spending a few dollars more for seedlings than for seeds.
The Big Question: Which Herbs Should You Grow?
The easy answer is: any herb that fits your taste buds or other needs. If you’ve got emergency food recipes that call for herbs—or which herbs could add a new taste experience—then begin with those.
Here’s a run-down of some of the more popular herbs you might try:
Always a popular choice, basil has its own distinctive, almost pungent taste. People love it in Italian recipes especially, but also goes great with sautéed zucchini, grilled fish, or homemade pesto.
This delightfully aromatic herb is a favorite addition to soups, dried bean dishes, stews and more. It also has applications for certain medicinal needs such as cramps, aches and pains, etc.
Not just is this a great herbal tea, but chamomile is a great medicinal herb, as well. Preppers love it for its anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, anti-microbial properties, making it an important part of any well provided emergency pantry.
This low-maintenance herb is not just a beautiful part of every herb garden, but it’s also a great seasoning to all kinds of dishes—such as a topping on baked potatoes!
We grow cilantro for the distinct taste it adds to bean and rice dishes, and as an important ingredient to homemade pesto. Grows well in full sun.
Dill is another easy-to-grow herb that can be used to flavor dill pickles, potato salad, salmon and numerous other dishes.
Not only is lavender popular because of its pleasing floral scent, but many people use it as a unique taste enhancement for tea, lemonade, cookies and even ice cream.
When you want a herb with lots of peppery zing, mint is the one you’re looking for. It’s easy to grow (and an aggressive spreader), and comes in many varieties including spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and more.
Loaded with vitamin C, parsley is also a great garnish on many dishes. We use it with some of our potato and pesto recipes and would never do without it.
Rosemary always reminds me of pine or lemon, and we use it as a seasoning for focaccia, breadsticks or crackers.
This is another of those “must have” herbs that add zest and flavor to otherwise boring emergency meals. It has a rather subtle flavor with just a hint of mint, and is a great addition to roasted veggies, stews and pasta.
How to Grow Your Own Herbs? One Variety at a Time.
The most important lesson you need to remember is to find a good location that is well-drained with plenty of sunshine. After that, you just need to decide which of the many herbs you’ll grow.
Admittedly, the choices can be overwhelming. Our best advice: to grow your own herbs, just pick one or two and get started.
Do that and you’ve added a valuable asset to your emergency food pantry!