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Meatless Monday: Stick out your green thumb this spring

It might be flurrying outside today, but spring officially sprang in Michiana late last week. And even though it’s a little chilly to whip out the gardening gloves, planning your herb gardens or vegetable patches now will keep you ahead of the curve when it warms up for good.

Growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables is not only cheaper than purchasing produce (compare a $10 basil plant that lasts all season or all year in an indoor herb garden to roughly $3 for basil at the store), but there’s also a feeling of accomplishment when growing your own delicious produce. 

For those with a less seasoned green thumb, good starter herbs and veggies, according to BuzzFeed Life, are: 

  • Basil 
  • Chives
  • Red tomatoes 

Apartment dwellers don’t have to skirt the fun, either. Gardenista recommends checking out the sunlight situation on your patio and especially a balcony — not all plants need the same amount of sunlight to thrive. 

Before labeling the ceramic pots and going seed crazy, consider a few things: 

  • Seed vs. plant: Those who prefer to start at square one can purchase a packet of seeds and start growing indoors, then move to outside when the weather allows. Growing from the seed takes some time, so it’s best to start early so you can enjoy fresh crops all season. 
  • Do your research: Group your plants, track their growth and feed/water them accordingly, Apartment Therapy recommends. Remember, some need more TLC than others. 
  • Trim: Just like getting a hair trimming, plants and herbs need to be pruned to stay healthy, strong and abundant. Be sure to trim off flower heads and buds from herbs, HGTV reports. You can expect to trim plants back once every two weeks or so.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor (literally) by harvesting your herbs and veggies. Share with a friend, take extra yields to the office, or try herbs in a fun meatless recipe. 

Basil: Works well in pesto sauce, Caprese salad, or infuse it in a batch of olive oil — learn how on Food Network.

Tomatoes: Cook down for a pasta sauce, toss in a salad or line a sandwich on crusty bread.

Cilantro: Chop up for salsa or guacamole, just like Marshall King tried for Mod Mex guac.

Strawberries: Eat fresh, grind up in a smoothie, or scatter atop a strawberry shortcake for a sweet spring treat. 

Peppers: Grill for kabobs or taco night. Try stuffed peppers or dip in hummus for a snack, if they’re mild enough. 

Not that we’re eager to start thinking about when it gets cold again, but the great thing is that gardening season never has to end. It’s easy to preserve, can or freeze fresh herbs. Simply wash, pat dry and seal to freeze and enjoy all year long, according to Better Homes and Gardens.

What’s your favorite herb, fruit or vegetable to grow on your own?  

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