Make a winner out of your kitchen dinner by adding some easy to grow Asian herbs and spices and turn bland into YUM.
In this article, I'm going to give you seven of my favourite easy to grow herbs and spices we grow at home and you can as well to use in your own homemade cooking sensations!
Asian cuisine is one of the best examples there is of using herbs and spices to flavour food.
Professional foodies like to advise people to leave the protein to speak for itself and never over flavour a great cut of meat with too many herbs and spices. And this is worthy advice if you're cooking expensive produce such as premium seafood or a high-grade cut of beef. However, there are plenty of way cheaper second or even lower grades of meats that are delicious when prepared with the right ingredients.
Even today, if you travel to Asia (especially remote areas) you'll find inferior quality proteins such as tough buffalo or muddy catfish enhanced into amazing taste sensations. Of course, there are plenty of vegetarian substitutes or indeed exclusive dishes/recipes that turn bland veggies into tasty meals when transformed by the wonderfully pungent addition of herbs and spices.
My seven recommendations for easy to grow Asian herbs and spices
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# 1 – Lemongrass
This herb grows like grass because it is grass but it’s so much more than that!
Use lemongrass to flavour almost anything from curries to rice, to beverages. You can chop it finely to eat or use it whole as a flavour stick then remove it before serving or how about stuffing it and deep frying?!
Lemongrass is easy to grow, it doesn’t need much care, it’s hardy, and to multiply the plant simply pull out a piece and transplant it to another spot – we started growing ours from one small plant and now have it growing all the way down our boundary fence line to eat and also suppress other grasses and weeds.
# 2 – Galangal
Growing into a handsome HUGE clump of green, galangal is a member of the ginger family and it’s the root or rhizome that’s primarily used in cooking but it has a very different taste to ginger and therefore adds a separate layer of flavour undertones even if used with ginger in a recipe.
Galangal continues to be studied by scientists for its cancer-fighting and general medicinal qualities which have been known since the 1800’s. So it’s not only tasty it’s also incredibly good for you.
Galangal is easy to grow by planting a piece of root and then it will multiply on its own over time. Simply dig up a section of the clump to use as needed.
# 3 – Chillies
I love the diverse types of chilies that can be grown and whether you prefer the mild, medium, or hot varieties they all add amazing flavour to food regardless of spiciness.
We all know how just a little bit of chili can sometimes go a long way in a dish. Often all that is required for continued home use is one single plant in the garden or in a medium-sized pot.
Chili plants will readily self-seed and grow again – our current plants are third season/generation in the same bed – I just leave them to grow where they come up from fallen fruit that we didn’t get around to using.
# 4 – Coriander or Cilantro
I often hang up the dried plant over a garden bed for a good reason I’ll share with you in a second…
You will often see coriander leaves used as a topper or garnish for curries and Asian soups because it’s the unique smell and flavour that hits you first setting the tone for the meal.
The whole thing is edible including the roots and we often harvest the full plant using the stems and root in the recipe base with the fresh leaves thrown in at the end or used as a topper.
Yes, coriander does tend to bolt to seed quickly, however, the cilantro seeds themselves are great in cooking both immature/green or hard when dried and ground into a spice.
The plant is so easy to grow I don’t even try. Generally, I place an old dried plant up on a trellis etc to leave the seeds fall in its own time to the bed below and regrow. The little seedlings begin coming up and within a few weeks we are harvesting coriander again.
# 5 – Turmeric
Such a trendy spice nowadays! Even the city trendies love turmeric in their coffee lattes. But most of us know it as a base for curries or a spice added to pickles etc.
The reason turmeric is so popular is due to its ability to add flavour to other food and its well-documented health qualities.
Turmeric will grow from the smallest piece of rhizome or root and once you have it established in the garden or in containers you’ll have it season after season without much effort at all.
# 6 – Kaffir Lime (Kaffir Lime Leaves and or limes for juice)
This tree is grown for it’s leaves and zest rather than the juice because the fruits are usually dry and poor tasting.
However, the distinct flavour gained from the zest of kaffir limes and the leaves is world famous and many dishes would not be the same without it.
Chop the leaves up nice and fine to use in cooking or pick young tender leaves to cook and eat whole in stir-fries or curries.
If you do need some extra lime juice to go with the chopped leaves for a salad dressing for example then grow a standard Tahitian lime also and use the juice from that.
Kaffir lime trees are a hardy citrus to grow and very adaptive to different climates – it also looks good in the garden.
# 7 – Ginger
Probably the most well known out of the 7 and my favourite because it goes perfectly with just about anything stews, curries, stir-fries, dips, sauces, remedies for illnesses and is even great on its own when made into a brew or sweets.
Did you know that I grow a ton of ginger – I made a popular video about it – and it’s not because I’m this awesome gardener either – more like ginger is just so easy to grow that even a crazed bearded guy like me can do it.
Plant a piece of ginger root in some free draining rich soil and compost mix and it will grow several times the size in the one season for you to harvest at any time to use in thousands of ways.
That’s it! Those were my 7 easy to grow Asian herbs and spices for the backyard garden.
All these 7 herbs and spices can be grown in most climates – if you live in a cold climate then you’ll need to protect the plants from frost or grow them in a hothouse for best results.
All these 7 herbs and spices can be eaten fresh or preserved to use dried or infused in oils, different kinds of vinegar, etc so you can flavour your favourite foods all year round.
Turn an average cheap or bland protein or vegetable into a sensational meal by using one or indeed a combination of these 7 herbs and spices and you’ll be serving up exotic dishes from around the world in no time – grown and harvested from your own garden.
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Watch my video on 7 easy to grow herbs and spices