Every aficionado of Asian cuisine knows how important herbs are for the home cook. They add distinctive flavors and aromas that make dishes you make in your kitchen more authentic. Here are 5 Asian herbs to grow in your home garden.
It’s important to emphasize that this cuisine is not monolithic, especially since it is a large continent, so the flavors of China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and the East Indies differ, but something they have in common is the creative use of fresh herbs.
Have you considered growing your own Asian herbs instead of buying them? It’s easier than you think. Read on to find out everything you’d want to know about 5 Asian herbs you can grow in your home garden or sunny indoor spot.
5 Asian Herbs to consider growing
Each Asian region dictates the predominant flavors and herbs, however, there are many cross-cultural uses of the same herb, such as coriander (whose fresh form is better known as cilantro. What we especially like is that this plant is extremely easy to grow. With little effort, you can harvest coriander seeds that you have grown on your windowsill.
Furthermore, Asian herbs contribute to the traditional style of food for each region — for example, Thai cuisine is characterized by basil, red chilies, and coconut milk.
There are so many varieties of herbs used in Asian cuisines that it’s almost impossible to compile a complete list, but the following are among the world’s favorites.
Coriander (Cilantro): Coriander is a spice that comes from the round, yellow-brown seeds of the coriander plant. Did you know that this plant is also known as cilantro and Chinese parsley? It is most often used in soups, salsas, curries, and masalas. The leaves are usually used whole, and the seeds are used dried or ground.
Thai Basil: Thai basil is the basil variety best known for its use in Thai and other Asian cuisines. It’s recognizable by its narrow green leaves with gently serrated edges and purple stems. It has a distinct taste and an anise aroma.
From time to time, the plant sprouts into pink or purple flowers. This tender perennial grows best in warm climates in full sun without danger of frost.
Kaffir Lime Leaf: The Kaffir lime leaf, also known as makrut lime, comes from a fragrant plant whose leaves are an indispensable ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes. It’s recognizable for its glossy dark green leaves. They look like two joined leaves, as one appears to grow from the top of the other.
This herb is used in dishes fresh or dried. It’s a good herb to store in the freezer. Its characteristic leaves, after crushing, release fragrant oils that exude an intense citrus aroma.
Lemongrass: Lemongrass is a plant whose application goes beyond the kitchen. Its leaves and oil are also used to make medicinal products that are applied directly to the skin or inhaled as aromatherapy for many different conditions. As a culinary herb, surely you’ve encountered it if you enjoy Thai cuisine.
It’s characterized by its distinctive aroma and pest repellent properties that can repel unwanted insects, such as mosquitoes. Native to Sri Lanka and India, lemongrass is also grown as an annual in other regions of the world.
Shiso Leaves: Shiso leaves are an aromatic herb that comes from the same botanical family as mint. This herb is used as a refreshing garnish for rice, tempura, soup, and vegetable dishes especially in Japanese dishes, among other Asian cuisines. It’s sometimes called “perilla leaf” because it has a scent reminiscent of cinnamon and cloves.
Tips on How to Grow Asian Herbs
Home gardeners don’t hesitate to grow Asian peppers, onions, leafy vegetables, and tubers, so why not these characteristic herbs? The herbs listed above are easy to grow, and best of all, seeds or starter plants are often available at garden centers. Use the type of soil each seed packet or starter plants recommend.
These herbs can thrive both in the garden and in outdoor containers. Most plants of this type need temperature and a warm climate, but they can also adapt to life in the window.
- Basic Conditions: We recommend starting from seeds as this is one of the easiest ways to grow Asian herbs. It’s best to follow the package instructions provided. Keep in mind that these types of plants need sunlight, warmth, and initial careful watering, but once established, they will be able to withstand shorter dry spells. Note that all starter plants should be planted or potted outdoors in a sunny location after the potential danger of frost has passed.
- Pests: Unfortunately, Asian herbs aren’t resistant to pests. As the best form of prevention, we suggest avoiding overhead watering. Herbs, although quite resistant, are still quite sensitive to excessive moisture and therefore can develop rust or fungal issues.
- Proper Drainage: Good drainage is one of the essential things that almost every plant in the world requires. Avoid planting Asian herbs in wet, damp soil with poor percolation, as this creates ideal conditions for fungal diseases.
- Pruning & Maintenance: It’s advisable to prune woody varieties, remove dead plant material, and pluck flowers so that the plant doesn’t bolt. This will encourage compact growth.
In conclusion …
Learning about Asian herbs to grow in your home garden can be a worthwhile endeavor. Most valuable of all, these herbs can provide some of the most interesting flavors and aromas to experiment with for the adventurous home chef.
If you want to grow your own garden with Asian herbs at home, follow our advice, and with a little effort and commitment, success is all but guaranteed.
Contributed by Tony Manhart: Tony is the founder and editor-in-chief at Days in Garden. Tony’s enthusiasm and rich experience in all things related to growing plants have led him to share his knowledge with gardening aficionados all over the world. When he is not working around his garden, Tony spends his time writing tips and tricks on various subjects related to plant cultivation and soil maintenance.
More by Tony Manhart on this site: