New York Dietician Recommends Starting an Herb Garden

Posted on: April 3, 2013

Grab the Kids and Start a Spring Herb Garden

By Amy Rosenfeld, MS, RD, CDN Northern Westchester Hospital

Responsibility, patience, and respect for nature are just some of the benefits to children who start gardens. Gardening is a magical way to get outside, exercise, and learn about nutrition. Plus, research shows that children who have gardens are more likely to try new foods and develop healthier lifelong diets.

So even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, start with an herb garden this spring. Rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, herbs help to reduce inflammation. Herbs flavor our cooking without adding salt or sugar. Perfect for salads, marinades, and dips, the possibilities to use herbs are endless!

Easy growing herbs like basil, mint, parsley and thyme are family-friendly and great for cooking.

Here are 4 easy steps to starting your herb garden:

1) Pick up transplant herbs as a family from your local nursery, as well as 6” pots (1 for each herb), potting soil, fertilizer (ideally organic or compost), a small gardening shovel and a watering can.

2) Fill each pot ¾ of the way full with potting soil, adding in a few spoonfuls of organic fertilizer. Encourage your kids to get their hands dirty!

3) With your hands, make a planting well (a hole a few inches wide and deep) in the middle of each pot. Then carefully unwrap your herbs and remove from their original container. Gently press the transplant herbs into the soil. Cover the base of the herbs with more potting soil, be sure to cover all the roots leaving about 1” of space from the top of pot.

4) Water the soil until very damp. Pick a nice, sunny place in your yard or on your patio or deck and watch the herbs grow! Your child will enjoy the responsibility of checking on the herbs daily and watering as necessary. Be sure to research recipes with your kids and try to cook together as a family. To get you started, I’ve included a recipe for basil pesto below.

Basil Pesto (1 individual serving: 2 tbsp)

3 c. basil leaves, packed
2 c. baby spinach leaves, packed
1 c. olive oil
½ c.  walnuts (Note: you can substitute any of your favorite nuts)
5-9 cloves of garlic (depending on your preferences)
1 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp pepper
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare pesto:
1. Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil and cheese, in a food processor and puree until smooth.
2. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil until thoroughly pureed.
3. Add the Parmesan cheese and blend for another 10 seconds.

Ways to use this recipe:
• Toss this pesto with whole wheat pasta and veggies for a great weeknight meal
• Use as a substitute for tomato sauce on homemade pizza
• As a marinade for chicken or fish
• Use a sandwich spread instead of mayo or as a salad dressing

Tip: Freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray for easy future meals.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 80 calories, 8.4 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 122 mg sodium, 0.6carbohydrates, 1.8 g protein