By Lynn Byczynski
Culinary herbs are a natural extension of your vegetable production. They are the perfect foil to open discussions with customers and to build relationships with chefs. Whether you enjoy fresh-picked herbs from your own garden or sell your herbs at market, here are some of the many opportunities open to you.
- Grow herbs just like vegetables. Many can be direct seeded, including basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, dill, borage. Herb seeds can also be started in the greenhouse and grown into transplants.
- Plant extra herbs to pot up and sell in spring. Individual pots, 2" or 4", are a good choice for most culinary herbs.
- Grow herb micro mix and use baby herbs in salad mix.
- Create patio containers of herbs, lettuces, and edible flowers.
- Many herb flowers are edible; display them as such at your stand.
- Market fresh cut herbs with vegetables: fresh dill alongside new potatoes; basil with tomatoes; cilantro with peppers; rosemary with winter squash. Provide recipes for less-common herbs.
- Sell cut herbs to chefs and, while you're in the restaurant, ask if the bar needs herbs, too. Many trendy cocktails use leafy herbs such as basil, mint, and lemon balm, and some high-end restau- rants make their own herb-infused spirits.
- Grow for specific ethnic cuisines: Thai basil, lemon balm, and Shiso for Asian cooking; cilantro and epazote for Mexican.
- Incorporate culinary herbs in cut flower bouquets for interesting fragrance and texture. Good for cutting: cinnamon basil, garlic chives, dill, fennel, mints, oregano, and sage.
- Use herbs as the basis of non-perishable products that you can sell year-round. Meat and fish rubs, herbal vinegars, salad dressings and mixes, and herb-flavored jellies are just a few examples of popular herb products.
Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market and the publisher of The Hoophouse Handbook.