Thankfully, living near the city or in close quarters doesn’t have to be a barrier to dabbling in horticulture. There are plenty of plants that are quite simple in their needs, requiring only a little time and effort before yielding an impressive and delicious return. You don’t always need a large amount of space to cultivate them either, just some enthusiasm, a little water, and some sunshine.
Watching something grow from seemingly nothing can be a thrill, as well as a way to exercise your brain and learn about the produce cycle and sustainability. When I first grew tomatoes, they turned out to be the size of peas and made for a zesty garnish on peppery pastas. Alternatively, your plants can grow and grow like my cousin’s zucchinis that ended up reaching a behemoth size filled with seeds the size of pepitas.
So if you’re sick of buying a too-big bunch of herbs for just one meal and wasting both your money and your produce, the plants below are ones that are readily available, easy to take care of, and don’t necessarily need to be planted in the ground, just in a plant pot somewhere relatively sunny. Paired with some potential recipe ideas, these plants can inspire you to grow-your-own and experiment with and learn about cultivation and flavour.
Mint is a force to be reckoned with once it gets going, with mint plants regularly sprawling and overfilling their plant boxes. Your best bet is to place them in a sunny spot inside or outside, and water and prune them back regularly (and cook with the discarded mint regularly too!).
Serve with: salads, hot tea, mojitos!
Woody and thick, Rosemary can grow into whole hedges without supervision. In a pot however, rosemary likes full sunlight and good drainage for its roots. Extremely aromatic, rosemary is lovely to have growing, even just for its perfume.
Serve with: red meat, marinades, soups, herb breads.
Basil is season-sensitive and dies out in Winter. But during the other seasons, Basil can be an incredibly hardy little plant that thrives anywhere there is sunshine. Just water it once a day and watch it grow!
Serve with: bruschetta, pesto, pizzas.
Tomato plants need a fair share of sunlight, so place these guys outside in full-sun. Regularly watering and fertilising is also a must, as is giving it a little support through staking or a trellis. We all need some support sometimes.
Serve with: everything! Really though: pastas, curries, sauces.
Incredibly hardy, chili plants are ideal for growing in containers, best placed in full sun but can also be quite adaptable to shady areas, and can withstand winter by being pruned back. Naturally, chilies can be extremely hot to the touch even without cutting them open, so it’s always a good idea to use gloves when picking. They are also incredibly flavourful even with the heat of the seeds discarded, so feel free to experiment.
Serve with: beef, beans, salsas.