Whether your plot is small or spacious, starting your own garden spices can be an incredibly joie de vivre and rewarding experience. Imagine having a bountiful harvest of exquisite plants right outside your door. There is nothing better than fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and tropical plants that have just been picked and are ready for consumption. Their versatility makes them a favorite of connoisseurs; complementing soups, curries, casseroles, sauces, and a variety of flavor combinations. Furthermore, they are also highly aromatic garnishings that can be used on a wide selection of recipes and cuisines.
With your tropical spice garden, anything is possible for those who fancy the aroma of fresh herbs and self-grown backyard harvest. Fancy being the next Jamie Oliver? Well, you got it. In the popular British cooking show series The Naked Chef, the celebrity chef uses herbs from his kitchen garden such as rosemary and thyme to add “oomph” to his delicious cooking.
With your own home garden spices, you can grow Southeast Asian herbs such as lemongrass and cilantro as well as English herbs that are popular throughout the country. It is important to remember that some of these herbs grow slowly, so maintaining them will require patience and time.
When grown well and lavishly, the garden spices in your tropical spice garden add a divine burst of fresh, herbal flavor to your cooking, regardless of it being a squeeze of kaffir lime for Malaysian food like laksa broth or sprigs of Rosemary as a finishing touch to that glorious wood-fired Italian pizza.
Garden spices give you a natural way to enhance the taste of a variety of dishes. In contrast to what is commonly believed, growing garden spices does not require a small plant pot by a kitchen window and an isolated space. Providing the plants with the basic needs should be enough to keep them happy.
Which herbs can you grow that are compatible with Malaysia’s climate and how should they be cared for? All of that and more will be covered in this article.
Curry leaves are fragrant herbs incorporated into most South Indian cuisine. The smooth and silky leaves have a striking green shade and are shaped like a teardrop, growing up to approximately one-and-a-half inches long. Also, aptly known as “sweet neem leaves,” they are derived from the curry tree, which belongs to the citrus family. These fragrant leaves have a lemon-like fragrance and a clear-cut, strong flavour that has been linked to anise and lemongrass.
How are they typically served?
Curry leaves are the base of a diversity of amazing dishes. They are normally found in many spice-infused dishes from around the South East Asian region, predominantly in the Southern part of India and Thailand.
Primarily, curry leaves are used in hearty dishes that utilizes Indian spices like vegetable curries, meat curries, and various stir-fries. For example, among some of the most fantastic curry-based dishes with Indian spices served in Indian restaurants are the highly popular curry chicken dish “karivepaku kodi kura” from Andra Pradesh in India, a vegetarian-friendly curry called dhal, a spicy South Indian soup called rasam, and basmati rice with curry leaves, which is both vegetarian-friendly and crowd-pleasing.
Also, curry leaves can be found in spicy coconut-milk-based Asian dishes, such as chicken rendang with toasted coconut paste.
Several health benefits can be derived from curry leaves. In addition to their traditional roots in Indian health and wellness, they are associated with Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine dates back more than 3,000 years.
The natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of curry leaves make them useful as a herbal tea or tonic.
Curry leaves contain iron that is beneficial to anemia sufferers.
Curry leaves have herbal properties that also help those with diabetes control their blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.
Curry leaves can be planted both indoors and outdoors, most suitably in a place that receives lots of sunlight. Every week, apply fertilizer to the plant and cut the leaves as needed.
Rosemary or scientifically known as Rosmarinus officinalis originates from the Mediterranean region. When it is in its natural state, it is aromatic with prickly leaves that bloom white, pink, purple, or blue flowers that last from season to season.
Apart from that, the leaf and its oil have a wide range of uses, primarily in culinary dishes and as medicine. Generally, rosemary is used as a seasoning in various dishes, like soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Rosemary-based medicine is also commonly found in pharmaceutical drugs like vitamin supplements to aromatherapy.
How are they typically served?
Rosemary is normally found in dishes that utilize plenty of seasoning, for example, Italian pizza, herb-roasted chicken, and focaccia bread that come from European countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain. In the culinary world, some of the most well-known rosemary-based dishes include garlic rosemary white bean dip, rosemary flatbreads, rosemary tea, and rosemary simple syrup.
There are a number of health benefits associated with rosemary. Some examples include:
Rosemary is commonly used in aromatherapy due to its unique medicinal and spa-like properties. As such, it is utilized for those who suffer from memory problems, indigestion, fatigue, hair loss, and a host of other ways.
When massaged to the scalp, rosemary can also increase blood circulation, which may facilitate hair growth.
The use of rosemary extract can help prevent the skin from being damaged by UV rays.
The rosemary plant must be watered properly at all times, but avoid overwatering. Rosemary does not require regular fertilizer, but if the plant looks stunted and malnourished, feed it with a good fertiliser before the new one pops out.
Known scientifically as Cymbopogon, lemongrass or other popular names like barbed wire grass, silky heads, Cochin grass, Malabar grass, oily heads, citronella grass, or fever grass, is an origin of the Asian, African, Australian, and tropical island plants in the grass family.
This aromatic herb has a strong lemon scent and is used in many Asian dishes, predominantly in Thai cooking like the zesty Tom Yum Goong, and also in most dishes in the South East Asia region such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia.
How are they typically served?
Lemongrass is an aromatic herb added to dishes to give them an extra kick of flavor. For example, such as the noodle-based dish Pad Thai, the tangy-tasting Vietnamese lemongrass chicken and skewed lemongrass satay.
Other than curries and soups, lemongrass is also used in herbal teas that have both stimulating and uplifting properties due to its aromatic herb effect. Lemongrass is a practical ingredient that can be used for poultry as well as chicken, beef, seafood dishes, and vegetarian-based cuisine like tofu.
According to studies, lemongrass has more than several health benefits, namely:
A number of folk remedies make use of it, particularly for promoting sleep, relieving pain, and increasing immunity.
Since lemongrass is rich in vitamins and flavonoids, it could help to hinder the growth of unwanted bacteria and yeast.
Lemongrass has plenty of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
It contains powerful substances that reduce pain and swelling.
It is also capable of lowering a fever.
It helps maintain a healthy level of glucose and cholesterol in the blood.
For females, it can assist in maintaining a normal flow during your menstrual cycle.
Make sure lemongrass is regularly moistened and watered when its top becomes parched. Water-based plant food will help your lemongrass thrive well and beautifully. Cut and take out lemongrass stalks once plants have grown 12 inches tall and are a half-inch wide at the bottom.
The mint plant, scientifically known as Mentha, belongs to the Lamiaceae family of plants. Although the difference between the varying species is still rather vague, it is roughly calculated that there are approximately 13 to 24 species of mint to date in the mint family. Some species are intermingled through nature as a result of hybridization.
Unlike other plants, mint naturally grows by itself. It has serrated, aromatic leaves and small purple, pink or white blooms. Mint may come in many forms and types, but every type is aromatic, regardless of glossy or fuzzy, soft or crinkled, vibrant green or otherwise. In any case, you can easily spot a member of the mint family by its square stem.
How are they typically served?
Mint, with its crisp and refreshing taste, is perfect for both savoury and sweet meals. For example, spearmint is used in many Middle Eastern salads such as tabouli while peppermint is used as an additive to food in fruit salads and fruit-based teas like orange or apple.
In Morocco, mint is predominantly used to marinate red meats such as their signature lamb dish. Mint is also used and sold in most Indian restaurants, for example, the popular appetizer, Indian mint chutney. Generally, mint blends well with vegetables such as peas, zucchini, and fresh beans, or as a marinade for summer vegetables, winter soups, fruit salads, and cheese.
The health benefits of mint have been proven by scientific evidence and research over the years. Some of them are as follows:
Mints are rich in nutrients like phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins like C, D, E, and A.
Drinking a hot cup of mint tea can help alleviate indigestion and improve irritable bowel syndrome.
Eating and drinking mint-based beverages could help improve brain function by sharpening and enhancing one’s mental alertness.
A mint-scented oil aromatherapy diffuser can also be used to treat cold symptoms.
Mint is one of the most commonly found ingredients in toothpastes and mouth rinses that are intended for oral hygiene.
Water your mint plant when the weather is dry to keep the soil slightly wet. Ensuring that it is slightly wet but not soggy is the key to growing a healthy and robust mint plant. If the soil feels a little parched below, it is best to water your plant more.
Coriander belongs to the scientific family Apiaceae. Furthermore, it is also referred to as Chinese parsley, dhania, or cilantro. All parts of coriander are edible, fragrant, and packed with antioxidants.
There are many ways to cook with this ingredient and it has tons of health benefits. Of its various parts, the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are conventionally utilized in dishes such as pungent Thai curries to herbal tasting Chinese brews. Coriander grows just about anywhere in the world, spreading across Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
How are they typically served?
The whole seeds of coriander are usually ground and toasted prior to use in cooking. Ground coriander is used to spice up dishes like curry and baked goods. Primarily, ground coriander is available in soups, stews, and dishes containing vegetables and meat. Also, ground coriander belongs to one of the many native spice blends, especially in Indian, Middle Eastern, and African cuisines.
Although coriander is not typically used in American cuisine, it is however highly sought-after in North America in recipes such as Mexican coriander rice. Also, coriander is used to garnish chicken salad.
In terms of health benefits, corianders have a great deal of significance. There are several of them, such as:
Coriander is rich in vitamins A, C, E, and carotenoids. Therefore, they are beneficial for the health of your eyes.
Research has shown that coriander can aid in preventing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and also cure conjunctivitis.
The Vitamin C in coriander can help to boost your immune system by helping to stimulate white blood cells and also boost up the levels of iron in the body.
Those suffering from diabetes can also benefit from coriander’s blood glucose-lowering properties.
In recent studies, coriander has been found to enhance insulin production by stimulating enzymes.
Keep the soil or compost in wet conditions, but be careful not to overwater as the extra moisture will make it decay – particularly in colder weather. Every few weeks, feed plants with liquid fertilizer.
In a Nutshell
It is possible to achieve both cost-effectiveness as well as aesthetic satisfaction by growing your own garden spices or tropical spice garden. Nevertheless, the best part is that you can season and give aroma to your cooking with spices from your spice garden or herb garden according to your whims – all in the comfort of your own home.