Like many things in medicine, salt has been both praised and demonized depending on the month you read the paper, and it is hard to tell what is “good for you” or “bad for you” anymore. What experts do agree on, however, is that salt holds water – so people with either high blood pressure or heart failure are particularly sensitive to the added stress that extra water can put on an already exhausted heart. Herbs are a fantastic salt substitute that can help you increase flavor and decrease the amount of salt in your diet, and many can be easily grown in your own backyard – or even in a container on your balcony.

While the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts our last frost here in Paris around March 27th, seasoned gardeners have already started seedlings indoors to get a head start on the outdoor growing season. If you are someone who doesn’t have quite the green thumb but would like to start, allow me to introduce you to three easy herbs to grow at home that are almost foolproof, and come with added health benefits.

Thyme is well known for its antiviral, antimicrobial, and expectorant properties. Best grown in full sun, this herb requires dry soil to survive as too much moisture can damage its root system. Thyme is a low-growing plant and can be used as a ground cover among any stones you may have in your garden or between larger, taller plants. Once planted, allow it to grow for a few months before harvesting it. Best used in almost any dish – it is particularly good in meat, poultry, and vegetable recipes. Last year my lemon thyme from Blue Label Farms made it into our dinners about twice a week.

Basil is an extremely easy herb to grow and does very well in our local climate. The herb requires at least six hours of sunlight per day and unlike thyme, basil requires a bit more moisture so remember to water it once every few days. Pinching off its tops will make the plant develop in an outward direction instead of bolting and going to seed. I personally grow three or four different varieties and have both traditional sweet and purple basil for Italian dishes as well as two different types of Thai basil for an Asian stir fry.  

Rosemary is a fragrant plant with antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Rosemary plants need six to eight hours of sunlight and must be moved indoors later in the season when the temperature falls below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not too soggy. Once it is fully grown, snip off full stems to harvest the herb. Rosemary is great on the summer grill and can help add flavor in place of salt – think beef, lamb, infused olive oils, and even using rosemary sprigs as a BBQ basting brush.

Easy to grow, delicious to eat, and a good way to start adding more plants to your diet, consider adding a variety of herbs to your landscape this year.