5 Spices You Can Grow at Home
Expand your gardening repertoire by adding flavorful spices.
Spices are a must-have in any kitchen. Depending on how much you enjoy cooking, you may have an ample collection or maybe you rely on the basics. But did you know some spices are actually easy to grow at home? Cultivating your own is economical and a great way to participate with the cyclical process of the food and seasonings we eat. Most spices travel thousands of miles before reaching our kitchen. Homegrown will be the freshest you can get and add delicious flavors to your dishes, all while connecting you to the growing cycle.
Many of these spices can be planted in early spring or fall and will be dependent on your geographical region. You can start from seed or if you want a head start, purchase seedlings at your local nursery or garden center. All of these can be sown directly into the soil, in a garden box, or in spacious containers.
When the seeds are ready to harvest, you'll need to dry them in an area—outdoors or indoors—where there is plenty of air circulation and not direct sunlight. Afterwards, you can store your spices in reusable glass jars or containers you already have at home.
Supplies you'll need:
- Potting soil
- Compost (a natural fertilizer-optional)
- Seeds or starter plants
- Pots with small drainage holes
- Stickers or labels with the name of plant and date
- Glass jars to store spices (you can reuse spice containers)
Caraway is both a herb and a spice that has a mild anise flavor with earthy tones.
How to Grow: Directly seed or plant seedlings in the fall or spring in rich, well-drained soil. Caraway is partial to cooler weather and doesn't do well in hot or humid regions. Harvest seeds when they are light brown and plump and then hang them to dry, where there is plenty of air circulation. Once the seed pods are dry, thresh to remove the seeds.
Why They're Good For You: Caraway has plenty of fiber and several minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It is also known to aid digestion because of its carminative properties.
Cumin has peppery notes with earthy undertones. A common type has a brown hue but if you want to taste different varieties—with each one offering their own nuances in flavor—plant black, green, or white cumin.
How to Grow: Sow seeds in early spring in loose, fertile soil. Cumin needs plenty of heat and sunlight and thrives during the summer months. Seeds are harvested after the pink or white flowers bloom. Cumin seeds are picked when they are brown and then dried. You can also grind the seeds if you prefer cumin powder.
How to Use: Ground cumin and cumin seed are used in many cuisines around the world. You'll find it in curry blends, chili mixes, achiote, sofrito and even as an ingredient in pickles. Cumin is often added as a seasoning for meats, vegetables, chilies, dressings, rice, soups as well as breads and pastries.
Why They're Good For You: Cumin is rich in fiber, iron, and Vitamin C. It also has phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.
Coriander is the seed that is produced at the end of the plant cycle and the leaves are known as the herb cilantro. In Greta Britain, the herb and spice are both known as coriander.
How to Grow: Plant seeds in fertile, well-drained soil and seedlings will sprout after a week. Cilantro prefers partial shade and does well in cool weather. You can enjoy the leaves in many dishes. The seeds will be ready to harvest around 40-50 days and you'll need to dry them before storing.
Why They're Good For You: Coriander is high in minerals including, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Dill is both a herb and spice. Fresh dill is known as dill weed and the feathery leaves can be eaten. Dill seed is the name for the spice.
How to Grow: Dill prefers full sun and thrives in soil with plenty of compost. Spring or early summer is ideal to sow seeds but you can grow indoors during the colder months, as long as it gets enough sunlight. If you want a continual harvest, plant every two to three weeks. You can eat the leaves around 2 and a half months. Harvest the seeds when they are dry, flat, and oval in shape, usually after three months.
Why They're Good For You: Dill seed has several minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
Mustard seeds comes in different varieties including black, brown, yellow, or white. Each type has its own distinct flavor. Mustard is both a leafy green and a spice.
How to Grow: You can sow directly in the soil or start indoors in containers in colder climates. Mustard prefers cooler weather and well-drained, fertile soil with organic matter. Water often and ensure the soil is moist but not soggy. In addition to using the seeds, the leaves can be eaten too. When pink or white flowers form on the plant and the leaves begin to brown, you can snip the flowers for drying. Place them in a paper bag to let the seed pods continue to mature. Pods will open within a week or two when you can gently shake the bag so the seeds come loose, which makes them easy to collect
How to Use: Mustard seeds, especially the yellow or white variety, are common in pickling and curry recipes, to make your own condiment, as well as being powdered and added to mac and cheese. Seeds are often cooked briefly in oil to bring out the flavor.
Why They're Good For You: Mustard seeds have Vitamin C and a variety of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.