Even though the groundhog saw its shadow and climate change teases us with warm weather, spring is on the horizon.
While you’re dreaming of being surrounded by luscious greenery, prep your garden with these five Mexican herbs you can plant for spring.
The quintessential Mexican herb, cilantro is used in a multitude of Latin dishes. From tacos and enchiladas to guacamole, people either love it or hate it and how cilantro tastes is said to be genetic. Some people think it tastes like soap while others can appreciate the punch of flavor it packs in one bite. If you love it, plant it during cooler temps. Cilantro is finicky and doesn't like the heat, so plant it in a moveable pot and relocate it on hot, sunny days. And cilantro is an annual plant, it does reseed itself well, so save those seeds for next season. As for health benefits, cilantro is rich with antioxidants, vitamins, and essential oils that help lower cholesterol.
Thyme is very powerful herb where less is definitely more, and though you may not think about it in Latin cuisine, it's a got a subtle, floral taste wonderful in slow cooked dishes. Extremely low maintenance, thyme grows well in dry soil in sunny or partially sunny areas. Some people believe that the drier the herb, the better flavor it exudes, so if you're looking to punch up the flavor, dry out the leaves first. Save the stems to infuse the scent in soups and stews. Medicinally, thyme has been known to clear respiratory passages.
You may be surprised to learn that Italians do not lay the only claims to oregano. Popular in red sauces and on pizza, oregano is also used in Latin cooking. There are three types of oregano: common oregano or Greek oregano, Italian oregano, which is a blend of oregano and marjoram, and Mexican oregano, which has a peppery flavor and is grown in Mexico and Guatemala. Plant this herb in well-drained soil where there is access to the sun, and where it has room to grow and spread as the plant can take on a bushy-like form. Many gardeners flat or hang dry oregano to enjoy its warm flavor year round. The herb works well in tomato based dishes and when aired with garlic, onion, and thyme. Oregano has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in supporting the immune system and fighting cancer.
Aside from using it as a base to a mojito, mint can also be used in cooking, but only add a pinch. When used as a seasoning for meats such as lamb, fish, broths, and salads the strong, cooling flavor goes a long way and can easily overpower any dish. If you still want a minty flavor but not as intense, try peppermint as it is sweeter. Mint prefers sun but will also grow in some shady areas and is a great solution to indigestion and an irritable stomach.
Deeply rich, sweet and flavorful, marjoram pairs well with many aspects of Latin cuisine. Toss a sprig into sauces or use to give your meat some flavor. The annual plant grows slowly and does well in dry soil, so be sure not to overwater if you think it’s not growing. Hang upside down in bundles to dry and store in a glass jar with a sealed lid to preserve. Like mint, marjoram is also good for the stomach and is beneficial to skin.