On a visit to the Mission District of San Francisco this past weekend, I not only enjoyed the sunshine but also the variety of people. The crowd ran the whole gamut, from Latino families in their Sunday best, young hipsters in their weekend garb, to the homeless making due. Of equal interest was the variety of shops catering to this diverse urban population. You can find new restaurants, serving the latest culinary trends, and “mom and pop” shops, selling the day to day basics. Before spending time in a coffeehouse to relax and read a magazine, I could not help but run into one of the local Latino produce markets to pick up some fresh fruit. Looking at the impressive bins of fresh herbs and produce and the wonderful selection of dried seasonings, it dawned on me. Many of these herbs can be grown at home in your own Mexican herb garden.
Having a Mexican herb garden in your backyard means you do not have to run to the store for herbs every time you want to make your own salsa or a great Mexican dish. In addition, cooking with fresh herbs, instead of dried commercial herbs, will make your Mexican cuisine more authentic. Even though the Bay Area is a culinary Mecca, many Mexican herbs are not available in our local markets. You can grow these uncommon herbs yourself.
Your acquaintance with Mexican herbs may not go beyond cilantro and oregano. If so, build your herb garden around herbs that you know you will use and add a few unfamiliar herbs for variety. By adding a few new herbs each season your culinary taste will grow.
Selecting a location for you Mexican herb garden is very important. Herbs need full sun for good production. For the sake of convenience, the herb garden should be as close to the kitchen as possible. Keep in mind that herbs are not always the most attractive plants in the garden. Due in part to the regular pinching back required to keep them from going to seed as well as cutting off large bunches for salsa or stews. Ideally, a sunny location, close to the kitchen and in an inconspicuous part of the garden is what you are looking for. Of the three requirements, plenty of sun is the most important.
Plants for the Mexican herb garden include the following –
• Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
• Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides)
• Flat-leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum)
• Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagaetes lucida)
• Oregano (Origanum spp.)
• Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
• Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
If you want to go to the next level be sure to include some vegetables and fruits such as –
• Chayote (Sechium edule)
• Garlic (Allium sativum)
• Mexican Lime (Citrus auratilifolia)
• Onion (Allium cepa)
• Peppers (Capsicum annuum)
• Squash blossoms (Cucurbita pepo)
• Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica)
• Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
For the truly adventurous find a sunny out of the way spot for Mexican Nopales (Opuntia ficus-indica) commonly called the Prickly Pear Cactus. Nopales are wonderful served with eggs for breakfast.
If you need advice on setting up an herb garden of any kind give Lazar Landscape a call and speak to one of our designers. We can help you with the technical issues such as irrigation or building raised beds. Once the Mexican herb garden is growing and producing you will find that it will spawn many fresh culinary adventures.