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My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2012

One of the great joys of cooking is growing your own ingredients.  There’s something so satisfying about being able to go out to your garden, pick fruits and vegetables that flourished under your love and care, and then bring them into the kitchen to create a fantastically fresh, delicious meal.

Growing up, my parents used to plant a garden filled with vegetables like summer squash, okra, and tomatoes every year.  We also had a backyard that was filled with various fruit trees and berry bushes.  My parents actually still have quite the garden and it seems to grow bigger every year.  So as I grew up, I always envisioned having a backyard like this, filled with fresh produce for the picking.  

However, living in the Bay Area has had a way of, shall we say, re-aligning those visions.  Instead of an expansive backyard filled with fruit trees or a garden with rows upon rows of vegetables, my current garden consists of a few small planters on a cozy balcony.  But amazingly enough, this small space still gives me such joy!

My balcony garden is, of course, filled with herbs used in Thai cooking.  I have planters of Thai Basil to be used when I make dishes like fragrant green curry or clams with roasted chili paste.  I have baby seedlings of Holy Basil and I can’t wait until they grow large enough to use in wonderfully spicy drunken noodles and all kinds of stirfries with holy basil (pad grapow).  And I’ve just planted seeds of Lemon Basil, which is used to transform khanom jeen nam ya from an awesome spaghetti dish into a mouth-wateringly delicious noodle curry, among other dishes.

In addition to these varieties of basil, I have the cutest little kaffir lime tree.  It produces just enough kaffir lime leaves for me to make the boyfriend’s favorite stirfried bamboo shoots, prik king stirfries, and curries without stripping it of all its leaves.  It actually just produced its first bud and I am eagerly waiting to see what it turns into… 

It’s so nice to have these fresh herbs right outside my patio door, especially given how hard they can be to find in stores.  With a little more space, I would love to try my hand at growing galanga, krachai, and lemongrass, among other Thai peppers and herbs.  But for now, I’m pretty pleased with my cozy little balcony garden. 

13 comments… add one
  • Elisse August 30, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Loved finding this- a kindred spirit! We recently returned to southern West Virginia from a trip through Vietnam, and I planted a lot of Vietnamese (and other ) herbs and greens in our garden, and they are all doing really well: Holy Basil, Asian Basil, Vietnamese Mint and Coriander, Rao Om, La Lot, Red Perilla, Tatsoi Mustard Greens, Chrysanthemum Greens, Lemongrass, Vietnamese hot peppers, etc. (Many of them, such as the Lemongrass, will come inside for the winter. Our cats Love lemongrass, however, and they ate (and killed) our last lemongrass plant, so this winter we have to find a way to cover it (a mini greenhouse…) so the cats don’t get it! With a “gro-lamp” you could set up an indoor herb garden… (As almost a joke, I planted the seeds from the tamarind candy, too, and they sprouted- so I now have 4 tiny tamarind trees. LOL) When we were on “foodie” tours and did cooking classes in Vietnam, I photographed the herbs & greens, as well as a wall painting at the cooking school in Hoi An that had the names in Vietnamese of a lot of the herbs… When we got home I “Googled” them, and found US sources for the seeds- I’m sure you can do that with the Thai herbs, too!

    • Rachel August 30, 2015, 8:40 pm

      Wow, Elisse, I’m so impressed by your garden! And I love that the tamarind seeds grew :)

  • aly September 22, 2013, 9:31 pm

    I have been having fun as well with Thai herbs. I live in NC and have Thai basil. lemon grass and a lime kafir tree growing in my garden. During the winter the lime kafir comes inside and does well in a sunny window. So fun to just go out and snip your own herbs!

  • Adrian Fleur September 11, 2013, 3:20 pm

    I love this post, and your lovely plants. I myself have a balcony crowded with nature, and Thai basil and a little lime tree are part of the mix. Who can live without those two ingredients, honestly? =)

  • Rachael August 31, 2012, 1:40 am

    Hi Rachel! I live in Oakland and I was wondering which markets carry the Thai ingredients in your recipes? I can usually find holy basil, lemongrass, and curry paste, but I haven’t had luck with dark soy sauce or gold mountain sauce.


    • Rachel September 1, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Hi Rachael – our favorite stores so far are the Lao, Mekong, and Sontepheap Markets on International Blvd and Roong Jing Jing in El Cerrito. Best of luck!

  • Rachel July 5, 2012, 7:41 pm

    Hi Lee! I found mine at Summer Winds Nursery (http://www.summerwindsca.com) in Palo Alto last year. I’m not sure what their current supply is, but probably worth giving them a call!

  • Lee July 5, 2012, 2:26 pm

    I live in the Bay Area, too, and I’d love to know where you got your kaffir lime tree – I need one! Thanks for the lovely recipes. :)

  • Adam @ Maki Zavelli June 10, 2012, 10:20 pm

    Your photos are beautiful! I want to grow Thai basil and a kaffir lime tree too!

  • Sihi May 18, 2012, 1:40 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    Been following you for a while now. Love your blog. Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! Have a little award for you over at my space. Please visit http://wp.me/p2d8L8-aH
    to view details/collect your award.

  • Rachel May 14, 2012, 8:54 am

    Thanks guys! I haven’t tried making tod mun pla yet, but it’s definitely on the list. And I love your idea of growing your own green papayas! Have to see how much more I can squeeze onto my little balcony :)

  • Ryan Maughan May 12, 2012, 10:44 pm

    Hi. We live in NZ, which I imagine is similar in climate to you…(?); we also love to grow holy, lemon and thai basils (as well as a variety of thai chilli varieties), as you can’t get any decent stuff like this in the shops…one more suggestion is to grow pawpaw trees-the climate here isn’t hot enough for them ever to ripen properly, but my favourite Thai salad, som tam, doesn’t need ripe ones! Mmmm. I started mine in pots inside and they produced fruit even when only in a pot! Thanks millions for your recipes-we love them at our house and they taste just like you get in thailand! Do you have a good one for Tod mun pla? Ryan and Veronica

  • Alyssa (Everyday Maven) May 11, 2012, 2:48 pm

    That is a great little garden Rachel! I recently started growing greens, lettuces and herbs and it so satisfying to go out and harvest some for a dish! I am planning on potting some tomatoes and cucumbers next weekend but just wish I had room for more!

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