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My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013

One of my first big realizations after starting to cook Thai food at home was that I needed quick and easy access to fresh Thai herbs.  Because what is chicken stir fried with holy basil (pad gaprow gai) if you don’t have holy basil?  And how can you make a pot of hot and sour shrimp soup (tom yum goong) without kaffir lime leaves?  So I started a small garden on my balcony, dedicated to growing Thai herbs.

Last year, I introduced you to this little garden.  As you can see from the photo above, it’s small, but sufficient.  Over the past year, I’ve added a few more herbs to my collection.  I’ve loved watching them grow and flourish and relished being able to use these fresh herbs in my cooking.  Here’s an update of how my balcony Thai herb garden is doing this year:

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013

It’s hard to cook Thai food without Thai chilis.  Fortunately, my Thai pepper plant really likes its spot on my balcony and is doing great!  It never seems to stop growing taller or producing more peppers.  I’ve enjoyed going outside and picking a few peppers at a time for use in green papaya salad (som tam) and various vegetable stir fries.  I haven’t been able to use all of the chilis when they’re ready to be picked, but fortunately they freeze very well.

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013

 My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013Sadly, my Thai basil plants from last year didn’t survive one of my extended vacations.  I started over this Spring with some new seeds and they’re coming into their own.  I’ve actually already harvested this basil a couple of times for use in a green curry with Thai eggplant and my Thai-inspired cabbage salad with peanut dressing.

 My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013The same was true for my lemon basil plants….  They just didn’t like being left without any water for weeks at a time! :)  But they’ve started over nicely from seeds harvested from last year’s plants and are now doing well.  Whenever I smell the lemony, peppery aroma of lemon basil, my mouth starts to water at the thought of fish curry with noodles (khanom jeen nam ya).  So each harvest of lemon basil is used for this dish, without a moment’s hesitation.

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013This year, I decided to grow a few different varieties of holy basil from seed.  (If you’re interested in growing your own, I wrote an article about some good online seed sources here.)  It’s been fun to watch all of them grow and note their differences as they mature.  They all taste distinctly like holy basil, but are also different enough that you can distinguish one from the other.  I think I prefer the taste of the green holy basil plant on the right for many Thai dishes.

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013

My friend the grasshopper, on the other hand, has a distinct taste preference for the red holy basil variety.  He’s chewed through numerous leaves on this plant while leaving the other holy basil varieties completely untouched!

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013My little kaffir lime tree continues to do well.  I love being able to walk outside and pick a few fresh leaves for use in soups like coconut milk soup (tom kha gai)green and red curries, and the boyfriend’s favorite bamboo shoot and loofah stir fries.

My Thai Herb Garden: Summer 2013This year, I had the additional joy of watching several kaffir limes grow!  Once they were large enough, I used the fresh kaffir lime juice to make an absolutely delicious grilled prawn salad and the peel to make a bold kaffir lime tart for dessert.  And I have a few more of these limes in the freezer, just waiting to be used to make some curry pastes from scratch!

What about you?  Do you grow any fresh Thai herbs or vegetables in your garden?  Do you get as excited as I do by watching your lovely plants grow?

17 comments… add one
  • Penny milner July 2, 2018, 3:09 pm

    I lived in Thailand for 10 years + never grew anything herbal except for the basils (nothing was accepted as basil except for aniseed) folks sent me tarrogen etc but i couldn’t get flowers or fruit from lemon, orange or grapefruit- do they need cold? Could i leave them in a 711 for a couple of months? Please tell what mediterrean herbs can i grow? Going back to narathiwat in sept

    • Rachel July 5, 2018, 2:53 am

      Hi Penny, I grow these Thai herbs in sunny California. I’m not sure what would grow best in Narathiwat.

  • Angel February 14, 2015, 8:22 pm

    Dearest Rachel..I love your blog. Thanks so much for your wonderful review of Thai cuisine, your tips will be well noted. I just moved to Mexico and I would love to make recipes here but I can’t find most of the ingredients! After living in California all my life, I am missing Thai food as I had some super great restaurants in the area! I’m going to see if I can find an organic grower here or see if there are other options on finding ingredients. Meanwhile, finding lime leaves, shrimp paste, red curry paste, curry, might be interesting. Thanks so much for your recipes! :0)

  • Lee October 15, 2014, 10:49 am

    Hi Rachel , love your blog. I was lucky enough to have had my teen life in Bangkok Thailand. I lived in now called the old Bangkok Soi 21 for 5 years. I did not enjoy the most of the food, maybe be my taste buds were not ready for the wonder of the food. Now I can not get enough Thai food so I also grow my own Thai garden. I live in the south so the climate is some what the same as Thailand.. I love my lemon grass plant and my basil, hot peppers and cilantro, I have ginger and turmeric growing , I will be getting a kaffir lime leaf plant next year. I also love cooking Indian and middle eastern ..how lucky are we to have such a wonderful little thai garden in our homes. Thanks for your blog. They are hard to come by.. It is fun to read and love the pics.. Lee

  • Jonathan Hayes September 28, 2014, 11:53 am

    I’m glad to hear the garden’s doing well! I’ll look forward to your report.

  • Jonathan Hayes September 27, 2014, 11:42 am

    I love your site – very inspirational, particularly as I’m hoping to develop a Thai kitchen garden in my new home in South Florida next year. I was wondering if you’ll be doing a Summer 2014 herb garden update…

    • Rachel September 28, 2014, 6:35 am

      Thanks for your comment, Jonathan! I have been a little delinquent with the blog with lots of other real life activities going on recently, but my garden is thriving this year, so I’m definitely hoping to write about it soon…

  • daniel miller September 14, 2014, 10:42 pm

    Who took the beautiful pictures. REalLLY nice, look at the detail in the grasshopper!

  • Luz May 17, 2014, 2:13 am

    What a great site. Everything is beautifully photographed. And I looooove that you grow your own stuff for cooking.

    How long did it take you to grow the Kaffir lime? Did you grow from seed?

    Kudos. Looking forward to trying many of your recipes


  • karuna February 12, 2014, 8:42 pm

    I love yours garden but i concern where do you live it’s a United State because i live in SF i tried to grow some herb but all die.


    • Rachel February 13, 2014, 5:54 am

      Hi Karuna, I also live in the Bay Area, but on the Peninsula where there’s probably a little more sun than SF on any given day. My herbs don’t generally survive the winter, but my kaffir lime tree does just fine here year round.

  • Sisca bua August 10, 2013, 2:56 am

    Hi, just like to know if i can buy the kaffir lime seed and thai chilli seed from you.

    Thank you,

    Sisca Bua

  • Torie August 9, 2013, 4:55 pm

    Great post. I too have a little herb garden going on in my garden and love to go and collect the necessary herbs for my dishes. I need to plant sawtooth coriander to go into some of my Vietnamese dishes, although I have not seen any growing here in the UK. Am not sure how well it would cope. Glad I stumbled across your lovely blog. Best Torie

  • Irina @ wandercrush August 8, 2013, 8:14 pm

    Now that’s dedication to keeping a cuisine authentic! I love that your grasshoppers prefer holy basil… maybe they’re just particularly saintly.

    • Rachel August 9, 2013, 4:50 am

      Hehe he certainly ate like royalty :)

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