Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Herbs: the healthy hydroponic way

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Rebecca Harper of The Family Garden shows off two of their hydroponically grown living herbs, cilantro and basil. Harper from The Family Garden, a home business, grows herbs and vegetables hydroponically. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Quesadillas, filled with cheese and cilantro, are a tasty snack made with ingredients costing under $1,000.
A simple pizza made from a Betty Crocker pie crust, fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce and basil, is a favourite among children.
A salad made from leafy romaine lettuce, arugula, watercress and tomato.
From the left are cilantro, basil, arugula and dill from The Family Garden's line of hydroponically grown living herbs.

Sacha Walters-Gregory • Staff Reporter

Fresh herbs and vegetables are what The Family Garden wants to bring to your kitchen and dinner tables.

Rebecca Harper, one of the conceptualisers of the family business, has introduced a line of hydroponic living herbs. The fresh herbs are sold in containers of water with their roots still attached.

"The whole objective of hydroponic living herbs is fresh and tastier herbs for longer," Harper said about the heavenly herbs, which she encourages cooks to add to their dishes daily as the flavours are more pungent.

"When you taste something fresh from your garden, even lettuce has a taste, so that whole fresh and lovely taste that you get when you pick it from the garden is what you aim for, and with the roots still on it, that whole objective is achieved," she explains.

If cared properly, the herbs currently available in the living line - basil, cilantro, dill and arugula (rocket) - can last between seven and 10 days.

Harper said she investigated herbs that were being imported and researched whether they could be grown using the relatively cost-effective hydroponics system.

Once taken home, the plant should be placed in an open container - like a small vase or drinking glass - with water to keep it saturated and oxygenated.

Water is important

"It is very, very important to keep it in water," she emphasised, but the containers you receive are complete with care instructions. For the adventurous who want to try to grow the plant in soil, it is possible, but it takes a bit of a green thumb.

"To be honest, it's a fine balance between over-watering and underwatering it," she explains, noting that they do offer plants that are grown hydroponically but placed in potting soil so they are fit for planting in soil.

The hydroponic farming system she uses involves growing plants without soil. The plants grow in a water-based system and are fed a combination of water, essential vitamins and minerals. But most important, the process is pesticide free. An aquaponics system, which uses fish water to fertilise the plants, is also used.

As Food toured the home-made set-up built by Harper's husband, she encouraged us to pick leaves and bite into the fresh, crisp herbs. She beamed with excitement at the taste of each leaf, which leaves you thinking of the numerous flavour possibilities for your dishes. The business, which started as a home garden, gets every person in the five-member family involved - even the children, who enjoy the reaping process.

In a few weeks, they will introduce additional living plants such as watercress, spinach, parsley, and summer savoury, which is an alternative to rosemary.

The Family Garden wants to encourage especially urban families to use and grow fresh herbs in their small spaces. Harper said they have tomato plants which they are encouraging persons to plant in a bucket.

They also sell a line of cut and packed herbs that cannot be sold as living, such as oregano, garlic chives, mojito mint and marjoram.

Harper prepared some simple dishes, costing under $1,000, including the herbs which retail for approximately $320.

She prepared a garden salad with a base of leafy romaine lettuce, with which they are currently experimenting, a pizza and a quesadilla. These are recipes her children enjoy and she encourages them to eat their vegetables.

"Our children are brought up on vibrant flavours. Make those vibrant flavours by adding herbs to your dishes," Packer encourages.

The herbs are available in the following supermarkets: Super Valu, Family Pride, Sovereign Supermarket, Loshusan Supermarket, John R. Wong, General Foods Liguanea, Lee's Food Fair, Michi Super Centre, MegaMart Waterloo, Hi-Lo Food Stores: Barbican, Manor Park, Portmore, Mandeville and Montego Bay.

Get more recipes and information on their Facebook page, The Family Garden.