General Question

josie's avatar

Why aren't the herbs out of my garden as tasty as the ones I buy at Whole Foods?

Asked by josie (27657points) June 5th, 2014

Truth be told, I am a really good cook.In keeping with my desire to keep it fresh, last year I decided to grow herbs in a planter on my patio. They grow great, but they are not as full of aroma and flavor as the the packaged “fresh” herbs I buy at Whole Foods.
I may be doing something wrong.
What do I need to do to make them more herbal.

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21 Answers

BosM's avatar

Make sure to plant herbs in a location that provides a good amount of sunshine as many herbs require 6–8 hours of sun each day to produce the essential oils that give them a pleasant taste and aroma.

Also group plants with similar watering needs in proximity to each other and water enough to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.

gailcalled's avatar

Be specific. Which herbs?

I grow dill, cilantro, parsley, chives, basel, sage, mint, rosemary and thyme. They all taste lovely. I can’t imagine how they could be improved on. (I am about to buy a few tarragon plants.)

El_Cadejo's avatar

@josie I’ve noticed this with some of my herbs as well last year. I had a few basil plants and some tasted great, others were meh at best. What I figured out was a lot of it had to do with their soil condition and how much sun/water they got. Those that were in areas with low sun/high water didn’t do all that great. Those that were in “normal” ground dirt didn’t do nearly as good as the ones I had in pots with high quality soil.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@josie Did you fertilize the soil or are you using a high nitrogen soil?

josie's avatar

I am not that discriminating. I used Dr. Earth potting soil. Whatever that is.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Let me check it out. If it has a lot of nitrogen the herbs grow like crazy, but they aren’t as intense in flavor. Lots of plants do the same.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Very good point. Sometimes a lot of growth isn’t always a good thing. If the plant is growing a lot it is putting more energy into new growth rather than concentrating the oils it produces.

Unbroken's avatar

Hmm never run into this problem. I will remember this about the nitrogen. I will need to get new soil soon so what percentage is too much? Knowing what i do now, i will imevitably pick up the wrong brand now.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@josie That looks like it’s rich, but not too bad on nitrogen. Maybe they need more sun? How many hours a day do they get?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Unbroken Probably for herbs a 12–12-12 would be plenty. Do you know how to read the fertilizer labels?

syz's avatar

You might want to investigate an heirloom seed catalog. Many of the plants that we purchase nowadays are bred for growth rates, disease resistance, conformity, portability, appearance….any number of things that aren’t “flavor”. If they’re focusing their selective breeding on those traits, flavor takes a back seat.

Blondesjon's avatar

Have you genetically altered them yet?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’ve heard that with basil, specifically, the time of day you pick it will determine how much essential oil is found in the leaves. So if it’s true of basil, it might be true of other herbs, as well. I’m growing some basil and other herbs right now and I definitely plan on picking at the suggested time of morning to see if it helps, because last time I used the basil it didn’t seem as aromatic and flavorful as it should to me, either.

ibstubro's avatar

I think the question is akin to asking, “Why isn’t my home brew as good as the Budweiser I buy at Walmart?

#1, you don’t have the buying power of Walmart.
#2, you don’t have the resources of Budweiser.

You are planting plants or starting seeds that come in a container from…“a source”. Whole foods has someone rejecting non-aromatic plants, that then go to less discerning markets.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@DrasticDreamer Keep us posted on how that works out. I’d be interested in what you find.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Sorry, forgot to say: Early morning, according to many websites, is the best time to pick basil, so you get the highest amount of essential oils!

kritiper's avatar

Maybe not the same PH as where they were grown.

JLeslie's avatar

Maybe it is the specific variety or seed you are planting? The other answers above about essential oils, watering, sun, etc, all sound really good to me too. I know even when I buy herbs at the market sometimes the herbs are extremely fragrant and other times not so much.

You could try to grow roots from cut herbs that smell and taste good to you, and then plant them eventually. My MIL has a knack for this, my mom used to do it also when I was little. You place the cut plants in water add some love and attention and eventually the roots grow and then you can transfer them to a pot and eventually outside. I don’t have a very green thumb, so I am not sure if there is fertilizer you can add to the water or what. I also don’t know if it works for all herbs.

ragingloli's avatar

Check your Terroir.

CWMcCall's avatar

Well draining soil is critical and do not over fertilize. Regularly trim your plants to avoid thick woody stems, use those for bar-b-qing. Fresh new growth herbs are generally more flavorful just before they bloom and make sure to pinch off any blooms as flowers will drain all the plants energy unless you need to generate seeds for more plants. Try different strains of the plants as there is a marked difference in flavor and aroma of the different strains especially oregano and basil.

Strauss's avatar

@CWMcCall I have noticed that as well, especially with my basil. I have some African basil that seems to have a slightly different aroma than the Thai. I also notice the difference in the strength of the aroma.

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