If you love Thai food but lament that pandanus leaves and pineapple can't be grown easily in Arizona, cheer up! A recent trip to some cooking schools in Thailand brought me the revelation that in fact, there are many herbs and ingredients you can grow right in your backyard. Even better news, many of them can be planted or started in the spring. Rejoice, and get planting and cooking.
See also: 5 Ways to Cook and Bake with Citrus
Lemongrass Lemongrass is a tropical plant that will grow in Phoenix. It grows to about two feet tall, so be sure to plant it near the back or center of a container or raised bed. It can be used in many chicken based recipes or dried and make into a tea. Avoid full afternoon sun and all you need to do when it's time to harvest it pull out the stems. Lemongrass grows fast to be sure to harvest or pull some up periodically to avoid crowding.
Thai Basil This one's easy. Basil typically loves heat and there's no shortage of sun here in the Valley. You'll want to grow many types of basil (like holy basil) to keep up with all sort of Thai recipes, but "Thai Basil" is one of the more common types used. The best part about growing it yourself is that you'll have the flower on top, which is commonly used in fancy garnishes in Thai food as well.
Kaffir Limes Although you could grow many types of limes here in the Phoenix area, Kaffir limes and especially their leaves are key to many Thai dishes. There's nothing better than the scent of the leaves- to use, be sure to remove the step and either fold the leaf in two and rip or role like a cigarette and chop. They grow well in sandy soils but can be sensitive to frost.
Green onion / spring onion Another popular veggie used in recipes and as a fancy garnish, spring onions like the "White Lisbon" variety are easy to grow and delicious when harvested while young before the bulb swells.
Cilantro/Coriander root Most gardeners have grown cilantro at one time or another, but some Thai dishes also call for the root, which is easy to come by if you grow your own. Be careful where you plant it, cilantro can grow and take over a section of a raised bed quickly. It does best when planted from a starter plant. Starting from seed is tricky.
For a challenge: pea eggplants and ginger Some folks have had luck growing pea eggplants (small, round, green eggplants used in red curry) and ginger here in the valley. Ginger can sometimes do well when grown indoors since they like humidity. If you're up for a challenge try your hand at growing these ingredients.
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