Grow Your Own Thai Garden

If you love the unique spice and flavors in classic Thai dishes, try growing these plants in your home garden for extra zest in your recipes.

The people from Thailand’s neighboring countries may recognize certain spices or vegetables found on Thai menus, but the amalgamation of herbs, vegetables, and cooking methods make the food from Thailand different from all other Asian cuisine.

If you’ve dined at your local Thai restaurant, you probably love the clean complexity of foods such as green curry, slightly tart soups, or noodle dishes. This is due in large part to a Thai chef’s ability to perfectly blend the variety of tastes — salty, sweet, sour, bitter — into dishes that are distinctly and deliciously Thai.

Fortunately for gardeners, fabulous seed sources make growing some of the more exotic Thai plants possible. Though we’re not all lucky enough to grow in tropical climates, gardeners can take measures to extend the growing season in order to successfully grow most Thai vegetables. The eight plants below thrive in most zones and give Thai food its distinct flavor. Some of these plants can also be substituted for their Western counterparts in your favorite recipe. 

1. Kaffir Lime

Kaffir lime
Photo by Fotolia/jojokrap

The kaffir lime is such an integral part of Thai cuisine that almost every family in rural Thailand has a tree. Every part of the tree has a culinary or household use. However, the small bumpy limes are coveted not for their tiny amount of juice, but for their rinds, which are often grated and an important ingredient in Thai curry paste.