Tomorrow marks the first day of spring, which means planting season has arrived. Growing your own herbs is a great way to add fresh flavor and health benefits to your meals at home. Below are some of my favorites to grow and enjoy throughout spring and summer.

Basilis high in vitamin A and K and contains many minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Using your homegrown basil, make caprese skewers for an appetizer, pesto over whole grain pasta, or a strawberry basil jam.

Cilantroboosts heart and brain health due to its antioxidant content. Add fresh cilantro to homemade salsa, sprinkle cilantro over rice, or add chopped cilantro to a vegetable stir-fry.

Parsleyis a good source of Vitamin C and iron. It also contains oils that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For a side dish, steam cauliflower and add fresh parsley and lemon. Parsley can also be used on a garnish for seafood such as grilled salmon.

Mintis a popular culinary herb and is known for being promoting healthy digestion. Add fresh mint to iced tea or lemonade for a refreshing spring drink. You can also make a watermelon fruit pizza with sliced watermelon as the base topped with blueberries, sliced peaches, diced kiwis, and garnished with fresh mint.

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If you do not have time to plant herbs this year, know that your grocery store will also carry fresh herbs from local farms. I have included a recipe for spring fettuccine that uses the above herbs for a fresh spring flavor.

12 ounces dry fettuccine

1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

10-ounce package frozen garlic-Parmesan peas

1 cup half-and-half

3 tablespoons fresh basil, mint and/or parsley, plus additional for garnish

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Black pepper, to taste

Cook fettuccine in lightly salted water in a large pot according to package directions. Add asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain; return pasta and asparagus to pot and keep warm.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pancetta until crisp; remove from skillet, reserving butter. Add onion to skillet; cook until softened. Add wine; gently boil until liquid evaporates. Add peas, half-and-half and herbs. Simmer until peas are heated through. Stir in cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Add peas mixture to pasta mixture; toss to combine. Season with pepper. If desired, garnish with additional herbs.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 860 calories, 39g fat, 18g saturated fat, 80mg cholesterol, 88g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 15g sugar, 33g protein, 1080mg sodium.

Recipe source: www.hy-vee.com