Whether you want to grow a kitchen herb garden as a hobby or to save money or just for healthier eating, there are plenty of herbs you can grow in your back yard, on your patio or even in your windowsill. Fresh herbs make recipes taste even better and are great to have around for soups, stews and salads.
In picking a place to grow your herbs, keep in mind that they need a good four to six hours of sun daily. There are many herbs that you can grow to enhance your cooking. When you plant a kitchen garden, don’t only plant the herbs you know, take a chance on something else. You might just be surprised.
Here are 25 fresh herbs and other plants you can grow that are great to have handy in the kitchen.
Parsley is a mild bitter herb that can enhance the flavor of your foods. Many consider parsley just to be a curly green garnish for food, but it actually helps things like stews achieve a more balanced flavor. As an added benefit, parsley can aid in digestion. Parsley is often grown as an annual, but in milder climates it will stay evergreen all winter long. Parsley plants will grow to be large and bushy. Parsley is a good source of Vitamins A and C. (buy online)
There are several varieties of mint. You can use it in drinks like mojitos or mint juleps. Or add some mint to your summer iced tea. Mint freshens the breath and will help to calm your stomach. But if you grow mint, remember that it’s considered an invasive plant. Mint will spread and take over your garden. It’s best grown in containers. (buy online)
Dill is a great flavoring for fish, lamb, potatoes, and peas. It also aids in digestion, helps to fight bad breath and has the added benefits of reducing swelling and cramps. Dill is easy to grow. It will also attract helpful insects to your garden such as wasps and other predatory insects. (buy online)
Whether you choose large leaf Italian basis or large purple sweet basil, this plant is popular in many cuisines but is a feature in Italian cooking like pizzas, salads, sauces and pesto. Some people think basil is great for planting alongside your tomatoes but there’s no real evidence that it makes your tomatoes taste sweeter. Basil has health benefits of antioxidants and is a defense against low blood sugar. (buy online)
Sage is an aromatic herb that is great for seasoning meats, sauces and vegetables. But be careful because sage will have a tendency to overpower other flavors. Sage also helps to relieve cuts, inflammation and helps with memory issues. It was once thought to be a medicinal cure-all. Sage is an easy herb to grow and is relatively easy to care for. It’s great in your garden for attracting bees. (buy online)
Rosemary is one of the most flavorful herbs and is great for adding to things like poultry, meats and vegetables. Around Christmastime you’ll see tree shaped rosemary bushes for sale. You can bring them home and keep them for planting in the spring. The fragrant plant is a delightful scent and is sometimes used in floral arrangements. Rosemary likes its soil a bit on the dry side, so be careful not to overwater. Allowed to flourish, a rosemary plant will grow into a full-sized bush. (buy online)
Thyme is a delicate looking plant. It is often used for flavoring egg, bean and vegetable dishes. Thyme is frequently used in Mediterranean, Italian and Provençal French cuisines. Pare it with lamb, poultry and tomatoes. Thyme is often added to soups and stews. Thyme is part of the mint family. The most common variety is garden thyme which has gray-green leaves and a minty, somewhat lemony smell. (buy online)
Cilantro is also known as coriander leaf or Chinese parsley. Cilantro is perfect for adding into spicy foods like chills, and Mexican, Chinese, Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines. The seeds of cilantro are known as coriander. The plant grows early in the season and doesn’t like it when the ground becomes too warm. (buy online)
Fennel is very flavorful and aromatic, and along with anise is a primary ingredient in absinthe. Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region and does beset in dry soils near the ocean or on river banks. The strongly flavored leaves of fennel are similar in shape to dill. The bulb can be sautéed or grilled, or eaten raw. Fennel bulbs are used for garnishes or sometimes added to salads. (buy online)
In the United States and Europe chamomile is most often used as an ingredient in herbal tea. It is one of the world’s most widely consumed herbal teas. But it has also been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine for settling stomachs and calming the nerves. Chamomile also helps reduce inflammation and treat fevers. You can grow either German chamomile or Roman chamomile. The two are interchangeable when it comes to making tea, but they are grown very differently. German chamomile is an annual plant that grows up to three feet tall. Roman chamomile is a perennial, but only grows to about a foot high. German chamomile is more commonly known for its blossoms. (buy online)
No, this isn’t the Disney princess. Jasmine is part of the olive family and is native to the warmer and tropical climates. Known for the fragrant flowers, jasmine is used in tea, often as a base for green tea. It is also used as a flavoring for syrup. Jasmine plants need a trellis or a fence to climb. Making your own tea with jasmine can be a long process. You may find that it’s best to grow jasmine for the fragrance and beauty of the flowers but to purchase your tea already processed.
Grown as a condiment and for use in salads and dressings, lavender will give most dishes a slightly sweet flavor. Lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used in the United States for making lavender scones and marshmallows. Health benefits include the soothing of insect bites and headaches when used with herbs and aromatherapy. Lavender plants will survive in many growing conditions, but does best in full sun in warm, well-drained soil. (buy online)
What’s more fun that seeing the family cat go slightly berserk over the smell of catnip? But catnip is more than a feline stimulant. It can be used as a relaxing agent as well as a diuretic and laxative. If you plant catnip outside, remember that cats do love to roll in it and chew on it. But keeping catnip in your garden can also be a deterrent for rodents. If the cat’s around, the pests most likely won’t be. (buy online)
Chives are a member of the garlic family and can be the perfect complement to sour cream. Chives are mostly used for flavoring and are considered one of the “fine herbs” of French cuisine. Chives are native to Asia, but have been used as an additive to food for almost 5,000 years. Chives work well with eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish and soups. Chives are an excellent source of beta carotene and Vitamin C. (buy online)
St. John’s wort is believed to alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but should not be considered a cure. It can also help fight muscle pain. The word “wort” is an Old English word for “plant.” The plant was named because the flowers appear around June 24th which is the birthday of John the Baptist. St. John’s wort is also known as Tipton’s weed, rosin rose, goatweed, chase-devil or Klamath weed. In gardens it’s a popular groundcover since it is drought tolerant. While not used in cooking it is a well-known herbal treatment for depression. (buy online)
Garlic is always handy to have around in case of a vampire outbreak. Garlic is part of the onion family. It has been used for over 7,000 years and was known to the Ancient Egyptians. Garlic has a pungent flavor and is used for seasoning or as a condiment. Garlic is a main component in many parts of the world. Often paired with onion, tomato or ginger the flavor. Some studies show that garlic may reduce the risk of several types of cancer. Garlic is easy to plant and easy to care for.
Onions are actually vegetables, not herbs, but are used much the same way as herbs. Onions add anti-bacterial benefits to the cardiovascular and digestive systems and can be helpful in preventing or limiting cancer. Onions are often chopped or sliced for recipes or sometimes they can be the main ingredient in French onion soup or in onion chutney. Easy to grow, onions are great for planting into a spare corner of your garden or along the edge.
Ginger is a basic in Chinese herbal medicine and it serves a natural remedy for nausea, heartburn, migraine headaches and menstrual pain. Ginger is very easy to grow and you might even be able to find a start at the grocery store. Look for a rhizome (ginger root) with eye bud swellings. Keep in mind that ginger likes warmth, partial shade and most, rich soil.
Ginseng is found only in the Northern Hemisphere, typically in cooler climates. It is a root that is used dried, either whole or sliced. It has been used as an aphrodisiac, a type II diabetes treatment and has been used to treat sexual dysfunction in men. Ginseng can be a difficult plant to grow, sometimes taking five to ten years before you can harvest the plant.
Like other mints, peppermint is known for aiding digestion and freshening the breath. But peppermint is also a good source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin B. Peppermint is a hybrid mint, being a cross between water mint and spearmint. Peppermint oil can be used for flavoring, but is also useful as a natural pesticide. It has been shown to reduce the effects of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint prefers rich soil and partial shade. Like other mints, it spreads quickly, so consider planting it in containers. (buy online)
Stevia is an attractive looking plant and a natural sweetener. The added benefit is that there are no calories. Stevia is part of the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions in the Western hemisphere. While it’s a perennial plant it will only survive in the milder climates in North America. Still you can add stevia to your garden for the summer. It is also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf and is grown for its sweet leaves. Stevia can be used as a natural sweetener and as sugar substitute. (buy online)
Cloves are great for adding a warm and sweet taste to things like gingerbread and pumpkin pie. But cloves can also enhance things like split pea soup, bean soups and chili. Cloves come from the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The clove tree does best in tropical conditions and in the United States in zones 10-11. So, unless you’re in the deep South, you’ll have to purchase your cloves.
Aloe Vera is known for its soothing properties for burns or skin problems. Many people keep an Aloe Vera plant handy in the kitchen for incidental burns. But taken orally, Aloe Vera will also help with digestion, circulation and weight loss. There are over 250 species of Aloes. Most of these are native to Africa. Aloe Vera plants are very succulent and are as much as 95% water. That means they are very sensitive to frost. In warm climates, they should be in full sun or light shade. But you may have more success with this plant by keeping it indoors in a sunny window.
Lemongrass stalks can provide antioxidants such as beta carotene and a defense against cancer and eye inflammation. Lemongrass has as strong lemon flavor. You can brew it in tea as well as use it as an herb seasoning. To grow this outdoors, you need to live in at least Zone 9. Outside it can grow up to six feet high, but will be notably smaller if you grow it indoors. (buy online)
Oregano is also part of the mint family and is native to the warm climates of Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Oregano is a perennial plant but in colder climates can be grown as an annual. It is sometimes called wild marjoram and is closely related to sweet marjoram. Oregano is used for flavoring and is a staple herb of Italian American cuisine. In the United States it gained popularity following World War II as soldiers returned home with a desire for the “pizza herb.” (buy online)
If you grow your herbs indoors you can enjoy them fresh year-round. But if that’s not an option, consider freezing or drying some of your own herbs to have available for cooking year round. When you’re ready to buy herb plants, please check out our online store.