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 backyard, on your patio, or even on 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 fresh herbs and 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.
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.
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.
Whether you choose large leaf Italian basil 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.
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.
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.
Thyme is a delicate looking plant. It is often used for flavoring egg, bean and vegetable dishes. Thyme is frequently used in the Mediterranean, Italian and Provençal French cuisines. Pair 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.
CILANTRO / CORIANDER
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.
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 best 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.
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.
French tarragon is the traditional ingredient of ‘Fines Herbes’ and is the aristocrat of fresh herbs. A must-have for any Culinary Herb Garden! It will transform an ordinary dish into a work of art with it’s spicy anise flavor. A little tarragon in a chicken salad makes a profound difference. It is wonderful in sauces, soups and meat dishes. Try it with vegetables. It is the choice for any hearty dish.
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 do best in full sun in warm, well-drained soil.
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.
A member of the Mustard family, Arugula is a leafy green that packs a peppery punch! Similar to Watercress in flavor, Arugula has edible, aromatic leaves and a spicier flavor than most greens. Often eaten raw in salads, Arugula also tastes great when cooked. If you’re adding it to a pizza, pasta, or pesto, make sure to add it last or just after the meal is done cooking to prevent the leaves from withering.
The smell of bay’s noble leaves reminds you of balsam, clove, mint, and some say even honey! Well known for its use in hearty stews and other long-simmering dishes with a slightly sharp, peppery, almost bitter taste. Add the whole leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and remember to remove them before serving. Sweet bay is native to the Mediterranean.
Lemon Verbena is a useful culinary herb, used in teas, salads, dressings, and desserts. A wonderful herb plant that will do very well when potted for container gardening or in an indoor herb garden. Made popular as a perfume centuries ago when introduced by Spanish conquistadors who had found the aromatic herb in South America. Since that time Lemon Verbena has been used in everything from recipes to soaps. Because Lemon Verbena holds its citric fragrance long after being dried, it makes a great addition to potpourris and herb pillows and can be used in closets and drawers to freshen laundry.
Chervil produces flat, light-green, lacy leaves with a hint of anise, and enhances the flavor of chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, and salads. It is an heirloom herb that was most likely introduced to European herb gardening by the Romans. Closely related to Parsley, chervil has become an indispensable herb plant in the kitchen, and a classic among herb plants in French cuisine.
A deliciously spicy culinary herb, Winter Savory adds an aromatic flavor to many dishes. Also used medicinally for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Winter Savory, like its Summer counterpart, is a spicy culinary herb from the Mint family that compliments fish, beans, and poultry with its intense flavor. Though it loses some of this intensity during the cooking process, Winter Savory remains aromatic and is often used to flavor liqueurs and makes a beautiful garnish to any salad.
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.
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 a sugar substitute.
Lemongrass stalks can provide antioxidants such as beta-carotene and a defense against cancer and eye inflammation. Lemongrass has a 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.
BERGAMOT (BEE BALM)
Gaining renewed popularity as a culinary herb, Bee Balm makes a wonderful addition to pizzas, salads, breads and any dishes that are complemented by the herb’s unique flavor. Minty and slightly spicy, Bergamot makes a great substitute for Oregano. Bergamot has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians used this hardy perennial in poultices to treat minor cuts and wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by gingivitis, as the plant contains high levels of a naturally occurring antiseptic, Thymol, which is found in many brand name mouthwashes.
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.”
A more flavorful choice than its crunchier cousin, Cutting Celery is a leafy, aromatic herb that can be substituted for celery in dishes if you want to add flavor without the stringy fibers. Often mistaken for flat-leafed Parsley, Cutting Celery has a dark, glossy leaf with a serrated edge and small sprig-like stalks. The leaves and stems can be used to add flavor to salads, vegetables, stews, and soups.