Enhance your recipes and cultivate a connection with nature with herbs that you’ve grown yourself. Herbs can be grown in a large landscape or in pots on a windowsill. Whether Herb gardening is a seasonal ritual or your first edible venture, here are the essential herbs no gardener or cook should go without.
Basil (Ocimum spp.)
Basil’s bright, showy leaves and intensely sweet aroma epitomize summer gardens and dishes. Many edible gardeners start with basil, and the number of available varieties will never leave you tired of its refreshing flavor. In fall dry or freeze it for use the rest of the year. Basil grows easily from seed or nursery seedlings.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill is one of the few herbs on this list that does best when grown from seed. Sow the seeds through summer in full sun. It’s tolerant of rocky soil but needs good drainage and enough room to establish its taproot. Dill is an annual, but it can self-seed and will most likely return the following year. Cut back the flower heads and collect the seeds to plant where you want them.
Oregano/Marjoram (Origanum spp.)
Oregano is another one of those herbs that really don’t put up a fuss. Plant oregano or its milder relative, sweet marjoram, anywhere that receives good sunlight and has good drainage. Harvest the leaves just when its flower buds are forming. These plants grow well from seedlings.
Mint (Mentha spp.)
Grown in a pot by the kitchen, fresh mint refreshes everything from dressings, salads and sides to drinks and desserts with a sprig or two. It grows best in full sun to partial shade and prefers regular water. It has a tendency to spread where it’s unwanted, so many suggest growing mint in containers. Grow it from seedlings.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
New varieties are adding pizzazz to the world of parsley. Though it’s treated as a summer crop in colder climates, gardeners in warmer regions can grow parsley year-round. Be sure to choose a site with sheltered afternoons, since too much summer heat can scorch it. Plant parsley from seeds or seedlings.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum and Allium tuberosum)
Both garden chives and their larger, bolder flavored relative garlic chives make delicious and attractive additions to the edible garden. These easy to grow cool-season perennial herbs feature green tubular stems, topped with edible flowers in spring and summer. Grow them from seed and in full sun. Chives self-sow and can be divided every few years, so you’ll be sure to have them in your garden season after season.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Dive into the exotic edibles with lemongrass, using it to season soups, teas and more. This strappy plant will thrive in full sun to partial shade with regular water. Though it may die down to the ground in winter, it will revive in spring. Lemongrass does best in mild climates, or it can be planted in a container and brought inside. Plant cuttings or divisions for best results.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’)
A French cuisine staple, tarragon takes an herb garden beyond the basic. French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’) is prized for its culinary value, tasting and smelling similar to anise or licorice. French tarragon is a little fussier to grow, preferring afternoon shade and regular water, but is the best in terms of flavor. Gardeners in more extreme climates may turn to Russian tarragon or Mexican tarragon, which are easier to grow but less flavorful. French tarragon must be grown from cuttings or seedlings.
Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)
With its velvety gray leaves and soft mounding shape, sage softens garden edges and fills in planter corners. Sage requires little water once established and will produce all season long in full sun or partial shade in intense heat. Harvested leaves can be dried for later use. Be aware that not all Salvia is edible, so check before you eat. Sage can be grown from seed, though seedlings tend to produce better results.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
One of the most commonly called-for herbs, thyme is also one of the easiest to grow. Plant it in a container or allow it to spread as a ground cover. Provide sun, good drainage and not too much water, and this low-maintenance edible essential will stick around for many meals to come. Like sage, not all thyme species are edible, so check before you plant. Thyme can be grown from seed or seedlings.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Lavender tops many gardeners’ lists for ornamental value alone; resilience, drought tolerance and the fact that it’s a bee magnet only further illustrate why this sun-loving Mediterranean native is a great herb garden addition. Oh, and it’s a killer cocktail ingredient. Choose from a variety of widely available species, and plant it in containers or directly in the ground.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
It can be easy to forget that this tough-as-nails perennial is also edible. Seen cascading over rocky hillsides or potted on sun-drenched patios, rosemary is a garden mainstay in warmer climates. In regions that see freezing temperatures, or for cooks who may want their herbs closer than outside the back door, rosemary grows well in containers and can easily be brought inside. One whiff of its earthy aroma and you can almost feel the heat of the Tuscan countryside. Seeds are available, but rosemary does best when grown from small plants.