Growing your own herbs is a great idea. Fresh herbs take your food flavors to another level. Not only is it inexpensive to have an herb garden, it’s very convenient just to go out to your garden and snip away. Who wants to pay for herbs at the grocery store when you can grow them for practically nothing? Herbs take up little space, you can do this on a patio or even a balcony. I grow all my herbs in containers or in my square foot garden. You can grow some herbs indoors, a south facing window is ideal, however it seems most of my herbs are happiest outside. Another benefit from growing your own herbs is that many can repel bugs and mosquitos. Don’t forget about all the vitamins and antioxidants in herbs, they count as your daily vegetable intake.
Most herbs love full sun, but a few can handle a little shade. Full sun is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, where partial sun or partial shade is considered 3-6 hours of direct sunlight. Don’t be afraid to use your herbs! Snipping on your herbs encourages new growth.
This is not an extensive list of every herb you can grow, but these are my favorites:
Rosemary loves full sun, tolerates hot summers well, and can grow quite large into a woody shrub that will last for years. It’s delicious with a variety of meats and root vegetables. So many uses for rosemary, but to me it really shines in marinades. Cut a few pieces off, hold with one hand, and with the other hand slide your fingers down the stem stripping the leaves off. You can then mince them up or sometimes I just add them whole to my marinades.
Thyme is my favorite herb. It prefers full sun and is a perennial. It’s a rockstar in the kitchen. It’s so versatile. I love both lemon thyme and regular. Easy to grow, it’s not fussy at all. I strip the little leaves off the stems similar to the way I do rosemary, but with a gentler touch. I also throw in whole stems when making broth and flavoring soups. Thyme compliments so many dishes! Roasted vegetables, broth, soups, sauces, rice, and many meats. Try it in about anything!
Mint, a perennial, likes partial sun or full sun depending on the location and likes a lot of water. It can be invasive and will quickly choke everything out of your garden so it’s essential to have it in a separate container. Every time I walk past my happy mint plant it calls to me to make mojitos. Another favorite of mine is adding it to lemonade or ice tea. You can choose from many varieties. Spearmint has larger leaves, great for mojitos.
Basil, an annual, loves full sun and heat. Basil is at peak flavor before it flowers. I try to always pinch buds off to keep it from flowering. My basil always grows to monster size, so I’m constantly snipping at it once its established. You can just rip the leaves up and throw them in a sauce or salad, or slice them up. To slice I stack several leaves, roll and then slice up. A perfect compliment to my garden tomatoes, it’s a great herb to many meals. My basil goes strong until we have our first freeze.
Cilantro, an annual, likes partial sun. People either love it or hate it. I’m a lover. Being that I’m from Texas, I need it. A lot. Anytime I taste salsa without cilantro I’m tempted to throw it across the room screaming what is this tomato liquid? Bobby Flay said at his cooking show in Dallas that people can have issues with it because they think it tastes like soap. So ever since then I’ve chewed on cilantro trying to find that soapy flavor and I can’t find it. Maybe my palette isn’t refined enough to find it? Coriander is the seed from cilantro. You can collect these from the flower buds, or let your cilantro reseed in the soil. Cilantro is easy to chop up and I usually include the soft stems.
Oregano, a perennial loves full sun. This easy to grow herb has 2 main varieties, Mediterranean and Greek. Oregano always makes me think of pizza, it also comes in handy for marinades, soups, sauces and stews. It pairs great with Rosmary and Thyme. I use Oregano often when marinating chicken. It’s also incredibly healthy for you, having 4 times the antioxidants as blueberries! You want to avoid the stems of oregano, strip the leaves from the stem and chop.
Chives, a perennial, like full sun. I think the grassy bundles of chives are adorable. I love to add mine to eggs, potatoes, and soups. Chives have pretty purple flowers that are also edible. I’m must confess I’ve never eaten one though. Easy to harvest, just snip a bundle with kitchen scissors and slice. The variety I grow most is onion chives.
Parsley loves full sun and is typically an annual or biennial. My favorite variety is Italian flat leaf. Great diced up in meatloaf or meatballs, it’s great to top on soups, vegetables and goes great with a variety of meats. It’s pretty much amazing on nearly everything. Pull the leafy ends from the stem and chop away! Typically you want to avoid the stems, but you can save them for flavoring soups and stock.
Some herbs, like basil, chives, oregano, and thyme, I’ve started easily from seed and with great success. Other herbs such as rosemary and mint are easier to buy as a young plant. Basil, rosemary, and mint are also incredibly easy to propagate and I will eventually get around with a tutorial on that.
That’s a list of the herbs I’ve had great success with. I’ve had a little bit of bad luck with some others. I’m looking at you lavender and sage! Maybe it was a fluke, and I’m certainly willing to try again. I have a few other herbs I just haven’t gotten around to trying yet, but they’re on my list. What are some of your favorite herbs to grow and ways to use them?