A lot of recipes call for fresh garden herbs, which are not always cheep and spoil fast. Well, whether you have a patch of yard or a sunny window, you can grow those garden herbs yourself, erasing both of those store-bought garden herb problems. Here are some of the garden herbs every cook needs to grow so they can be prepared for those yummy recipe requirements.
These garden herbs are very popular toppings for a lot of dishes. From mashed potatoes to nachos to chicken dishes and everything in between, chives are a favorite finishing touch to add that extra little something to a dish. They are related to onions, but you only use the green tubular leaves for cooking. Chopping the leaves into small circles also adds to the aesthetic appeal of your cooking.
Chives like full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and moist well-draining soil, so make sure the soil you use is nice and loose. You can grow them from seeds or buy an established plant at a garden store. They are pretty common, so you should have no trouble finding these plants. When you need to use them simply cut off however many leaves you need close to the ground. The leaves take a while to replenish, so take into consideration how often you use chives to determine how many plants you need. Also, leave a leaf or two on each plant instead of wiping them out, as this could kill them.
These garden herbs have a flavor unique to them, and it is wonderful for baking. Commonly paired with chicken dishes, rosemary adds a special flavor that is easy to get hooked on. The thin leaves look great when used without chopping, only slightly rolling them to release their flavors into the dish. However, you can chop them up as well for a less noticeable texture and robust flavor.
Rosemary loves full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and well drained soil. Consider stirring some sand into the soil to help with drainage. There are some evergreen varieties, which can winter outside and still be harvested for cooking. Prune these plants regularly, which if you are cooking with them it should not be a problem, and prune directly after blooming. It is easiest to either buy an established plant or root from a cutting from another plant. This means you can buy one plant and steadily grow your rosemary plant inventory by rooting any pruned branches!
Commonly used as a garnish, these garden herbs go great with any meat. It is also a wonderful addition to pasta sauce, the slight peppery flavor adding a lot even to an already seasoned sauce. The long stems and feathery leaves of these garden herbs are beautiful while growing and while cooking with, their dainty appearance being appreciated everywhere.
Parsley is fine in full or part sun (4 – 6+ hours of sunlight) and likes moist soil, so overwatering is not so big of a worry. While you can find this plant easily in stores, it also is eager to grow from seeds. Just sprinkle the seeds on loose moist soil and in a few weeks you will have parsley sprouts. When harvesting for cooking, try to gather the older leaves first, cutting close to the ground. Otherwise, they will age too much to use and crowd out new growth.
These garden herbs have a very strong taste, as I am sure you know from dill pickles. Therefore, if you are not going to make a lot of pickles, dill is used best in potato dishes or dips. Of course, if you want dill chicken or fresh dill in your salad, please do not hesitate to let your culinary adventures progress! If you do not have dill seeds ready to harvest for cooking, which you should soon because dill blooms a lot, feel free to use the feathery leaves. They pack that flavor just as well.
Dill does best in full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and well drained soil. It attracts a lot of bugs, so make sure you are keeping a close eye on it to keep your crop safe. Dill blooms bright yellow clumps of tiny flowers, and needs pruned regularly because it is a fast grower. Unfortunately, dill only lives for one growing season, but it loves to grow, so you may well see baby dill plants popping up around where you had your dill planted last year. You may need to go to a greenhouse to find dill, or just get some seeds and sprinkle them on the soil. Look for spindly feathery leaves popping up quite soon.
This is another one of the more popular garden herbs, though you probably buy it dried more commonly than fresh. Well, having fresh oregano is a bonus ingredient for those Italian recipes. The low-lying leaves resemble the traditional mint family leaf pattern and shape, of which oregano belongs. Plus, oregano is really good for you, as it has disease-fighting properties. When harvesting, just pluck the leaves you need.
Oregano likes full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and moist soil, keeping its leaves full of nutrients. These garden herbs grow best close to the ground, as they otherwise get spindly, so prune to just a few inches tall to keep them bushy and healthy. Visit a greenhouse to find an oregano plant, or root cuttings from an established plant.
6. Cilantro and Coriander
While not everyone likes these garden herbs, there are plenty of recipes that incorporate them in beautiful ways. Many Spanish dishes include cilantro, so it is a good herb to grow. Because of its chemical composition, some people say cilantro tastes soapy, but when incorporated into recipes, the more pleasant flavors emerge. Similar to parsley, cilantro’s fan-like leaves have long stalks, so trim close to the ground when gathering for your recipe. Coriander is the seeds of this plant, which have a sweet-tart flavor and are typically ground up and used to season salsas or curries.
Cilantro can handle part to full sun (4 – 6+ hours of sunlight) and likes moist soil, making it pretty easy to grow. Buy these plants at a greenhouse and plant shortly after the last frost. Established plants bloom in the spring. Leave these blooms on the plant, as they will develop into the coriander seeds. Gather the seeds by cutting the flowers off once they have died and dried, then remove seeds and either crush or store as is.
The sweet slightly minty taste of these garden herbs has caused them to climb to one internationally popular cooking ingredient. Basil’s leaves are full of aroma, which flavors cooked or raw dishes beautifully. There are tons of basil recipes out there for all sorts of foods, so these garden herbs are a necessity. Simply pluck the larger mature oval leaves from this fast growing plant as you need them.
Basil loves full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and moist soil, a combination that can be tricky to maintain, so check on your plant regularly. Because these plants grow so fast, prune them to keep them bushy. You should be able to buy basil wherever seasonal plants are sold because of its popularity. Basil is a beautiful plant, so feel free to use it as accent plants around the house or in the garden.
We all know what these garden herbs smell and taste like; they are a popular flavor for things beyond food, like chewing gum and toothpaste. If mint’s presence in these goods caused you to never really consider cooking with it, think again. There are a lot of various mint recipes out there for all sorts of foods and drinks. The beautiful wild appearance of these leaves may cause you to overlook them, but never underestimate how wonderful mint is to cook with. Just pluck leaves from your mint plants as you need them.
Mint likes part to full sun (4 – 6+ hours of sunlight) and moist well drained soil. You can actually find mint growing wild in pastures in the US. Though there are a lot of mint variations out there, traditional mint is always a good and hardy choice. Mint spreads fast, so do not hesitate to get it under control if it gets too crazy. Prune as needed to keep it bushy and the ideal size for your garden.
An oregano cousin, these garden herbs are evergreen perennial herbs that you can plant outside and enjoy year round. Their relation to oregano means they are in the mint family and have subtle mint hints to the flavor. This is another herb you probably buy dried, but nothing beats fresh thyme. Use it in drink and meal recipes of all sorts. The leaves are tiny, so cut stalks and remove the leaves over a bowl inside for cooking.
Thyme can do well in part or full sun (4 – 6+ hours of sunlight) and likes moist well drained soil. Its beautiful foliage makes it a great garden accent as well. These garden herbs are best kept trimmed closer to the ground, so make sure they have plenty of room to spread out while giving you enough thyme for your recipes. Plus, many varieties are evergreen perennials, so harvest them at any time of year.
While these garden herbs are most known for their pleasing aromas and not so much for their flavors, cooking with sage is a fantastic culinary choice. Because the warm minty flavor is so strong, it is most often used to flavor meats, stuffings, and sauces. The long narrow oval slightly fuzzy leaves can be plucked as needed.
Sage likes full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) and moist well drained soil. The easiest way to grow sage is to buy the plants, which should be available at most seasonal garden stores. It does not grow incredibly fast, and should be pruned every spring to keep the growth young and producing good leaves.