Growing Herbs

Civilizations have been growing herbs since antiquity, using these flavorful and aromatic plants for their medicinal qualities, flavor in foods, fragrance, pesticidal properties, and industrial applications. Herbs are considered easy to grow, and can be grown year-round within the right environment.

List of Herbs and Their Culinary Uses

If you are planting and using herbs, please be sure to learn exactly what part of the plant to use, and the proper application. This table is intended as an general information only for herb garden plants.

Herb

Uses

Angelica

Used as a sweetener; in salads; as decoration on baking

Anise

Flavor for baking, cooking, liqueurs; leaves in salads

Balm

Garnish for seafood; sweetener; used to make tea; flavor in drinks/food

Basil

Flavor for sauces, salads, meat; soothes indigestion

Bay

One leaf is powerful enough to season a pot of soup, stew, etc; leaves repel insects

Borage

Decorative on pastry; young leaves eaten in salad

Burnet

Young leaves in salads and soups, refreshing in drinks; mix with butter for flavor

Caraway

Young leaves in salads/soups; seeds add flavor to baked goods/cheese dishes/pork/lamb

Chervil

Chop for soups/omelettes; used in French cooking like parsley; add fresh leaves to salads/potatoes/poultry and fish dishes

Chives

Chop and add to salads, hamburgers, potatoes, sauces, spreads

Cicely

Use green seeds for soups and salad dressings; use roots raw or boiled (like fennel); sweetener for pie or over fruit;

Coriander

Young leaves can be used in salads/soups; seeds are ground and used in curry, on various meats, sprinkled on baked goods

Costmary

Used to make tea; use a little to flavor salads or iced drinks; repel moths

Dill

Dried or fresh leaves flavor soups, salads, vegetables, meat dishes.

Fennel

Thin slices of bulb in salads/slaws; leaves can be chopped and added to various dishes, especially citrus dishes; seeds are frequently used in Italian and Indian dishes

Garlic

Chop, crush, grate, slice and add to most dishes; different varieties have various strengths of flavor

Horseradish

Shredded/grated root is used to make sauce primarily for meat dishes

Hyssop

Leaves are slightly bitter with an intense aroma of mint; used to make tea, flavor honey, and used moderately to flavor food

Lovage

Young leaves add flavor to soup/stews/sauces/salads; stem bases are blanched and eaten like celery; leaves are used to make tea

Marjoram, Pot

Used in stuffings, sausage, omelettes, cheese dishes, soups/stews; chopped leaves are used on lamb/pork/veal. Slightly bitter compared to sweet marjoram

Marjoram, Sweet

Fresh leaves in salad; used the same as pot marjoram

Mint

Used to flavor gum, mouthwash, candy, salsa, jellies; used in iced drinks or to make tea; garnishes lamb;

Oregano

Dried, crushed leaves are used for Italian, Mexican, and Spanish dishes, including sauces/stews; sprinkled on grilled vegetables, meat and fish; combines well with garlic and spicy foods

Parsley

Used fresh or dried as a garnish on potato, rice and meat dishes; fresh parsley is used in soups, salads and sandwiches

Rosemary

Sprigs are used on top of meat dishes before roasting/broiling; added to soups, salads, stews, rice dishes; strong flavor so use sparingly

Sage

dried or fresh leaves used for a variety of meat and vegetable dishes; flavors salads, pickles, soup and stuffing; fresh leaves used to flavor iced drinks

Savory, Summer

Peppery, mint-like flavor; used in meat sauces; seasoning with beans; fresh leaves in salad, omelettes; popular in teas, butter and vinegar

Savory, Winter

Slightly more bitter than summer savory and a taste of pine. Used in much of the same uses as summer savory

Sorrel

Can be used in place of spinach; used in omelettes, soups, stuffing, potato dishes and salads

Tarragon

One of the four fine herbes of french cooking; used in chicken, fish, egg and cheese dishes; used in stews; used in carbonated drinks for flavoring

Thyme, Common

Used with lamb, poultry and tomatoes; widely used in soups, stews, and sauces

Thyme, Lemon

Used much the same as common thyme; used in puddings, custards and fruit dishes

How to Grow Herbs - Preparation

Here are the main things to keep in mind when it comes to growing herbs:

Soil

The ideal soil for growing herbs should be approximately 50% loam and 50% porous. Compacted soil does not allow room for water, air, or plant roots and should be avoided or worked into shape. In order to improve the texture, structure, and fertility of the soil, well-decayed compost is recommended. Each spring, till 1-2 inches of compost into your soil. As an additional note, most herbs grow best a soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5. Taking the time to prepare your soil for growing herbs will provide better crops.

Spacing

When growing herbs, be aware of the spacing each herb requires. Usually, herbs require sunlight, so be sure place taller plants behind the smaller herb plants. Some plants, like mint, will take over the garden, so be sure trim these herbs back regularly as they push the boundaries.

Companion Planting Herbs

Companion planting herbs is a suggested consideration when planning a herb garden. Some herbs will attract bees aiding in pollination, while some herbs will repel harmful insects. A little research before planting is suggested.

Location

Herbs should be grown as close to the kitchen as possible. Find a spot with good soil that receives at least a half day of sun. This will allow you easy access when preparing that special meal.

Watering Herbs

Soak the garden periodically, especially if you have good drainage. Most garden plants require approximately one-inch of water per week. Periodic soaking of the soil is preferred over frequent light watering. This method loses much of the water to evaporation, and draws the roots to the surface. Review the needs of your individual herbs before planting.

Harvesting Herbs

As a general rule, harvesting herbs is best done just before the herb plant blooms, which is when the leaves have the most flavor. The best time of day to harvest herbs is early in the day when aromatics are at their highest. Some herbs can just have the leaves picked while others require longer snippets taken off. Review information on your specific herbs for best growing herbs practice.

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