In this article, I am going to talk about my favorite herbs and link some awesome recipes where they can be used.
But before I start, let’s talk a bit about growing them yourself. Herbs may seem cheap at the store, but spending a few dollars for just a handful of herbs can add up quickly, especially if you are making a pesto or chimichurri. On the other end of the spectrum, if you only need a tablespoon of chopped mint, the rest of the bunch is likely to go bad in your refrigerator.
While full-on gardening is lots of work, growing herbs is effortless! After you plant your seeds or seedlings, you can pretty much forget about them. I leave them outside and let the rain take care of watering duties.
Tips for a successful herb growing:
Trust me, you will use them! Plant more than you think you will need. You don’t want to go through all the effort of planting oregano and then use it all on one pot of marinara!
Plant in pots.
Pots are easy to move around, you can have them near the kitchen door, but move them into the sun if they need more light. You can start them inside and bring them outside later, and you can move them in and out of the rain.
It’s fun to go outside and have options about what to put in your dinner that night! I currently have rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, mint, chives, oregano, and marjoram growing in my backyard.
Here is a photo of some basil seeds I planted about 3 weeks ago. They sprouted right up!
Basil is everyone’s favorite herb. To me, the smell of basil is pure summer! One of the benefits of growing basil is that you can grow some of the rare varieties that are hard to find in the store. Some of the available seed and seedling varieties are holy basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, and purple basil.
Parsley has a grassy flavor and is the main component of chimichuri. I use parsley when I want to add an herby brightness to a dish, but I don’t want to change the flavor too much. Be sure to use Italian flat leaf parsley, and not that curly stuff famous for being on the side of the plate at restaurants.
Love it, or hate it, cilantro is the most controversial herb out there. In my opinion, cilantro is best in Mexican, Indian and Thai dishes. The stems of cilantro have a unique flavor and are often used in Thai curry pastes. Cilantro is one herb that I would advise against growing—I have had mixed results. The issue is when the temperature goes above 80, the plant “bolts,” meaning it starts producing seeds (in this case, coriander), and the flavor changes drastically.
Thyme is an underrated herb and is often slid in with rosemary, never having its own moment in the spotlight. However, despite being the food-pun champ, thyme can really take a dish from good to great. It reminds me of a cross between oregano and rosemary, and goes perfectly with some grilled chicken or in a tomato sauce.
Rosemary has a lovely pine flavor, but if you use too much, your meal will taste like a Christmas tree! Rosemary is great with chicken, but really shines on potatoes. In the summer, use the rosemary branches to skewer meat and veggies for the grill.
It’s known for being the Thanksgiving herb, but sage really has a lot more to offer! It’s the main flavor in saltimbocca and tastes great in sausage.
I will never forget the first time I cooked with fresh oregano. It has always been a favorite of mine, and the fresh leaves just blew me away. Oregano is one of those things that I don’t buy very often, but if I happen to have it in my garden I put it in almost everything I make. Try it anywhere you use basil for an interesting twist.
Marjoram is like the floral cousin of oregano. It looks pretty similar to oregano, and tastes like eating oregano with flowers. During the summer when I have this growing, it is my secret culinary weapon to add pure summer magic to any dish.
Before I started growing mint, I only used it in mojitos. Now I cook with it often in many savory dishes. I love mint in Vietnamese food.
Chives are the most delicious grass ever. They taste like a mild mix of onion and garlic and are awesome on a loaded baked potato.
Tarragon is the herb cousin of the spice star anise. It has a floral and slightly licorice flavor. It’s commonly used with seafood and pairs really well with vinegar.
Lavender is the most floral of all cooking herbs, and has been coming into fashion lately at classy restaurants. I have seen it in everything from drinks to desserts!
Dan Whalen thought they were talking about pesto when he first heard about herbal remedies. He has been writing recipes for over 3 years on his website The Food In My Beard; check Dan’s Tablespoon profile often to try his recipes with creative international spins!