7 Best Herbs to Grow for Cooking at Home
When you’re ready to grow your own culinary herbs, start with these 7 best herbs to grow for cooking at home. These kitchen herbs grow well in an indoor herb garden or outdoor vegetable garden and fresh herbs will give your home cooking extra vibrant flavor.
Plant your herbs in one of these clever indoor herb garden ideas or in one of these DIY raised garden bed options.
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Kitchen herb gardens are designed to grow fresh culinary herbs used for cooking and garnishing meals. This type of kitchen garden should provide easy access so that you favorite herbs can be collected quickly and easily.
Herb gardens provide a focal point in a garden area near a windowsill or entryway. Some plants are perennial herbs and return every year, while annual herbs need to be freshly planted each early spring.
Function And Culinary Use Of The Most Popular Herbs
Kitchen herb gardens can be used throughout spring and summer for fresh picking. Some of the best herbs display decorative leaves or blooms that accent bare spaces in a garden.
During frost or in winter months, some outdoor herb plants can be brought inside and used on a windowsill that has full sunlight. Some people prefer freshly dried herbs as opposed to seasonings bought at a grocery store, due to the preservation of flavor and color.
Types Of The Culinary Herb Garden
There are two types of kitchen herb gardens: indoor and outdoor. Typically, seeds or plants are placed into the soil outdoors after the last frost. Most herbs require a sunny spot and need to be watered daily or as needed.
Kits can be bought for indoor windowsills and used in the winter months, or they can be used by those who do not have garden access or outdoor planting space. Raised or container gardens are popular types of herb gardens for new gardeners.
Effects Of Homegrown Herbs
Having fresh oregano, basil, rosemary, mint, dill, chives, thyme, sage and parsley will have a lasting effect on keeping prepared foods flavorful.
Because most herb plants continue to grow before they die off for the season, more than one handful of herb clippings should be available for ongoing flavoring and seasoning.
Most herb plants can be divided into several plants that can be shared with family or friends or traded at a plant exchange.
Considerations for Fresh Herb Gardens
Consider using freshly cut herbs from the kitchen herb garden within a few hours after trimming to keep the garnishes fresh and crisp. If fresh herbs or their leaves are left out for an extended period of time in the heat, they can wilt and lose their form.
When using fresh herbs while baking or garnishing, keep in mind the potency that may not be mentioned in most recipes.
Different varieties of herbs are cultivated mostly for flavor; however, some gardeners grow them for fragrance, health benefits, and ornamental reasons. Fresh herbs are a way to liven up any recipe; many gardeners keep a home garden filled with herbs just for this purpose.
Some gardeners utilize culinary herbs as filler plants in the garden. Herbs are versatile plants that have the ability to grow in a variety of locations, including containers for areas that lack space. Keeping an herb garden growing properly by weeding and removing extra growth will promote healthy plants that last the entire season.
So here is a list of the easiest herbs that the home cook can plant the next growing season in their vegetable garden or in their indoor herb garden. Our top 7 best herbs to grow for cooking:
Parsley Is A Low Maintenance New Plant
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb indigenous to Europe and western Asia. This hardy plant belongs to the Apiaceae family. Parsley plants develop rosette leaves in the first year and form flowering stems during the second year.
The scented leaves are aesthetically pleasing and a valuable source of vitamin C. Gardeners cultivate parsley for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. Parsley thrives in rich, moist, well-draining soil with full sun. Some species of swallowtail butterflies use parsley as a host plant.
Parsley is commonly used a garnish to add beauty to any plating.
Sweet Basil Is One Of The Most Fragrant Herbs
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L) is an annual herb native to Southeast Asia and central Africa. This widely cultivated culinary herb grows in France, Egypt, the United States, and Greece. Sweet basil is a tender plant highly sensitive to cold.
Sweet basil forms from a seed into 11- to 51-inch-tall plants with light green smooth leaves and small white flowers on terminal spikes. This Lamiaceae family plant requires a hot, dry atmosphere, full sun, and well-draining soil with low amounts of moisture. Sweet basil has more than 60 cultivars.
Basil Is Great For Italian Cooking
The two most popular basil selections for a culinary garden are Thai basil and sweet basil. Both types of basil (Ocimum basilicum) require full sun and can grow from seeds. You will need to space basil plants at least 6 inches apart.
They can grow quite bushy and reach up to two feet in height. Pop off the flowers when they appear; this keeps the essential oils in the fragrant leaves.
For a fresh pesto sauce, mix shredded basil with olive oil, grated Parmesan, and ground pine nuts. You can sprinkle basil into pasta, poultry and meat dishes too.
Rosemary Has The Best Flavor
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen perennial herb that grows in a shrub formation that originates from the Mediterranean. This Lamiaceae family plant grows to heights of 2 to 4 feet with a spread of 3 to 4 feet. Rosemary is a drought-, deer- and salt-tolerant plant.
The foliage of the rosemary plant has aromatic needle-like leaves in a grayish-green to dark-green hue. These flavorful leaves are additives for culinary dishes. Rosemary plants enjoy well-draining soil and full sun to light shade.
Recipes Using Fresh Rosemary
Mint Is A Hardy Perennial
Mint (Mentha spp.) belongs to the genus Mentha, which consists of fragrant flowering perennial plants. A member of the Lamiaceae family, mint comes in a variety of plants like spearmint and peppermint. All mint plants have very similar characteristics.
Mint plants grow to heights of 2 feet with a semi-prostrate formation. The foliage has square stems with simple leaves in an opposite arrangement. Mint prefers to grow in cool, moisture-rich shaded areas; however, mint is an adaptable plant that thrives in full sun, too.
Gardeners cultivate this herb for flavoring in beverages and food, as well as medicinal purposes. Mint leaves make an excellent garnish.
Thyme Is A Great Herb To Use In French Cooking
Thyme (T. Vulgaris) belongs to the mint family. This shrubby plant grows 6 to 10 inches tall with green leaves and purple flowers. Thyme is a perennial that needs full sun.
Harvest thyme before it flowers and use it in stews, soups, and tomato dishes. Thyme has a peppery, pungent smell. You can harvest and dry thyme, then store the dried leaves in glass-lidded jars.
Chives Is One Of The Favorite Fresh Herbs
Chives are small members of the onion family and are similar to scallions (green onions). The proper name of chives is Allium schoenoprasum. This perennial plant grows from bulbs and grows quickly. There are no leaves just long slender shoots that contain a mild oniony flavor.
If allowed to flower, the chive will produce fragrant purple flowers. Chives play a prominent role in French cuisine along with tarragon and thyme. This herb repels some insects, but Japanese beetles seem to love it.
Harvest chives by snipping the section you need no lower than 2 inches from the base with sharp scissors.
Using Fresh Herbs vs Dried
There is a great deal of difference between freshly cut and dry herbs when it comes to taste and freshness. Fresh herbs have a full-bodied flavor, and only a small amount of the plant needs to be used. With dried herbs and spices, more needs to be used to attain full flavor.
Some recipes call specifically for fresh herbs like rosemary or basil to be sprinkled across fresh pasta or bread. For homemade oils and vinegar, fresh herbs are recommended over dried varieties, as whole stems and leaves are often required to flavor-infuse the oil.
Build a Monogram Planter for Herbs or Flowers
This monogram letter planter is one of our most popular woodworking plans! We’ve done all the math to make it easy for you to build a vertical cedar planter for herbs or flowers, in any letter you choose.
More Kitchen Herb Garden Ideas
- 9 Tips for Container Gardening Success
- 25 Fantastic Indoor Herb Garden Ideas
- 30 Raised Garden Beds to Buy or DIY
- 25 Edible Garden Ideas for Growing Vegetables and Herbs