Edible Perennial Gardening: Herbs

If you have read any of my posts about herbs, then you will know that I always suggest starting with herbs if you are a beginner gardener. Herbs are easier to grow than longer growing plants like fruits since you are growing them for their leaves. Perennial herbs can bring you years of abundant harvests. The key to some of these herbs acting like a perennial is letting them bolt and drop their seeds for new plants to grow, others are true perennials that continue to grow from the same plant year after year. It is important to match the herb with your growing zone. Sometimes only certain varieties will act as a perennial in your growing/hardiness zone.

The first perennial edible herb I would like to cover is lavender. Lavender can add quite the floral and sometimes soapy/bitter flavor if too much is added to your recipe. You can add the flowers as a garnish to salads and berries, add to baked goods, nut cheeses, honey, dairy free ice creams, chocolates and probably the most popular way to use lavender for consumption is in an herbal tea. When it comes to lavender, I suggest buying a quality start to transplant. Once established you can harvest seeds and spread them wherever you’d like lavender to grow. Just make sure you keep them in a sunny spot and do not over water. It is best to do a deep watering versus a shorter more shallow watering. 

Chives are abundant in gardens everywhere from spring to fall. They are a great first herb to grow for everyone. If you let chives go to seed, you will see chives pop up in the next season in various places. I once found chives growing next to my backyard patio when I was only growing them in the front yard. I still don’t know how the seeds got there, I’m guessing birds or someone’s shoes. I have written about chives before because they are so abundant and easy to grow. I love adding them for a hint of a garlic/onion flavor to salads, soups, eggs, and stir-fries. You can add chives to nut cheeses, salad dressings, noodles, mushrooms and potatoes. You can grow chives quite easily from seed in a pot, container or garden bed. I suggest starting them this way as a new gardener because it will help you gain confidence with growing from seed. 

Thyme is one of my favorite herbs to use fresh or dried. Thyme is considered a moderate to  “loud” herb, you do not need to use a lot of it for a lot of flavor in a dish or recipe. Thyme can usually be substituted with oregano if needed, but if you are growing your own, you will have more than enough for fresh or dried once it is established. Thyme pairs well with basil, green beans, chicken or other protein, nut cheeses, eggplant, garlic, leeks, lemon, carrots, most vegetables and so much more. It helps blend flavors together. It is best grown in a container to help keep it contained. I have seen thyme become bush like and very large if not pruned. There are also varieties that are meant to act as a ground cover. Depending on what you are wanting to pair it with you can select a certain variety. lemon thyme pairs well with chicken or fish, caraway thyme pairs well with stir-fries. Definitely research which varieties you’d like to grow.

Sage is another great edible perennial herb you can grow. Sage pairs well with beans, especially white beans, garlic, corn, lemon, olive oil, onions, and soups to name a few. I have never grown sage from seed, but I do suggest purchasing a seedling to transplant. In the fall, cut it back and protect with straw or mulch. I have read that you should replace it with new plantings every 4-5 years. It has the most flavor just before it flowers, but remove flower stems for the best flavor. Just like the other herbs I have covered here, there are many varieties to try.

There are many more edible perennial herbs to grow in or near your kitchen garden. I hope this list inspires you to look at other herbs that may work as perennials and choose varieties you think you will like. I always suggest growing those things that you really enjoy or use a lot of in your cooking, especially when you have limited space in the garden. Growing these herbs will also save you money, allow you to have fresh cut herbs when you want and generally have the best flavor. Some will be so abundant that you may find you can easily share with others while still only harvesting a small amount. (I also suggest harvesting no more than ⅓ of a plant at any time.) Let me know in the comments which perennial herbs you want to grow in your garden.

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