Culinary herbs are so beneficial and easy to grow, even if you have very little space. Herbs are actually what I suggest people grow when they are just starting out as gardeners. Yes you can grow tomatoes your first gardening season, but to help gain confidence in the garden herbs are the place to start. They are also a go to for anyone wishing to garden in small spaces. You can easily grow a variety of herbs in a container on a patio or balcony. Adding culinary herbs into your growing space can also save you money. Just think about all the times you bought a pricey package of herbs and it rotted before you had a chance to use it. (Bonus: You also will cut down on packaging you bring into your home.) It is important to grow what you love and a part of that is growing things that are more costly at the store or market. When you grow your own culinary herbs you can harvest just what you need, when you need it. Culinary herbs can also have medicinal benefits. One reason I love the food/plants as medicine philosophy.
Some of my must grow culinary herbs:
- Basil – A favorite variety I love is the common Italian Genovese basil, this makes a fantastic pesto. You can easily pair it with garden fresh tomatoes. In fact growing basil next to tomatoes is suggested as they make great companion plants. Another variety I love is lemon basil with its hint of citrus. Honestly you can’t go wrong with growing any kind of basil.
- Chives – Chives are probably one of the easiest things to grow in any garden. They will come back year after year and you can also use the blossoms to make a wonderful vinegar or add them to salads as a beautiful garnish. I love that chives will be one of the first plants to pop up in spring and continues growing throughout the season. The more you use them the more they will produce.
- Cilantro – We often add cilantro to salsa with warm weather loving plants like tomatoes, but truth be told, cilantro is a cool season crop. So if your cilantro starts going to seed/bolting, try growing it earlier in the season or in a shady spot that is a cooler. This is one you’ll want to grow from seed and succession plant if you want it fresh when your tomatoes are ripe. If it gets too hot to grow outdoors, definitely grow this on a windowsill, it will do well throughout the year. A bonus of growing cilantro is that once it goes to seed you can harvest the seeds as coriander. One plant can give you so many seeds, you can either leave them whole or grind them into a powder and store in an airtight container.
- Dill – I grow dill not only for use in my kitchen, but also for its beauty in the garden. I love the color and its double umbels when it starts to flower. If you let dill go to seed, you will get more plants the following year, possibly in random places. I absolutely love adding dill to pickles and I make a fantastic chickpea and dill mash that is so delicious. I grow dill in containers, in my raised beds and even in my meadow garden. I love running my hand over it to release its scent.
- Mint – I must say upfront, to grow mint in containers only, unless you want it to take over your whole gardening space. We have rogue mint that was planted by the previous home owners at least 20 years ago and every year we battle it’s overwhelming growth. There are different varieties of mint to try, (over 600) I have grown chocolate mint and it is a great addition to chocolate desserts. Pick different varieties each year and see which you use most and like the flavor of best.
- Oregano – This may be one of my favorite herbs to grow for both its culinary and medicinal benefits. Dried oregano reminds me of my childhood. I have grown the True Greek variety for years. I have heard that after 5 years you’ll want to replace the plant because the flavor diminishes over time. Oregano can be grown in containers or straight in the garden. Keep in mind that it will return year after you when planning where to plant it. The fresh leaves pack a potent flavor punch!
- Parsley – I suggest growing both varieties (flat leaf and curly). If left to go to seed, parsley will come back year after year, not always where you want it to. I like using the curly parsley for smoothies/juices and chimichurris. I also use the flat leaf for smoothies/juices, but also add it to soups as a garnish to salads and roasted vegetables.
- Rosemary – This is an herb where a little can go a long way in the kitchen. It is easily grown in containers and can be overwintered indoors. Take note that growing rosemary from seed may be difficult as germination can be tough. I suggest purchasing a transplant from a trusted source. If you do attempt to grow rosemary from seed, give it time and sow more than you think you need.
- Sage – Another herb where a little goes a long way. You can grow sage in containers or in the garden. I love adding sage to potatoes, soups, stews, gravies, and other hearty dishes. There are different varieties to grow, but I suggest the standard broadleaf sage. (You can also eat the flowers.)
- Thyme – You can grow thyme indoors or out in the garden either in containers or straight in the garden. I suggest growing English thyme. This is a fantastic staple herb to have on hand.
These are just some of my must grow culinary herbs. The fantastic thing about herbs is that they will give you an abundance of harvests throughout their growing season. Most will reseed and volunteers will pop up the next year. You can use any of these herbs fresh or you can make a big harvest and dehydrate them for later use. You can also freeze them by blending in a high powered blender with just enough water and pour into ice cube trays. Some culinary herbs can take quite a long time to get established, you can purchase transplants to get a head start on these. (Thyme, sage, rosemary, etc.) Whether you grow them from seed or purchase transplants, you will be so happy to have these must grow herbs in your garden or on your windowsill. I would love to know what your must grow culinary herbs are, let me know in the comments!