Herbs are easy to grow, disease resistant, hardy, look beautiful and are so useful in many ways. Many herbs are perennials; they re-grow every year if they are hardy in your temperature zone. Perennials can live for years. Some herbs are annuals that grow for only one season, but some annuals self seed, so new plants come up without having to plant them. Some are biennial these return every two years.
If you are lucky enough to have a herb fair in your area, they will probably have all of the herbs listed here. Herb fairs are so fun. We have one locally, sponsored by the Wabash Valley Herb Society. http://wvhsi.homestead.com/
You can also find herbs at your local garden center, or online or start them yourself from seeds or cuttings. Spring is the best time to find and buy herbs. Herb plants usually cost anywhere from $3 to $10 or more depending on the plant.
Here are some of the most commonly used herbs and some information about growing, harvesting, and using them:
Uses: There are two kinds: curly parsley, which is very mild and is used as an attractive garnish on your plate,but it also can be chewed to freshen your breath. For the best flavor grow Italian flat leaf parsley, which has a stronger parsley flavor. Use fresh or frozen parsley in sauces, soups, stews and salads, parsley is rich in vitamins.
Growing Conditions: partial shade to full sun.
Planting: Sow seeds in spring or summer.
Harvesting: Pick leaves as needed in the first year. Collect seeds and dig up roots in the second year.
Preservation: Make into Pesto, or freeze leaves. Does not hold flavor when dried.
There are many varieties, most commonly used is white sage.Native Americans consider white sage one of their sacred herbs.
Uses: Good with poultry and pork. Make a tea and gargle with it if you have a sore throat. You can make a paste and rub on teeth to whiten them, it can freshen breath as a mouthwash.
Growing Conditions: Full sun.
Planting: Grow from seed or from cuttings or plants.
Harvesting: Pick leaves before flowers appear.
Preservation: Dry leaves slowly.
Rosemary (Perennial in some areas)
There are many different varieties, but all have the same smell and taste.
Uses: One of my favorite herbs to use, I use it in my herbal blend and in herbal salt. Excellent used in cooking and herbal marinades for meat or veggies.
Use as a facial steam or make a vinegar rinse for dark hair. Add to your bath water or in potpourri, make a soap with it.
Growing Conditions: Sunny but protected from wind, and extreme cold.
Soil: Likes alkaline soil so add crushed up eggshells to the soil.
Planting: Grow from cuttings. Take a six-inch cutting and bury two thirds of it below the soil, water well.
Harvesting: Pick as needed year round. Gather main harvest before it flowers.
Preservation: Cut stems and hang upside down to dry.
Many varieties are available if you take the thyme to find them. 😉 Common varieties include old fashion thyme, English, French, lemon and variegated.Excellent for pot gardens.
Uses: For Italian cooking in sauces and pizzas. Make a tea for digestive problems.Growing Conditions: Lots of sun.
Planting: Can be grown from seed, stem cutting with a heel or root divisions.
Harvesting: use leaves anytime.
Preservation: Dry leaves, infuse in oil or vinegar.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) (Annual). There are several types of basil and they all have their own unique flavors and leaves. There is basil with small compact leaves, dark opal basil, which is a beautiful deep purple (and makes fabulously flavored pink herbal vinegar), lemon and lime basil with citrus flavored aromatic leaves, spicy Thai basil, sweet cinnamon basil, and many more. They can grow in pots and indoors if kept well watered and in good growing conditions.
Uses: This aromatic herb is used extensively throughout Mediterranean cooking. As well as adding to soups, stews and sauces, the leaves can be put in salads or used in sandwiches. Especially good with tomatoes. Use in vinegar’s and oils.
Growing Conditions: Protect from wind, cold weather (not below 50) and sweltering sun.
Planting: Sow seeds directly into pots or in the ground. These are slow to start, so you might want to start seeds indoors to get a jump on the season. You can also buy plants. Before planting outside, be sure to wait until the soil has warmed and no chance of frost.
Harvesting: pick the leaves once the dew has lifted and before the sun gets too hot, use through the growing season. Small flowers stems begin to form towards the end of summer, pinching these flowers off will lengthen the life of the plant and make it thicker. Harvest the mature plant and either use fresh or dry the plant for use through the winter.
Preservation: Can be dried, made into pesto, or a herbal vinegar. Basil Turns dark if frozen, add some citrus juice to prevent this, can also be made into an herbal oil but this should be kept in the refrigerator.
Oregano (Origanum species) (Perennial)
A favorite in Italian cuisine.
Uses: Add to Italian recipes, including pizza’s and pasta sauces
Growing Conditions: Sunny, but not scorching.
Planting: Sow seeds in spring or divide roots in fall.
Harvesting: Pick leaves anytime.
Preservation: Dried or frozen
Marjoram –. Annual in cold weather. Similar in taste as oregano, but milder.
Uses: Can make a tea for colds, headaches, gastro-intestinal and anxious conditions.
Planting: Buy plants in the spring or start from seed.
Harvest: Throughout the growing season
Preservation: Freeze or dry leaves, store in oil or vinegar.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) (Perennial)
Chives are very easy to grow, they look similar to wild onions and surprisingly, are a member of the lily family. Chives are also very decorative with pink flowers and make lovely flavorful pink vinegar. There is also garlic chives, it has white flowers. Both are lovely.
Uses: Very good blended with cream cheese! Use in salads, soups, and sandwiches
Growing Conditions: Likes the sun but will grow well in partial shade.
Planting: Divide the bulbs in fall.
Harvest: Cut leaves when needed.
Preserving: Refrigerate in a sealed bag for up to seven days. Chives lose their flavor when dried but it freezes well. Good for using in oils and vinegars.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) (Annual)
Dill is a colorful relative of fennel, but do not plant the two together because they will cross-pollinate and your dill will taste like fennel.
Uses: Known for its use in pickles, potato salad and seafood dishes! It is rich in minerals and Helpful for indigestion
Growing Conditions: Full Sun.
Planting: Sow seeds directly in the ground where you want them to grow, thinning once they come up. Plant when the danger of frost has passed and although an annual, will self-seed.
Harvest: Take small amounts of leaves, let go to seed for many various uses including herbal blends and dill pickles..
Preserving: Make dill vinegar with flowers, freeze leaves and dry seeds.
French Tarragon (Annual)
Uses: French tarragon is used in Hollandaise, tartar and béarnaise sauce.
Growing Conditions: Sunny and sheltered. Very delicate. Cannot handle frost so cover if necessary.
Soil: Rich and well drained.
Harvesting: Pick leaves anytime.
Preserving: Freeze leaves or dry quickly to prevent loss of the aromatic properties. Makes very flavorful vinegar for salads or marinades.
Mint (Mentha species) –(Perennial)
Keep this plant very separate from anything else in your herb garden. Mints spread by runners and will take over given half a chance. Once mint is established, it is very hard to remove. This means mint is an excellent choice for growing in pots! There are many variety of mints; peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint are just a few you’ll find at the garden centers, herb fairs or online.
Uses: Use in potpourri; make into a tea to help with cold congestion and influenza. Steep in oil and massage to alleviate migraines and muscular pains. Add to bath water for a stimulating bath.Growing Conditions: Partial shade to full sun.
Planting: Divide in spring and fall.
Harvesting: Pick young leaves before the plant flowers.
Preservation: Dry, freeze or infuse in oil or vinegar.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) (Perennial)
Uses: Makes a flavorful tea to relieve tension, add to bath water or use as a facial steam. Use as a poultice or apply directly onto insect bites.Fresh Lemon balm leaves are good chopped into salad, soups and stews. Has anti-viral properties, and is a proponent in salves that help with herpes outbreaks, tinctures and teas.
Planting: Get a plant and you will have it forever. Not as invasive as some mints, it does not have underground runners, but does tend to travel where the seeds land.
Harvesting: Pick leaves anytime.
Preserving: Dry leaves or add to vinegar, can tincture for medicinal purposes. Make into an oil for salves.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) Annual
Catnip (Nepeta cataria), Perennial
Catnip is a member of the mint family. Some cats love this herb! Others do not. It is very calming as a tea for people too.
Uses: Make a ‘mouse’ and stuff it with dried catnip-your cats will love you for it. Catnip is also reputed to aid digestion (in humans) when drank as a tea.
Growing Conditions: Sun or part shade.
Planting: Sow seeds thinly directly into pots or start off in a seed tray and transplant to pots when seedlings are a few inches high.
Harvesting: Pick leaves when young.
Preservation: Dry the leaves or harvest the whole plant.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L. )
Plant Family: Asteraceae
Chamomile is THE nighttime tea, it has an apple-scented smell that is so refreshing and soothing . It is also used in salves, it makes a great hair rinse and oil for salves. It has pretty little white flowers with a yellow center. So happy.
Uses: Can be made into a tea to aid with sleep and digestion. Very relaxing. You can use flowers in a facial steam. It helps with sunburn, add tea to bath water to cool the heat of the sunburn. Use as an herbal rinse for fair hair. Can be made into herbal oil or vinegar.
Growing Conditions: It likes full sun or partial shade.
Planting: Sow seeds in directly in the soil. Often reseeds.
Harvest: Pick leaves anytime. Harvest flowers when fully open.
Preserving: Dry flowers and leaves, can be made into vinegar and oil.
There are many different herbs, they are amazing plants. There is so much information available online or at libraries about herbs, and it’s free! Herb clubs are very inexpensive to join and it is a great way to make friends and share herbs with others. You may find your love for herbs just continues to grow as you learn more about them them. Happy Herbing!
The information in this display is meant to be used together with the guidance and care of your physician. The information here is neither advice nor prescriptions, but herbal ideas. Any remedy – from any source – should be employed with caution and common sense. Happy Herbing!