BasilBasil is by far my most used herb in my cooking. I love to add basil in salsas, sauces, dips, soups, and much more. There are a bucketload of basil varieties to choose from, but Sweet basil tends to be the most commonly grown. You can grow basil from seeds, or by using transplants purchased from your local garden center. Basil is highly adaptable so it can grow almost anywhere. Cut, or pinch off, flowers as they appear to promote bushier growth. Here are some popular basil varieties:
ChivesChives can be used in many ways, from adding it to soups, and dips, to whipping it into butter. Chives feature an onion-like taste, but much milder. They can grow to about 12 inches tall with a pretty purple, or white bloom on top. I love using chives as a topping for baked potatoes, or on eggs and omelets. The most common chives typically grown are:
CilantroCilantro is very common in Italian and Mexican cooking, but is also used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian meals. It has a pungent taste that complements these types of dishes very well. You actually get two uses from this one plant, as cilantro seeds are ground up and used as coriander. A couple popular cilantro varieties are:
DillDill is most famous for its use in pickling, but can also be added to soups, meats, cheese, and breads. Common dill can grow to heights reaching three feet, and may need protection from wind if it gets leggy. Dill has a long root system, so if you are planting them in containers, make sure to use one that is deep. Dill is best planted in cooler temperatures, and will readily re-seed itself. Popular varieties of dill are:
MintMint is perennial herb that has a strong flavor and aromatic quality. Mint is a very useful herb for adding to teas, flavoring ice cream, and adding to cake frosting. Mint can reach a height of about 18 inches, but spreads rapidly through the garden. Mint can quickly become invasive, so you may want to grow it in a container. It can overtake your garden if left unattended. Mint sometimes has white or light pink blooms that can attract butterflies and bees. A very popular variety of mint is Spearmint.
OreganoOregano is a drought-tolerant Mediterranean herb that has a pungent flavor which goes well with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, seafood, and poultry. It is also high in antioxidants and fiber. Oregano grows purple or pink flowers that can attract butterflies and bees. Oregano can be grown from seed, but is a slow grower. Try using healthy transplants from your local garden center, especially if you have shorter growing seasons. The most common variety of oregano is Greek.
ParsleyParsley is most popular as a garnish, but can be used to add flavor to meats, salads, and soups. The plant can be slow to germinate, so soak the seeds over-night before planting. Parsley can reach heights of about 18 inches, and spread to nine inches. The most popular varieties of parsley are:
RosemaryRosemary is a very aromatic herb that also has medicinal qualities. It's a powerful antioxidant that can reduce the risk of blood clots, cancer, and strokes. It is also believed that the scent of rosemary oil can improve memory. Rosemary is great for adding to baked chicken, fish, lamb, pork, and potatoes. There are a few varieties of rosemary to choose from such as 'Blue Boy' and 'Rexford'. Some rosemary plants can grow to become large bushes in warmer climates.
SageSage can add color and fragrance to your garden as well as great flavor for pasta, meats, and soups. Sage is most commonly added to beef. Most types of culinary sage feature purplish flowers and fuzzy leaves that range in color from gray-green to variegated colors. Common Sage is one of the most popular choices.
TarragonTarragon is a perennial herb that grows to a height of about two feet, and is known for its aromatic qualities. Tarragon is mostly used in seafood and poultry dishes, but can also be added to some soups. The most popular varieties of tarragon are:
ThymeThyme is another herb that is very aromatic and goes well in sauces, marinades, jellies, and just about any meat. Creeping Thyme also doubles as a nice ground cover. Place it between stones in a walkway, and you have a great scent every time you take a step. Thyme is a perennial herb that doesn't require much attention, which makes it perfect for a new gardener. Some very popular varieties of thyme are:
Some Herb Cooking NotesMost herbs retain their color and flavor better if added towards the end of the cooking process. If you are substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs in a recipe, remember to reduce the amount that's called for in the recipe. Fresh herbs are much more powerful than dried. You may need to experiment a little to get it just right.
Grow Fresh Herbs Anywhere!Whether you live in a huge city, a small town, an apartment, or a mud hut - there really is no excuse for not growing some fresh herbs this year. Go ahead and try a couple plants, you won't be disappointed! Are you planning to grow some herbs this year? If so, what are your favorite herbs to grow?
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