Herbs are MY FAVORITE thing to grow in the garden. Why?
- They’re the most useful of any garden edible, since they can go into a variety of dishes
- They’re super simple to maintain
- Many are perennials or self-sowing annuals, so you only have to plant once
- You don’t have to waste money on cut herbs at the grocery store – they always give you way too much and they go bad before you can use them
- You can divide plants and share them with friends!
If you’re not growing herbs, go out TODAY and get some! Here are my top 5 herbs you should be growing this year.
Number 5 – Cilantro / Coriander (Annual)
I’m officially a cilantro convert. I know some people hate the taste of cilantro (which is actually a heritable genetic trait, believe it or not!), so if that’s you, just skip on over to #4…but for those of you who love a little something fresh in your salsa, read on.
I failed with growing cilantro for several years until a neighbor told me that she talked to a farmer who said the trick here in NC is to plant it IN THE FALL, not the spring, since it doesn’t love the heat. Fall planting DEFINITELY worked this year, and I’m so pleased! I’ve used our fall-planted cilantro more times than I can count this winter – in salsas, Mexican dishes, vegetarian dishes, and Thai/Asian dishes. Plus, if you let it go to seed, you can actually use the seeds as a spice (it’s ground coriander!).
Number 4 – Oregano (Perennial)
It’s a perennial and it goes in so many dishes! If you haven’t used fresh oregano in a dish, you haven’t lived. The dried stuff is good, but fresh is just so different and delicious. It comes back year after year and makes a great ground cover, too.
Number 3 – Basil (Annual)
There’s nothing like basil in the summertime! It’s a great companion plant to most garden vegetables and can even deter some insect pests. There are a ton of varieties to choose from (Thai, Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Purple, Holy, African Blue…), though I usually just go with the standard Genovese. We use fresh basil on homemade pizzas and Italian dishes, and I love to make my own pesto (I leave out the pine nuts) and freeze it to use throughout the year. Pollinators (especially bees) love this stuff when it’s flowering. After flowering, save the seeds for next year’s planting (or let it self-sow)!
Number 2 – Chives (Perennial)
Ya’ll. I don’t ever buy green onions anymore. Chives can substitute for almost any onion-y ingredient in recipes. Chives are harvestable most of the year here in NC, so I always have a fresh supply. My clump of chives gets larger every year, so I get to share transplants with neighbors and friends. They’re a great deterrent for animals that like to browse (read: eat all your garden goods), so they make a great border plant. Plus, they have beautiful purple blooms in the spring! Want some from my garden? Please let me know!
Number 1 – Parsley (Biennial)
Parsley goes in EVERYTHING. Do a quick inventory of your favorite recipes, and tell me, how many of them add parsley as the finishing touch? It’s like ALL of them, right?! Having a little stand of parsley has saved me so many grocery trips. Plus, I can make tabbouleh anytime I want! Parsley is a biennial (focuses on foliage growth in year 1, then flowering/seed production in year 2), so start a few transplants (or seeds) in 2 consecutive years and then you can just let it grow on its own. You’ll always have some available!
- Dill – I love that you can eat multiple parts of the plant – the foliage and the seeds! I use the seeds for pickling my cucumbers. Also has beautiful yellow flowers in the summer that pollinators love.
- Peppermint & Spearmint – Mojitos. Homemade mint ice cream. Need I say more? Grow it in a container though, so it doesn’t spread around your garden like wildfire!
- Thyme – my small stand of thyme has gotten overrun with other plants, so I need to re-plant this, but I LOVE some fresh thyme! Perfect for my favorite roast chicken recipe!
What are your favorite herbs to grow at home? Let me know in the comments!
Sunday: What does it mean to be an Easter People?
Next Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral