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Whether you’re trying to eat healthier or simply want to become more self-sufficient, growing an herb garden is a great way to provide for yourself and for your family. Herbs have long been touted for their culinary and medicinal purposes, and while some herbs take more work than others to grow, they are all rewarding.
Luckily, most herbs can be grown as annuals (at least) in most areas, allowing you to produce a bountiful outdoor harvest no matter where you live. For those herbs that are more challenging to grow, you also have the option of growing an indoor herb garden in containers.
No matter which option you choose, make sure you put these herbs at the top of your list when you order seeds and start your seedlings indoors this season.
Lavender is one of my favorite plants to grow in my herb garden. Why? It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and adds a pop of color in an otherwise green raised bed. It has a sweet scent and flavor, and can be processed into lavender syrup or dried lavender buds, which can then be used in drinks and desserts. I personally like a bit of lavender oil to add to the bath, which produces a relaxing effect.
Lavender can also be used to soothe skin issues or headaches, and is a great choice if you like to use essential oils in a diffuser. It is a versatile plant that can thrive in most growing conditions but prefers full sun and warm, well-draining soil.
Basil is a quintessential herb garden staple, and while there are over 100 different types of basil, not all of these are meant to be cultivated for culinary purposes. There are basil plants with large leaves, those with small leaves, red basil, purple basil, and every kind of basil in between.
No matter which type you select, you’re making a wise choice. Basil is packed full of nutrients, including certain flavonoids to help prevent illness and inflammation, antibacterial agents, and even vitamins K, C, and A.
By far, parsley is the number one herb that is consumed in my household. I absolutely love the flavor that parsley gives to foods, particular in egg and chicken dishes.
It helps food attain a balanced flavor and while it doesn’t have a strong taste on its own, it can bring out the natural flavors of your food in a way that no other herbs can. parsley is usually grown as an annual, and will grow to be large and bushy. It is rich in inturietns, including Vitamins A, K, and C.
Sage is one of the most common seasonings used for poultry and lamb dishes, and it can also be used in sauces and on vegetables. Sage can have an overpowering taste, so it’s important to watch your measurements when you add it to your food.
It also has medicinal purposes, serving to heal cuts and inflammation more quickly than other natural remedies. It attracts bees and is very easy to care for in most gardens, tolerating a wide variety of growing conditions.
Rosemary is one of the most flavorful herbs around, and it is incredibly versatile. You can use it on poultry and other meats, as well as a seasoning for your vegetables.
Rosemary prefers dry soil, so be careful about overwatering! Otherwise, it’s easy to care for and will grow into a large, verdant bush.
Every year, we make several dozen quarts of tasty dill pickles. We actually have a secret family recipe that I will (maybe – probably not) one day share on this blog. Growing our own dill is essential for pickle making, because otherwise we would spend hundreds of dollars on ground dill at the grocery store!
Dill is an annual plant that is in the same family as celery. Although it is best used fresh, it can also be dehydrated and has many medicinal purposes to accompany the important role it serves in the kitchen. Dill grows in a clump and spreads quickly, so make sure you give it plenty of room to sprawl in your garden.
Got time to spare? Plant some thyme.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist that one!
Thyme is a great choice for any herb garden, and it can be grown both indoors and outdoors. It is ideal for flavoring vegetable dishes and is often used in Mediterranean and French cuisine. It also makes a great addition to poultry or lamb dishes, as well as in soups and stews. As a member of the mint family, thyme produces grayish-green leaves and produces a somewhat minty aroma.
Oregano is a member of the mint family and is native to warm climates of Eurasia and the Mediterranean. A perennial plant, it can also be grown as an annual in colder areas. Often called wild marjoram, oregano is a closer relative to sweet marjoram and is often used in Italian cuisine. It is one of the most important “pizza herbs” you can grow in your garden, so make sure it is well-stocked!
There are multiple varieties of mint, and these are often used in drinks like mojitos as well as in popular desserts. Mint can help freshen your breath and relieve stomach pains, but remember that if you are growing it in your garden, you need to take care not to allow it to spread. It is relatively invasive and is best suited to being grown in containers.
Cilantro is a cool-weather herb, growing well at the same times you would cultivate kale or broccoli, for example. It bolts as soon as temperatures get hot, so you should plant cilantro seeds in succession every three weeks or so. This plant self-seeds and is quick to flower.
When you plant cilantro, you actually get two popular herbs for the price of one. While the leaves of the plant are known as cilantro, the seeds are another chef’s favorite – coriander. You can harvest both for maximum usability in your kitchen.
Fennel has a strong anise flavor, much like licorice. You can grow fennel as an herb or as a bulb. The herb looks a lot like dill and grows well over four feet in height. You can use the leaves, seeds, and stems of this plant in the kitchen. The bulb, on the other hand, offers similar functions, but is shorter and much darker in color.
Fennel is quite flavorful and serves as a main ingredient in absinthe. Native to the Mediterranean region, it prefers dry, fertile soils and serves as an excellent garnish to any dish.
I love growing chamomile in my raised herb bed because it is so gorgeous to look at! It produces delicate white flowers, which are edible, as are the leaves of this plant. It helps calm your nervous and digestive system and is commonly consumed as a tea. This plant is extremely hardy and can survive indoors, in the shade, or in direct sunlight.
Tarragon is a must-have herb for any budding chef, as it offers a spicy flavor that makes a major impact in poultry dishes as well as in soups, sauces, and meat dishes. This herb is a fantastic source of a ton of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and A, zinc, iron, and calcium. You can make tea from tarragon or even just chew on the fresh leaves. Otherwise, it adds great flavor to salads, berries, seafood, chicken, vegetables, and eggs.
The easiest way to grow tarragon is to start it from seed indoors, then transplant after the last frost. It can also be propagated from cuttings and spreads quickly if you let stems droop to the ground. It can even be grown in containers. It is incredibly versatile and requires minimal maintenance.
Caraway is native to Europe and Western Asia, and can be cultivated in many areas of the world. You can eat both the seeds and roots of this plant, and it’s biennial. You can use the seeds in recipes like soups, sauce, pickles, sauerkraut, and even bread, and the roots are quite tasty when boiled down and eaten that way. Caraway also has a ton of medicinal benefits and has been used historically to treat eye infections, toothaches, ande ven rheumatism.
Chives are perennial plants that are native to Asia and Eastern Europe. Although they can be used medicinally to treat digestive problems and even high blood pressure, I grow chives for their culinary applications alone. They are slow to germinate and mature, but once you get them established in your herb garden, they’ll grow like weeds, lending a nice aroma to your beds and a tasty crunch to your dinner plate.
Chives are technically a member of the garlic family and are often used for seasoning. They have been used in cooking for over 5,000 years, so I guess you could say they have quite the reputation! They’re a fantastic source of Vitamin C, so you should try to include them in your food whenever possible.
Also known as sweet bay or laurel leaf, bay leaf is another herb that you should be growing. It is commonly used in cooking (particularly in soups or stocks) as well as in tea. It is a staple in French, Italian, Spanish, and Creole dishes, and we love how it tastes in our famous dill pickle brine.
Chervil is also known as garden parsley or French parsley. While you can start this plant inside, I recommend waiting until the ground has warmed and you can safely sow seeds outside. This is because the seedlings are incredibly fragile, and it is nearly impossible to transplant seedlings without damaging the root ball.
That being said, this herb should be a staple in your garden. It is often used for French cuisine, but has a mild flavor that lends itself well to being a substitute for anise or parsley. Plant seeds in succession, as it bolts quickly, particularly in hot weather.
Winter savory is a somewhat spicy herb, and adds a great flavor to your food. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is a member of the mint family and works best in fish,bean, and poultry dishes. Although it loses a bit of flavor during the cooking process, winter savory is still a popular herb that you should grow in large quantities in your culinary herb garden.
Just like other plants in the mint family, peppermint can help improve your digestion and freshen your breath. Peppermint is also a fantastic source of nutrients like potassium, calcium, and vitamin B. A hybrid between spearmint and watermint, peppermint grows easily in most gardens but you should know that it spreads easily. It may be easier to plant peppermint in containers. It grows well in rich soil and can tolerate some shade.
Stevia has really grown in popularity within the last few years, and this is partly due to its growing uses as a natural sweetener. It has no calories and is actually part of the sunflower family. Native to subtropical and tropical regions of the Western hemisphere, it is a perennial plant that sadly cannot survive the cold winters in many parts of the country. However, it is a great summer plant or can even be grown in a container so that you can bring it indoors before the first frost.
Lemongrass is a gorgeous plant with a strong lemon flavor and scent. It can only be grown in Zones 9 or warmer, but you can also grow it in a container to bring it inside as a houseplant. Lemongrass can be brewed into a tea or used as a seasoning, and it can grow up to six feet tall if you grow it outside!
If you own honey bees (or simply want to help these struggling creatures survive!) you should consider growing bee balm. This plant is a member of the mint family as is also known as bergamot, horsemint, and Oswego tea. It grows well when planted in full sun and adds color to the herb garden with its white, red, pink, and purple flowers. It is a perennial – yes, you only have to plant it once! – and attracts all kinds of pollinators (including bees) to your garden.
This perennial plant is yet another in the mint family, and can be used as both a medicinal and culinary herb. It is easy to grow and helps relieve nerve and muscle tension. It can be used as a poultice and even has antiviral properties.
You can consume lemon balm in a tea or even add fresh lemon balm to salads for a citrusy taste. It is also a natural mosquito repellant, and is easy to grow in any herb garden.
Start your seeds indoors, then transplant in the spring. Lemon balm is unique in that it can be harvested all the way down to the stem – in fact, a full cutting will rejuvenate the plant. Lemon balm is a perennial, but should be mulched if the temperature drops below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Named after St. John the Baptist himself, St. John’s wort is used to treat a wide array of physical problems. It can be used to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even help fight muscle pain. It is known by many names, including rosin rose and goat weed, and serves as a popular ground cover as it is drought tolerant.
Calendula is grown in many homesteading gardens because it is good for your soil and can help keep pests away. As a result, it is often grown as a cover crop o companion plant, but it can also be used in various recipes. Consider adding calendula petals to vegetables, salads, or even cream cheese!
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by this massive list of herbs to grow! Instead, start by growing one or two plants on your windowsill or in your vegetable garden. Each year, you can gradually add more until you’ve mastered the art of herb gardening.
What are herbs should I add to my list? Be sure to let me know in the comments, and subscribe to our email list for all the latest updates and discounts. Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@jrpiercefamilyfarm) and Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm) for regular posts, too! And thanks for reading.