The following list includes a selection of herbs that can be used as fragrances, dyes, seasonings, teas, ingredients in skin care preparations, and in dried flower arrangements. Alongside each herb you will find instructions on how to cultivate them, and their individual uses. I will add more herbs to this list as time goes by.
ANISE is an annual herb that has aromatic seeds used in cooking, remedies, and potpourris. Seeds should be sown in a light, well- drained to dry soil in spring, and the seedlings should be thinned to 10 centimetres apart. To produce fully ripened seed heads, Anise needs to be frost-free for about 4 months so it's probably best suited to a climate that has mild winters.
BASIL leaves are a well known accompaniment to tomato dishes and can be used to flavour vegetables, salads, and sauces. This annual herb is easily grown from seed and will self-propagate if seeds are let to set on the bush. Basil doesn't like the cold so sow the seeds outdoors in spring when there is no danger of frost. The herb is quite bushy so grow it in pots or space the plants 30 centimetres apart. It grows best in well-drained, medium-rich soil, and needs full sun. To maintain growth and promote flower buds and bushiness, pinch off the tips as they appear.
BAY leaves are used to flavour a variety of dishes including sauces, and stews. They also add fragrance to potpourris and are an attractive addition to wreaths. Bay is a perennial that needs to be grown in a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. In frost-prone areas it's best to grow it in a pot so it can be moved under cover during winter or protected by hessian on frosty mornings. The plant can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or layering in any type of soil.
BERGAMOT flowers are used in potpourri and the leaves make a delicious and refreshing tea. This perennial herb needs a moist, rich soil, and will do well in partial shade or full sun. The herb can be propagated by dividing the roots in spring or autumn, and by taking cuttings in spring.
CHERVIL leaves have a light anise flavour and are similar to parsley so they can be used in many dishes including soups and salads. The herb is an annual and doesn't transplant easily so it's best to sow seeds directly where you want it to grow. You can also sow the seeds in autumn if you want a spring crop. Grow it in well-drained, moist soil, and in partial shade rather than full sun. In warm climates it's best to grow chervil during the winter months. When seedlings appear thin them to about 15 centimetres apart. If you allow the plant to go to seed it will self-sow .
CHIVES is well known for its delicate onion-flavoured leaves, which are finely chopped and added to many savoury dishes. It's a perennial herb that grows easily from seed or division of the clumps every third spring. The herb needs full sun, and moderately rich soil. Leaves need to be cut back regularly to prevent flowering and preserve the flavour.
DILL seeds are added to pickling liquids, and the leaves are used to flavour vegetable and fish dishes, salads, and sauces. This annual herb matures quickly and needs protection from strong winds, a medium-rich soil, and frequent watering. Sow seeds after there's no longer a chance of frost and for a continuous supply sow them every 6 weeks. If you don't want seeds to develop pinch the flower heads otherwise leave them and the plant will self-sow the following year.
FENNEL leaves are commonly used in many savoury dishes including soup and fish dishes and the seeds are used for baking cakes, pastries and biscuits. The stalks of sweet fennel are eaten as a vegetable. This perennial herb likes full sun, alkaline soil, and grows easily from seed. When seedlings appear, thin them to 45 centimetres apart.
GARLIC is well known for its culinary uses, but it's also a valuable medicinal herb and an insect repellant. Plant the cloves 5 centimetres apart and 15 centimetres deep in rich soil during spring in cold areas, and from autumn to midwinter in mild climates. Harvest the corms when the leaves turn yellow, and dry them in the sun.
HOREHOUND is used as a gargle for sore throats and is made as a tea to help stimulate poor appetite. A cough and cold syrup can be made from the herb and it's also used to flavour some confectionery. A perennial, except in very cold climates, it can be propagated by root division or cuttings, and grows best in sandy soil and full sun. The plant can be grown by seed sown in early spring although they are slow to germinate. Thin seedlings to about 30 centimetres apart.
LAVENDER has many uses although it's most commonly grown for its fragrance. A delightful perennial, the herb is used to make wine, added to scone and cake recipes and it's also a valuable medicinal herb, and insect repellant. There are many varieties but they all like full sun, sandy, alkaline soil and they need to be mulched during winter in cold areas. Lavender plants will grow from seed, but it's easier to propagate them by root division, taking cuttings or layering, which is best done in autumn or spring.
LEMON BALM has fragrant leaves that are used to flavour many recipes such as egg dishes, soups, and salad, and they make an attractive and flavoursome addition to a variety of drinks and punches. The leaves can also be used to make an infusion that calms and aids sleep, a cream to treat skin conditions, and as an ingredient in skin care lotions and creams. The herb is a perennial that grows from seed and will self-sow once established. In cold areas sow seeds in containers indoors two months prior to the last frost, and sow outdoors in autumn in areas with a mild climate. Lemon balm is prone to disease if planted too close together so transplant seedlings about 45 centimetres apart in light, sandy soil in partial shade or full sun. Because seeds are slow to grow many gardeners prefer to purchase lemon balm already established in pots and keep the plant close to the kitchen door where they are easily accessible.
MARJORAM is popular in Mediterranean dishes, and when combined with thyme provides a delicious flavour to meat and poultry dishes, and stuffings. Sweet marjoram, a perennial, is the variety that is used for culinary purposes and grows best when planted in rich, light soil, and full sun. The herb is grown by seed or cuttings taken in spring or autumn.
MINTS are perennial and are used to flavour many sweet and savoury dishes from desserts to main courses, and the leaves are often included in teas and cold drinks. There are many varieties and species of mint, however those most popularly used in cuisine are spearmint and peppermint. These plants spread easily through the garden so it's best to plant them in pots in rich soil, and in full sun or partial shade. They need regular watering so it's not uncommon to see pots placed under taps that have a slow drip.
OREGANO flavours many Italian dishes and is similar to marjoram. It's a perennial that grows well in full sun, well-drained and slightly alkaline soil. The herb is easily propagated by seed, cuttings, or by dividing the roots .
PARSLEY is used as a garnish, and adds flavour to many dishes including pasta, sauces, salads, and meat dishes. Both curly -leaved and flat leaved parsley are popular although the latter has more flavour. Parsley, a biennial, is highly nutritious and has medicinal properties so it's often used to make a tea (infusion). Seeds are slow to germinate so those who can't wait to start using it usually buy the herb as an established plant in a pot. If you sow seeds, keep the soil moist until the seedlings appear then when they're ready to plant, space them about 20 centimetres apart.
ROMAN CHAMOMILE is a perennial that is mainly used as a medicinal plant, and as an ingredient in skin and hair care products. The dried flowers can be taken as a tea to calm nerves and to aid sleep. Chamomile can be grown as a ground cover that not only looks delightful, but is also fragrant and drought-resistant. Propagate by sowing seeds in a semi-rich soil during spring, and when seedlings appear thin them to about 10 centimetres apart. It can also be propagated during spring, or at the end of summer by dividing the runners.
Until next time.
Proprietor, author, and tutor of The Home Herbalist Online Course.