6 of the Best Culinary Herbs to Grow

Herbs have been used in cooking since ancient times. Their tasty leaves add flavor to dishes, can be used when curing meat, and are harvested to make a range of herbal teas and oils.

Herbs are easy to grow and the best thing is, you don’t need much space to do so. In this article, we’ll take a look at 6 of the most delicious culinary herbs that you can grow in your kitchen or herb garden.

1. Basil

The most popular herb in the United States and often associated with Italian dishes, the sweet-tasting leaves of the basil plant are prized by chefs and home cooks alike.  Famous for its wonderfully aromatic leaves, basil is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Basil belongs to the mint family and is an annual plant so it won’t come back each year. You can expect your basil plant to last around 6 months indoors and 4-5 months if it’s planted outside.

You can plant basil seeds from late February to summer. Fill a pot with a seed-starting mix and sprinkle the tiny seeds on top. Cover with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite, then either cover the pot with a plastic bag or place it into a propagator to germinate.

When the little plants are large enough (around 7 cm) they can be moved into their own pots. Basil loves the sun so place the plant on a warm, sunny windowsill.

You’ll find that as you pick basil leaves, more will grow in their place and the plant will become bushier.

Cooking Tip

Use fresh basil leaves in homemade pesto, to flavor tomato and pasta dishes, and tear them up and sprinkle them over strawberries for a surprisingly delicious treat.

2. Bay

Used as a flavoring by the ancient Greeks, beautiful bay laurel can be grown inside or out.  The dried leaves are commonly used to add flavor to casseroles, soups, and sauces as they have a more subtle flavor than fresh leaves.

You can grow bay from seed but it will take years to grow into a mature tree. It’s best to buy a young tree which you can enjoy in your home and garden for many years.

Cooking Tip

Remove bay leaves from dishes before eating because they have an extremely bitter taste.

3. Cilantro

One of my favorite herbs, you’ll either love or hate cilantro. Some people find it has a distinctly soapy flavor and can’t abide it but if you’re a fan, it’s incredibly eaten fresh and will pep up salads, chillis, curries, and salsas.

Cilantro can easily be grown from seed, it takes from 1-3 weeks to germinate so sow a supply every 4 weeks from mid-summer for a continuous supply.

Cooking Tip

If you find yourself with an abundance of cilantro, you can freeze the leaves for up to 4 months.

4. Lemon thyme

With its fresh, zesty flavor and citrusy aroma, lemon thyme is perfect for pairing with chicken, seafood, and vegetables. Best chopped and added to dishes when fresh, it also makes a beautiful addition to a herb garden.

An evergreen herb, thyme will thrive in a sunny outdoor spot or on a kitchen windowsill. Thyme seeds can be slow to germinate so you might prefer to grow thyme from a cutting or buy a young plant from a nursery.

Cooking Tip

Try adding sprigs of fresh lemon thyme to cocktails and homemade lemonade.

5. Mint

An incredibly versatile herb, fresh mint tastes as good with savory foods like lamb, garden peas, and fresh new potatoes as it does combine with chocolate and added to drinks.

Mint is an invasive plant, spreading through an underground root system, and it can be extremely tricky to remove from your garden so keep it confined to pots.

Since mint will die back after the first frost, you can grow new plants from the root of leaf cuttings.

Cooking Tip

Crush fresh mint, ice, and lime together and add water for a refreshing summer drink.

6. Rosemary

One of the most scent-sational herbs, rosemary is used to flavor roast meats, potatoes, and as a seasoning in casseroles, soups, and stews.

You can use the leaves fresh or dried and whole sprigs can be added to cooking to impart their strong flavor.

Rosemary is easy to grow from seed and will also grow well from cuttings, which is a faster way to grow your plant.

Take a sprig of rosemary, strip the leaves from the bottom half, dip it in hormone rooting gel and add to a pot of rich compost. It should take root in 8 weeks or so.

Cooking Tip

Add a few sprigs of rosemary to your barbeque coals or use them as flavorsome skewers.