University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
FAVORITE CULINARY HERBS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
our modern synthetic products were created,
herbs were an important aspect of everyday living. They were used
for many functions including dyes, medicines, room deodorizers, and
cooking. It is these culinary uses that most people think of today
they think of herbs, and the most popular reason they are grown in
herbs in temperate climates are herbaceous, having non-woody stems,
back to the ground each fall. Many herbs are perennial, although
annual. These may reseed, however, coming back the following year
may give the false impression of being perennial. Most herbs need
(over 6 hours a day) and a well-drained soil to grow best. Use
sparingly, if at all. Well-rotted manure
or compost applied each spring may be all that is needed.
basilicum), an annual, is one of the most popular herbs. It
to two feet high. You can pinch the white or purple flowers off to
make the plant branch. The different types of basils have various
sizes and colors, but generally the upright plants have purple or
leaves. The pungent fragrance enhances tomato sauces and dishes.
Basil also can be made into a delicious pesto. One type of basil
cute, small globe-shaped form with tiny leaves, which is an
excellent choice to
use along a path or to edge a bed.
) is another of the all-time favorite cooking
herbs. If you grow only one herb, make it this one. Parsleys are
popular in pots indoors on kitchen windowsills. Technically a
tender biennial, it is
grown as annuals from slow-to-germinate seeds. Parsley is the
garnish on plates in many restaurants and can be used in salads,
other dishes. It also makes a nice edging to beds, with some
having ruffled or curled leaves.
graveolens) also makes the top three of favorite annual
herbs. It is
used as a flavoring and, of course, in pickles. Both the seeds and
feathery leaves are used for flavoring. This is a tall herb,
to four feet high, depending on selection. It could be used in the
of borders for a fine texture. Place
carefully, as it can self sow.
perennial herbs, a couple of tender ones with woody stems also are
popular. Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) has thick, aromatic,
evergreen leaves. It makes an attractive container plant to
indoors if room and a sunny window. The leaves can be dried and
flavor soups, stews, and sauces. Rosemary (Rosmarinus
officinalis) can be kept outdoors in summer in large
pots, then brought indoors in winter into a bright yet cool
can be used not only as an aromatic, but also in cooking for sauces,
teas, and for flavoring lamb.
are among the most common perennial herbs and should be sited with
care as the
roots are quite aggressive. To avoid this problem, plant in
keep well watered, and repot often to keep plants vigorous.
and spearmint are the most popular, but you also can plant other
as apple and lemon mints. Mints are used medicinally, as well as in
cooking to flavor tea, jelly, salads, candy, ice cream, and
(Allium schoenoprasum) are familiar to most gardeners. They
resemble and smell like small onion plants and can be chopped and
flavor salads, soups, and egg dishes. The pinkish purple flowers
attractive, especially if grown in a row along a walk, but make sure
off these flowers right after bloom. If you allow them to go to
will have chives everywhere and forever!
is the other main perennial herb that should be included in a
garden. Being a very low groundcover plant, thyme is suitable for
gardens, planting between stones in walks and patios, and even for
low-mown lawns. There are many species and selections, some more
ornamental than others either in flowers or foliage. Strongly
thymes are used to flavor meats or in soups.
sage (Salvia officinalis), also a
perennial, is the one of the many sages used in cooking. Others,
such as the pineapple sage, are grown
for their scented leaves or ornamental qualities. Garden sage is
grown to a lesser extent than
the herbs above, but is useful to flavor turkey, chicken, stuffing,
of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
are used in teas and desserts. Another
less common perennial herb, this one can spread by roots or seeds so
carefully (or grow in a pot). It prefers a moist soil, and will
oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum)
with its spicy flavor, and the related marjoram (O. majorana)
with its mild and sweeter flavor, are both good in
casseroles, soups, stews, egg and meat dishes.
Both these perennials are good, but less common, culinary herbs.
(Coriandrum) leaves have become
popular recently for use in salsas and guacamole. Its
seeds—coriander—are ground to use in
desserts and baked goods, and dried to make curry powder. This
annual can be a challenge in some
gardens, and should be sown several times during the season for
crops of leaves.
herbs and their history can be found online from the National Garden
which has named 2012 as the Year of Herbs.