HomeHerb SelectionChoosing HerbsBest Culinary Herbs to Grow for Amazing Flavor

Best Culinary Herbs to Grow for Amazing Flavor

Fresh herbs are a simple way to add immense flavor to meals. Their aromatic compounds infuse dishes with delicious nuance. While dried herbs have their place, nothing beats the bright, vibrant taste of herbs straight from the garden. Growing your own culinary herbs is easy and rewarding. With proper care, you can have the most popular herbs on hand to harvest anytime.

Below we cover the best and most flavorful culinary herbs to grow yourself. We’ll also discuss tips for maximizing and preserving flavor. With the right know-how, you can easily grow herbs that will make your cooking shine.

Basil

Sweet basil is by far one of the most popular culinary herbs. Its versatility makes it a staple in many cuisines. The signature aroma and taste of basil complements tomatoes, pasta, pesto, salad dressings, soups and more. This annual herb grows rapidly in warm weather. Frequent harvesting encourages bushy growth and more tender leaves.

Mint

Nothing evokes summer quite like fresh mint. This aromatic herb has a cooling, refreshing taste perfect for beverages, desserts, salads and as a garnish. Mint grows aggressively and spreads rapidly, so contain it by planting in pots. Spearmint and peppermint are two commonly grown varieties.

Oregano

Oregano is a must for Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Its robust, earthy flavor stands up well to bold ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, grilled meats and olives. This perennial herb thrives in hot, dry conditions. Greek oregano and Italian oregano are flavorful varieties.

Rosemary

With its pine-like aroma, rosemary adds a unique taste to roasted vegetables, breads, meats and more. Its narrow leaves look like miniature evergreen needles. Rosemary can be grown as a perennial in zones 8-10, and as an annual in cooler climates. Upright forms include Tuscan blue and Arp rosemary.

Thyme

This tiny-leaved herb adds big punctuation to soups, stews, stuffings and roasted meats and veggies. Lemon thyme also has a lovely citrusy aroma. Thyme prefers well-drained soil and full sun. For peak flavor, cut often to encourage growth. English thyme and French thyme are choice varieties.

Sage

Earthy, savory sage is the perfect complement to rich foods like sausage, stuffing and pumpkin dishes. Its velvety silver-green leaves release aroma when rubbed or brushed against. Grow sage in zones 5-10. Pineapple sage also has spectacular tropical fruit fragrance.

Chives

The grass-like leaves of chives lend gentle onion flavor to salads, potatoes, omelets and more. Both the flat leaves and edible lavender flowers add flavor and color. As a perennial, chives will come back year after year. Grow them in containers or in-ground.

Cilantro

The fresh, citrusy taste of cilantro is essential in salsas, tacos, curries, guacamole and Thai dishes. Quick to bolt in warm weather, succession planting is key for a steady supply. Cilantro often reseeds itself. The seeds are the spice coriander.

Parsley

Parsley brightens up pasta, salads, vegetable dishes, sauces and more with its fresh herbal flavor. Curly and flat-leaf Italian parsley are the most popular types. Best grown as an annual, though in zones 8-10 it can be biennial or short lived perennial.

How to Get the Most Flavor from Fresh Herbs

Maximizing flavor from fresh herbs comes down to proper harvesting, storage and usage. Follow these tips and tricks:

Pick at Peak Freshness

For the best flavor, always use the freshest parts of the plant:

  • For leafy herbs like basil, mint, cilantro, pick leaves before flowers appear.
  • For woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, use only tender shoot tips and flowers. Older woodier stems are bitter.
  • Harvest in the morning after any dew has evaporated but before the heat of the day to retain aromatic oils.

Store Properly

  • Store freshly picked herbs in the refrigerator by washing, drying and wrapping in paper towels and plastic bags. Basil can be stored stem down in water.
  • Don’t wash herbs until ready to use. Moisture speeds spoilage.
  • Freeze excess herbs in ice cube trays covered with water or olive oil. Use within 3-6 months.

Use Herbs Generously

  • Use more than you think and add herbs multiple times throughout cooking for infused flavor.
  • Add whole sprigs and leaves while cooking then remove before serving or puree into sauces.
  • Bright flavors fade fast, so add chopped tender herbs right before serving.

Add Early in Cooking Process

  • Add most herbs at the beginning or middle of cooking. This allows their flavor to permeate the dish.
  • Exceptions are delicate herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley which can be sprinkled on at the end.

Pair Complementary Herbs

  • Grow and combine herbs that taste good together like thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley.
  • Basil, oregano and thyme are classics in Italian cuisine. Mint, cilantro and chives add freshness.
  • Spices like garlic, black pepper and chiles enhance herb flavor.

Best Practices for Growing Culinary Herbs

Herbs thrive with a little care. Follow these growing tips for bountiful harvests:

Plant in Well-Drained Soil

  • Herbs need soil that drains well to avoid root rot. Amend clay soils with compost.
  • Raised beds are excellent for ensuring drainage. Space plants appropriately.

Give Herbs Full Sun

  • Most culinary herbs need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Dappled shade in hot climates is OK. Avoid dense shade.

Don’t Overwater

  • Herbs prefer consistent but modest moisture. Too much water diminishes flavor.
  • Allow soil to dry out between waterings. Adjust watering based on climate.

Fertilize Lightly

  • Fertilize herbs sparingly. Too much nitrogen results in excess foliage with weaker taste.
  • In spring and mid-summer, use half-strength organic fertilizer. Compost also feeds herbs.

Prune Regularly

  • Prune herbs frequently by snipping off top one-third of stems. This encourages bushy growth.
  • Remove flowering stems to prolong harvest. Cut back perennials in winter.

Conclusion

Adding flavorful homegrown herbs to everyday meals is a simple pleasure and easy to do. Culinary herbs like basil, cilantro and mint give vibrancy and depth to dishes. Follow the growing, harvesting and usage tips above to maximize and preserve the amazing flavors fresh herbs offer. With the right know-how, you can create amazing food with herbs grown in your own garden.

FAQs

What is the best tasting herb?

Many herbs taste delicious, but basil, mint, cilantro, and parsley are considered among the most flavorful. Their popularity in cuisine demonstrates their versatile flavors.

What herbs make food taste good?

Herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley add great depth of flavor and aroma to dishes. Basil, cilantro and mint add brightness. Experiment mixing and matching herbs.

How do you get the most flavour from fresh herbs?

Pick herbs at peak freshness in the morning. Store properly in the fridge. Use herbs abundantly and add them early when cooking. Freeze extras. Combine complementary herbs.

What is the most popular culinary herb?

By far, sweet basil is the most popular. Its aromatic flavor partners well with many foods like tomatoes, pasta, pesto, dressings, soups and more. It’s easy to grow abundantly.

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