The history of herbs is as old as the history of mankind.  Culinary herbs, fresh from the garden, add flavour to our meals.  Fragrant herbs can be dried for sachets and potpourries for a wealth of pleasant aromas.  The ornamental value of herbs would be reason enough for their continuing popularity.  They can be used as groundcovers or fillers between other plants and in containers.

Herbs are easy to grow and don’t require a lot of care.  The soil should be of quality good enough to support a plant for a long period of time, but herbs are very tolerant of poor soils.  In fact, many of the aromatic herbs do better in fair to poor soil, as slow development results in a heavier concentration of aroma in the leaf, flower or stem.  Quickly grown herbs are not as strong in flavour or scent as herbs that have not been pushed to grow by repeated fertilizing.

Since leafy herbs are usually collected for their aromatic scent or flavour, the best time to harvest them is when this quality is strongest.  Typically, this is just before the plant blooms or during the blooming period.  Many of the salad herbs such as Basil, Chives, Dill, Lemon Balm or Parsley can be harvested as needed with little loss of flavour.

ANNUAL  HERBS:

BASIL – Green

Popular and easily grown annual, indoors or out.  Sweet Basil grows much the same as Ornamental Basil, except that the leaves are smaller.  Grows to 60cm (24″).  Leaves may be used fresh, dried or frozen.  Full sun is best.  Indispensable to tomato dishes.

BASIL – Purple

Leaves have same flavour as green basil and may be used interchangeably.  Very attractive in the garden and for vinegars.  Grow in full sun.  Basil flowers should be removed as they form to prolong the harvest of tender leaves.

BORAGE

Leaves have a cucumber flavour that is delicious in salads, for pickling or as a cooked green.  Blue-purple flowers can be used in potpourri, candied or used to garnish desserts.  Plants will reach 30-40cm (12-16″).  Full sun.

CORIANDER

Its finely cut foliage is rather pungent, spicy and aromatic.  The lemon flavoured white seeds resemble peppercorns.  Use for flavouring meats, pickles, sauces and pastry.  Grows 60cm (24″) tall.  Can be container grown indoors or out.  Sun.

DILL

The tender aromatic leaves and dry flowers are great in salads, with fish and so much more.  Chopped leaves are superb in sour cream dips, to flavour winter preserves.  Dill should not be boiled except for tea to preserve the richness of vitamins.  Full sun is best.

FENNEL

Licorice or anise flavoured fennel is usually consumed raw as an hors d’oeuvre or boiled as flavouring in a wide variety of cooking.  Plants are low and compact.  Full sun.

FEVERFEW

A kind of chrysanthemum which grows 45cm (18″) tall with small button-like white flowers with yellow centres.  Prefers full sun and well drained soil.  Leaves can be eaten or made into tea to reduce the severity of headaches. Considered a tender perennial.

MARJORAM

A perennial grown as an annual.  Outstanding spreading habit.  Similar to and often included with the Oreganos.  Grow to 30cm (12″).  Full sun.

OREGANO

A perennial usually treated as an annual.  Grown for its flavourful leaves.  Use fresh or dried in salad dressings or tomato dishes.  Trim to encourage fresh growth.  Leaves may be used fresh, dried or frozen.  Grows to 25cm (10″) in full sun.

ITALIAN  PARSLEY

Easy to grow indoors or out.  Has dark green, deep cut, flat, glossy leaves.  It’s fine rich flavour is preferred by European chefs.  Chopped leaves freeze and dry well.  Grows to 25cm (10″) in full sun.

CURLY  LEAF  PARSELY

Popular flavouring or garnish.  Bright green, finely cut curled leaves.  May be grown in a sunny window during winter months.  Grows to 20cm (8″) tall in full sun.

RUE

Distinctive blue-green foliage.  Grows to 1m (3′) tall.  Leaves are pungent so they should be used sparingly in stews and salads.  Also acts as an insect deterrent.  Prefers sun or partial shade.

SUMMER  SAVORY

Easily grown to a 30cm (12″) plant.  Leaves and young shoots have a pleasing peppery taste.  Used for flavouring with beans, sausages and poultry.  Leaves should be picked before flowering.  Full sun.

PERENNIAL  HERBS:

CATNIP

Spreading herb growing to 20cm (8″) high with purple flower spikes in early summer.  Full to partial sun.  Cats love it!

CHIVES

This hardy perennial is used to flavour soups, salads, dressings and stews with a delicate onion flavour.  It is essentially an evergreen, but may be grown indoors during winter.  Sun or partial shade.

GARLIC  CHIVES

Hardy perennial.  Similar to regular chives but with a garlic flavour.  Plants do best in moist, fairly rich soil.  Grows in clumps and can be continually chopped for harvesting.  Full or partial sun.

LEMON  BALM

Hardy perennial herb.  Grows to 60cm (24″).  Rough, lemon scented heart-shaped leaves.  Use in salad, tea or in potpourri.  Can be grown indoors or out.  Full sun to partial shade.

LOVAGE

Resembles celery in appearance, taste and texture.  Young leaves and stalks can used in salads, soups and stews.  Grows to 2m (6-7′) tall.  Prefers half to full day sun.  Hardy.

MINT

Many varieties of this hardy perennial that vary in size from 30-60cm (12-24″) tall.  Will grow in sun or shade.  Some are very ornamental and all can be used for flavouring sauces, teas etc.

ROSEMARY

A tender aromatic perennial which grows to 60-90cm (24-35″) tall.  Best in full sun in poor dry soil for improved flavour.  Used to season oven-baked goods, roasts, etc.  A good house plant.

SAGE

A hardy perennial growing to 60-90cm (24-45″) tall in full sun.  Garden sage is used for pork, goose and for meat stuffings.  Attractive grey foliage.  Many ornamental varieties have coloured leaves or showy flowers.
SORREL

Hardy, growing to 60cm (24″) with long, curled, bright green foliage.  Used like spinach, its lemony, acid taste is delightful in soups or salads.  Keep leaves tender by removing flower buds as they appear.  Full sun preferred.

TARRAGON

Grows to 30-60cm (12-24″) in full sun or partial shade.  French Tarragon has a distinctive anise-like flavour.  Can be used fresh or dried in egg and fish dishes.  Russian Tarragon has a milder less pungent taste.

THYME

Hardy.  Many varieties from 5-30cm (2-12″) tall.  Full sun.  Common Thyme is used fresh or dried in vegetable juices, stuffings, etc.  Thymus herbabarona is caraway scented and used to flavour roasts.  Very attractive in pathways or rock garden.