Grow and Use Fresh Herbs
Basil is not only a great addition to any recipe, but to any sunny bed or container as well. Most varieties grow about 18 inches tall, but some reach 3 feet. Add lively color to your landscape by choosing selections that have purple or bronze foliage.
Test Garden Tip: Basil doesn't hold up in the cold; start it outdoors from seed only when all threat of frost has passed. Most basils have the best flavor before they bloom.
Basil should be ready to add robust flavor to pasta, pizza, salads, and meat dishes about six weeks after you sow seeds. Chop leaves or use them whole as a showy garnish.
Chives are wonderfully versatile; grow them outdoors in pots or beds, or indoors as a handy flavor station near a windowsill. They do well in sun or partial sun, and their pink or lavender flowers attract butterflies.
Test Garden Tip: After plants flower, trim them back to encourage new growth.
Snip chive blossoms below the flower and cut leaves just above soil level. Chop chives to add a subtle onion flavor to butter, cheese, dips, and spreads. It's also great in potato dishes and on breads and salads.
Here are four mouthwatering ways to use chives:
How to Preserve Your Herbs
Time to harvest your outdoor herb garden? These four preservation methods will keep herbs flavorful for months.
This pretty yellow herb is easy to grow in dry, sunny areas, and it attracts butterflies. Like other herbs, deer and rabbits tend to leave it alone. Unless you harvest all the flowers before they mature, you'll find that dill self seeds to reappear every year.
Test Garden Tip: To be sure you have a constant supply on hand, sow seeds every four weeks during the growing season.
Dill works overtime in the kitchen. The foliage puts a tangy twist on soups, eggs, and potatoes, while the seeds are great for pickles, stews, salads, and oils.
We love these enticing ways to use dill:
Tasty tarragon will grow about 2 feet tall, and its eye-catching foliage looks great in a garden bed border. It is easy to grow and you can divide this perennial every three to four years to get more plants for free.
Test Garden Tip: Cut back flowering stems for maximum growth.
The tiny leaves of this shrubby plant bring an aniselike flavor to egg, fish, chicken and other meat dishes. Tarragon is also a key ingredient to the delicious French Bearnaise sauce.
Here are three great ways to use tarragon:
Lavender's soothing aroma and serene blooms combine to make for one powerfully calming herb. It thrives in heat and sun but doesn't like excessive humidity or waterlogged soil. Trim plants after flowering to foster further blooming.
Test Garden Tip: With lavender, the darker the flower, the stronger the aroma and the flavor.
The patron herb of lotions, oils, and detergents is also wonderful in teas and jelly. Dried flowers bring texture and sweetness to cookies, cakes, ice cream, and berries.
Low-maintenance lemon balm performs well in a bed or container and does best in full or partial sun. It is a fantastic insect repellent -- except with bees, who love its citrus scent.
Test Garden Tip: Lemon balm is happiest in well-drained soil.
Lemon balm's light, summery flavor is a refreshing addition to teas, fish, and poultry dishes. The leaves are also great in lemonade.
Here are three great ways to use lemon balm in the kitchen:
Marjoram's trailing stems are lovely in a hanging basket or spread delicately across a raised bed. In winter, it's best to bring this herb indoors; in hot summer climates a little shade in the afternoon is recommended.
Test Garden Tip: For the bushiest plant, harvest marjoram frequently during the growing season.
The dried leaves of this spicy-sweet herb work well as a flavoring for meats, vinegars, eggs, and tomatoes.
Check out these three great marjoram-infused dishes.
Mint is the alpha herb: strong, resilient, quick, and easy to grow in just about any space. As a result, it's also vigorously dominant, so consider planting it in pots to curtail unruly growth. For an instant whiff of cool, try gently rubbing the leaves between your fingers. Mint's refreshing aroma is strongest when leaves are cut or bruised.
Test Garden Tip: Watch for escapees into the garden if you grow it in a pot; vigorous mint roots wherever a stem touches the soil.
Mint's tasty coolness is a wonderful addition to beverages, desserts, vegetables, and meat dishes.
Consider these three recipes showcasing minty flavor:
Also known as wild marjoram, oregano is a bit more robust and hardy than its nonwild counterpart. This herb grows well even in poor soil, and you can put it in a bed or in a window container as part of an in-house living spice rack.
Test Garden Tip: Pinch flowers from the stems to promote healthier growing.
An Italian favorite, oregano is great on pizzas, pasta, or on grilled meats and seafood. It's excellent dried, but some of the flavor is lost after the plant blooms, so pick leaves before the buds open.
Here are three tasty ways to use oregano:
This evergreen shrub, a symbol of remembrance and friendship, prefers a hot, dry growing environment. In warm winter climates, rosemary can grow outside year-round, but in the North bring it inside during the cold months.
Test Garden Tip: Surround rosemary plants with gravel mulch to ensure soil does not become too wet.
Rosemary's fine needles can be sprinkled whole as a seasoning or crushed and incorporated into an herb blend. Its hearty, zesty flavor works well in stuffing, on pork, or on pasta and rice.
Check out three of our favorite dishes with rosemary:
Sage is a wonderful deer-repelling plant that sprouts lovely blooms. It can sometimes be slow to start from seed, so consider sowing indoors and then transplanting outside.
Test Garden Tip: If you let sage bloom, cut back only to beneath where buds formed. If you cut back to the woody stem, the plants may not come back.
Fresh or air-dried sage leaves add a slightly bitter depth to egg, cheese, and vegetable dishes. Rub sage into red meat or poultry to add a new dimension of flavor.
Try one of these three great recipes with sage:
This Greek herb loves heat and sun and is a magnet for honeybees. The flavors of thyme are strongest when it grows in well-drained soil, so consider planting it in a raised bed or mulching with gravel.
Test Garden Tip: After plants bloom, shear off about a third of the stem.
Dried thyme leaves add savory complexity to red meat, poultry, and fish. Its flavor also works well with roasted vegetables and rice.
Check out three of our favorite thyme-infused dishes: