Fresh, homegrown herbs are easy to grow and an economical way to add a little gourmet to your every day. Learn about selection, care, and growing of herbs, and how to use them in your home and kitchen to spice up your life!

The broad category of plants known collectively as herbs have a multitude of uses. Broken down into a list of general categories, there are culinary herbs, salad herbs, vegetable herbs, herbs for tea, scented herbs, herbs for dye, medicinal herbs, and strewing herbs. Most herb flowers are especially attractive to bees and other pollinators! As an important food source for them, herbs can be planted near your vegetable garden and fruit trees and shrubs to increase pollination for abundant food production. Below, we’ll discuss some of our favorite herbs to grow and harvest:

  1. Basil
  2. Cilantro
  3. Dill
  4. Fennel
  5. Mint
  6. Oregano
  7. Parsley
  8. Rosemary
  9. Sage
  10. Thyme
  11. Lavender

basil herb


An annual herb in northern gardens, Basil adds delicate flavor and aroma to many cultural dishes of Greece, Italy, and the Near East as well as modern cuisine. This herb is believed to have originated in India where it was viewed as a holy plant and grown around shrines and temples. Basil plays a primary role in tomato sauces, pesto, and salad dressings.

Basil Growing Tips: Grown as an annual, Basil thrives in heat and can be damaged or weakened by cool, wet weather. Pinch tips to remain bushy and keep from flowering; may prefer to be container-grown if soil is clay-based or heavy. Basil can also be grown indoors!

Basil Storage Tips: Fresh Basil deteriorates quickly, so use as soon as possible. For short-term storage, wrap in a damp towel and refrigerate; do not wash prior. For longer storage, freeze fresh leaves in a plastic zip-lock bag (remove air, seal, freeze); do not thaw before use. Pesto freezes well in airtight containers—try using an ice cube tray to make small frozen portions to store later in zip-lock bags until needed! Basil can also be dried easily for longer storage.

Basil Cooking Tips: For fresh Basil, remove leaves from stems; chop with stems into soups and stews. Use Basil with egg or cheese dishes, sautés, stir-fries, pureed soups, dips, and sauces.

cilantro herb


Grown as an annual, Cilantro is another of the ancient, old-world herbs. It may have been native to a vast area ranging from southern Europe through the Near East all the way to India. Cilantro is used today in a variety of ethnic cuisines, particularly in Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian dishes. Coriander, the seed of Cilantro, is a core ingredient of Indian curry. Cilantro is popularly used in salsa, and has a unique flavor that people either like or dislike.

Cilantro Growing Tips: Happy in cool weather, Cilantro can bolt (go to seed) in heat or stress conditions. Harvest regularly and sow seeds every few weeks for continued supply. Allow to go to seed in fall for self-sown “volunteers” in Spring.

Cilantro Storage Tips: For short-term storage, wrap Cilantro in a damp towel or stand upright in a container with an inch of water and refrigerate; do not wash prior to refrigeration). Freeze fresh leaves in a plastic zip-lock bag (remove air, seal, freeze) do not thaw before use. Cilantro is one of the few herbs that does not retain its flavor when dried.

Cilantro Cooking Tips: Add fresh Cilantro leaves to soups, stews, and stir-fries for an aromatic touch; wait until the end of cooking time before adding to retain fresh flavor. Toss fresh leaves into green salads, pasta, and potato salads.

dill herb


Although the place of origin is unknown, Dill is believed to have grown wild all over the European continent. Its name is derived from the old Norse word dilla, meaning “to lull” and has carminative qualities as well a other medicinal uses. Used dried, fresh, or as seed, Dill has a unique yet mild flavor that enhances a wide variety of dishes; well known for its role in flavoring Dill pickles.

Dill Growing Tips: Plant Dill in full sun; grows tall with bright yellow umbel flowers that attract butterflies; grown as an annual that freely self-sows in the garden.

Dill Storage Tips: Fresh Dill is best used as soon as possible. For short-term storage, wrap in a damp towel or stand upright in a container with an inch of water and refrigerate; do not wash prior to refrigeration. Dill can be dried easily for longer storage.

Dill Cooking Tips: For the most part, Dill is used alone and rarely blended with other herbs. Chop fresh into chilled summer salads, such as pasta, potato, tuna, and cucumber salad, or add to soups and stews. Make your own Dill garlic butter: melt butter on low, lightly sauté garlic, add chopped Dill and continue to sauté another couple minutes, then pour over potatoes or cooked vegetables, or add a splash of lemon to use with fish! Create a salad dressing using Dill and a yogurt/mayonnaise base or an oil/lemon base. You can also knead Dill (weed or seed) into homemade bread dough!

fennel herb


For centuries, fennel has been utilized as a food, medicine, herb, and even insect repellent; in ancient Greece, it played a significant role in celebrations of the gods and goddesses and was planted in the temple gardens and worn as crowns during celebrations. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans believed fennel an excellent aid for digestion, bronchial troubles, poor eyesight, and nervous conditions. Today, in India, fennel seed is used for seasoning as well as chewed after the meal as a breath freshener and digestive aid. Nutritionally it is very low in calories but offers significant vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and iron. Although it grows wild around much of the world, two varieties are cultivated: the bulbous Florence fennel and the common fennel grown for its seed and leaves; belonging to the Umbel family, it is related to carrots, celery, parsley, dill and anise; thrives in warm, moist climates.

Fennel Growing Tips: Full sun, grows tall (up to 5 feet) with bright yellow umbel flowers that attract butterflies; annual that freely self-sows in garden.

Fennel Storage Tips: Store fennel bulb in plastic bag in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, leaves will go limp after picking so it’s best to wrap them in a moist towel and refrigerate.

Fennel Cooking Tips: Fennel bulbs can be baked, steamed, or sautéed; try a sauté of fennel, artichoke hearts, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, thyme, and a dash of salt/pepper; use feathery leaves fresh, try in place of dill (excellent on baked or broiled fish).

peppermint herb


Mint is well known for its aromatic, medicinal, and culinary uses and a familiar remedy for ailments ranging from indigestion to bee stings. All Mint varieties contain menthol, giving it its fresh, cool quality; it is an active ingredient in medicines for upper respiratory ailments in rubs for sore muscles, and in insect and pest sprays as well as toothpaste. It is also a popular ingredient in recipes for jellies, juleps, and teas.

This herb is easily identified by square stems; two main species are Spearmint and Peppermint. Mint is native to five of the seven continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia). The history of mint can be traced back to Greek mythology when Persephone’s jealousy over Pluto’s love for a nymph named Minthe caused her to transform the poor nymph into a plant. Because Pluto could not reverse the spell, he enhanced the sweet smell of the plant to smell sweeter when tread upon.

Mint Growing Tips: An herbaceous spreading perennial up to 2 feet tall, Mint likes rich, moist soil, and grows easily in full sun to light shade. It flowers in the warm months and crossbreeds easily. Mint is best grown in a container to avoid spreading uncontrollably; can also be grown indoors. Plant with tomatoes and cabbages to repel cabbage butterflies.

Mint Storage Tips: Pick in morning before sun evaporates oils; keep freshly picked mint in a glass of water in the refrigerator, occasionally changing water. For short-term storage, wrap Mint in a damp towel or stand upright in a container with an inch of water and refrigerate; do not wash prior to refrigeration. Freeze leaves whole in plastic zipper bags or minced in water in ice cube trays.

Mint Cooking Tips: There are more than 25 different species of culinary Mint! Remove leaves from stems before use; try with chicken, pork, eggplant, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, white beans, black beans, lentils, yogurt, vegetable soups, and fruit salads. Add to water for a refreshing beverage or stir into fruit drinks, teas, liqueurs, and cordials (keep leaves attached to stems).

oregano herb


A low-growing perennial herb with a spicy taste, Oregano is stronger in flavor than Marjoram, which is very similar in appearance. Oregano is believed to be antispasmodic, antiseptic, bactericidal, stomachic, an expectorant, and a sedative. It alleviates colic, stimulates the appetite, facilitates digestion, and is thought to have a beneficial effect on the respiratory system.

Oregano Growing Tips: Oregano is a perennial herb, both upright and spreading. It grows best in full sun/light shade; drought tolerant. Edible flowers attract bees and butterflies. Trim back after blooms fade.

Oregano Storage Tips: For short-term storage, wrap Oregano in a damp towel or stand upright in a container with an inch of water and refrigerate; do not wash prior to refrigeration. Oregano leaves can be left on the stem to dry and later stored in a cool dry place, out of sunlight.

Oregano Cooking Tips: Blend Oregano with other herbs to make Italian seasoning or herb butter. Add to melted butter or even vinegars. Oregano is the perfect complement to tomato dishes. Flower heads are edible but the herb’s flavor is best just before flowering.

parsley herb


Parsley offers not only wonderful flavor and color, but outstanding nutrition. This herb contains more vitamin A than carrots and more vitamin C than oranges! Parsley is also very high in iron and other minerals. Two varieties are Italian Flat-Leafed Parsley and Curly-Leafed Parsley.

Parsley Growing Tips: Parsley is a biennial, typically grown as an annual, and freely self-sows in the garden; tolerates light shade. Allow it to go to seed in Fall for self-sown “volunteers” in Spring.

Parsley Storage Tips: For short-term storage, wrap harvested Parsley in a damp towel or stand upright in a container with an inch of water and refrigerate; do not wash prior to refrigeration. Parsley can also be easily dried.

Parsley Cooking Tips: Think of this herb as a green and toss into salads or use in stir-fries; add toward the end or after cooking to retain best color, flavor, and nutrition. Add to chilled pasta or vegetable salads, soups, or stews, and use fresh or dried in homemade tomato sauce.

rosemary herb


Rosemary is a Mediterranean native and an evergreen perennial, and includes an upright variety and a trailing type, both widely used in cooking. Rosemary is known as the herb of remembrance. It is also used in cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, shampoos, hair conditioners, and aromatherapy.

Rosemary Growing Tips: Rosemary is hardy to Zone 7; treated as annual in colder climates. The trailing type is less hardy; upright variety ‘Arp’ has been proven to be the hardiest to cold temperatures. Rosemary prefers full sun to light shade and needs good drainage; drought tolerant. Take cuttings in August to root for indoor growth.

Rosemary Storage Tips: Pick Rosemary just before use. Store fresh by keeping leaves on the stem in the refrigerator. Hang the herb by bundles in paper bags to dry. Store dried Rosemary leaves in amber bottles or out of direct light.

Rosemary Cooking Tips: All parts of Rosemary can be used fresh or dried, including sprigs, whole or crushed leaves, and flowers. Use a sprig to enhance applesauce, hot cider, or butter; use dried stems with leaves stripped as skewers for barbecue; flowers can be added to salads for flavoring and color. Rosemary leaves and sprigs are commonly used with chicken and lamb dishes and also added to bread or pizza dough.

common sage herb

Sage (Salvia)

More than 900 species of Sage have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. This hardy, evergeen-semi-evergreen perennial herb is native to the Mediterranean countries and North Africa. The word Salvia comes from the Latin “salvare,” meaning to rescue or to heal. The English word Sage means “wise one”; in the middle ages, Sage was thought to impart wisdom and improve memory, lifting spirits and promoting longevity.

Sage Growing Tips: Prefers full sun and well-drained soil; drought tolerant; can be damaged by extreme cold temperatures. Salvia can be companion planted with cabbage, making cabbage more succulent and not as attractive to cabbage butterflies; also grows well with carrots, rosemary, strawberries, tomatoes, and marjoram; doesn’t grow well with onions or cucumbers.

Sage Storage Tips: Strong taste increases as leaves are dried; harvest in morning before heat of sun evaporates its essential oils. Hang Sage in a bunch or pinch leaves from stem and place on cloth or paper in shade to dry; store in airtight colored glass or solid container out of direct light.

Sage Cooking Tips: Salvia aids in the digestion of fatty meats like beef, pork, fish, lamb, poultry, duck, and goose, while young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, soups, omelets, marinades, sausages, meat pies, yeast breads/rolls, and stuffing. Try dipping Sage leaves in batter and fry for a snack! Dried Sage leaves make a great tea; add honey to ease sore throats and colds.

thyme herb


A Mediterranean native, Thyme is one of the world’s oldest horticultural crops, dating back to 3000 B.C.E. The name is derived from thymon, the Greek word for courage; Greek warriors took baths infused with Thyme before going off to battle and ladies embroidered Thyme sprigs on soldier’s tunics. A small perennial in the Mint family, this herb survives most winters when protected with a layer of mulch. Varieties include Garden Thyme, English Thyme, French Thyme, Caraway-Scented Thyme, and Lemon Thyme.

Thyme Growing Tips: Thyme is a low, spreading evergreen/semi-evergreen perennial best grown in full sun and well-drained soil. It can be damaged by extreme cold temperatures, but it is drought tolerant. Be sure to trim back after blooms fade.

Thyme Storage Tips: Fresh Thyme may be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator; don’t wash until ready to use. Dry by bunching sprigs together and hanging in a cool, dark spot; freeze in airtight bags or preserve in vinegar or oil.

Thyme Cooking Tips: Thyme blends well with and enhances other herbs; it is one of the primary components in both bouquet garni and herbes de Provence. Thyme can be used to enhance the flavor of vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish dishes. To use, strip leaves from stem and sauté with mushrooms (1-2 Tbsp per pound of mushrooms). Use mixture in omelets or add to quiches or stir-fries. Or chop Thyme and add to flour (1 Tbsp per cup of flour); use for dredging chicken or frying. Thyme also works as a digestive aid and is great as a tea!

lavender herb


Lavender is a popular perennial, evergreen herb to grow in gardens for its beauty, fragrance, and versatility. It produces clusters of purple, pink, or white flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, plus it repels pests like aphids and moths, making it a great companion plant for vegetables, fruits, and other herbs. Inhaling lavender aroma can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality!

Lavender Growing Tips: Lavender prefers full sun and well-draining soil that is slightly alkaline with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. If your soil is too acidic, add lime to raise the pH level. Lavender does not like to be over-watered, so make sure the soil is dry before watering. Water deeply once a week during the growing season, and reduce watering in Winter. Prune lavender after it has finished flowering to encourage bushy growth and prevent woody stems. Cut back the stems by about one-third, but be careful not to cut into the woody part of the stem.

Lavender Storage Tips: Harvest lavender when the flowers are fully open but before they start to fade. Cut the stems just above the leaves and use fresh, or hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area to dry. Store dried lavender flowers in clean, airtight containers or resealable bags and keep in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and moisture.

Lavender Cooking Tips: Lavender can be used in various ways at home for its pleasant aroma and therapeutic benefits. Make your own lavender essential oil to use for aromatherapy, room spray, and bath salts. Or create lavender sachets by filling small fabric pouches with dried lavender flowers and placing them in your drawers or linen closets to freshen up your home. Culinary-grade lavender can be used to make lavender-infused syrup to add a unique floral flavor to dishes, desserts, and beverages!

Other Great Herbs to Know & Grow

  • Annual herbs: Tarragon, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, Sorrel
  • Perennial herbs: Chives, Lemon Balm (mint family), Bay Laurel (evergreen), Catnip, Chamomile, Coneflower, Hops
  • Herbs with showy flowers: Catmint, Pineapple Sage, Honeydew Melon Sage, Monarda (Bee Balm), Anise Hyssop
  • Plants with edible flowers: Borage, Nasturtium, Bee Balm, Marigold, Calendula, Rose, Dianthus, Viola, Saffron Crocus


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