By far, herbs are the most popular group of edible plants that gardeners grow.
Whether you have a vegetable garden that you add herbs to, a small kitchen garden adjacent to the back door or a container of herbs on the deck or patio, you can enjoy harvesting savory and fragrant herbs.
There are two groups of herbs: those that are perennial and can find a permanent home in the garden and annual types, replanted every year. Some of the popular perennial herbs include: chives, garlic chives, oregano, sage, thyme, fennel, tarragon and mint.
A word of warning on chives and mint: If you don’t want chives popping up all over the garden, remove spent flowers before they go to seed. They re-seed themselves very easily! You will have chive plants volunteering all over the place if you aren’t diligent!
All members of the mint family, identified by their distinctive square stems, are invasive. They are wonderful to have on hand for cooking and tea preparation, but beware, mint can take over an entire garden!
If you do want them in the ground but don’t have an area for them to spread, sink a large container into the ground. Make sure there are generous drainage holes in the bottom, set it into the ground with the lip several inches above grade and plant the mint in the middle.
Peppermint and spearmint are the two most common, hardy ones grown. You should also consider one of the flavoured varieties: chocolate, pineapple, apple or ginger. Ginger mint is one of my favourites. It has very interesting yellow and green variegated foliage and a wonderful fragrance.
Herbs are also perfectly suited for container gardening.
I always have several pots filled with fragrant foliage basking in the sun on my deck and back patio. Be sure to choose herbs that you enjoy using, pick any container that suits your garden decor and fill it with a good quality organic potting mix.
I have found that basil always grow best in pots since it doesn’t like the cold or wet feet. It is much easier to control the environment in a container. Along with the traditional large leaved basil, there are many other types to try.
Columnar Basil is another great plant and seems the best variety to grow indoors.
Keep several parsley plants on hand so you always have a fresh supply to harvest from.
Italian Parsley has the best flavor for cooking and Curly parsley is the perfect garnish. Parsley is a biennial plant that will come back the second year when planted in the garden. However, the second season it tends to have a bitter flavor. I always treat it as an annual and replant each spring.
Cilantro is a popular herb used for flavor in Asian and Indian cooking. It tends to go to seed quickly in hot weather, so harvest the leaves frequently. There is always a little confusion when talking about coriander and cilantro. They are the same plant. Cilantro is the leaf you use. Coriander is the seed it produces later in the season.
Rosemary is second only to basil in popularity. It is not hardy in our climate so it is treated as an annual or taken indoors for the winter. You can grow upright rosemary in the centre of a pot or choose a trailing type to spill over the edge of the container.
For best flavor, harvest herbs in early morning or evening, avoiding the heat of the day. Wash them well and enjoy!