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Herbs 101: Which Herbs Should I Plant?

Posted by mmillet on April 30, 2013

Which herbs to plant for the best cooking results

Growing your own fresh herbs is an easy way to save money and time. (Yes, we said it will save you time.) True, it will require watering, a little TLC and the dreaded weeding. But think about all of those times you realize mid-recipe that you're missing that herb or all of the herbs in the store looked sadly bruised and beaten and mostly dead. Why not grow your own herbs? Problem solved. Don't worry. It's not as much work as you may think. Although, it does greatly depend on the area in which you live but whether you grow it in a pot on your deck or dig a little hole in your backyard, we know you can do it and reap the reward with some tasty recipes!

Fresh herbs vs. dried herbs make a definite difference in flavor.  There are a lot of herbs out there to choose from! It can be overwhelming and difficult, with limited space, to choose which ones to plant. Well, let us help you out by making a few suggestions! (Definitely check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to make sure that each plant will grow well in your location. If not, you may need to grow it inside in a pot.)



This is an extremely versatile herb that can be used in a variety of recipes. It has mild, bright notes of flavor. It's especially great with fish and beef. (In many cases parsley can be used in place of cilantro and other herbs.) Overall it's a hardy plant that will come back for a second summer. I prefer to use flat leaf parsley as opposed to curled parsley. Flat leaf parsley has more flavor and holds up better in the heat. You can sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley on almost any dish to liven the flavors.

Here are some recipe ideas with parsley to get your wheels turning and your trowel planting:
Grilled Pork Chops with Citrus Vinaigrette
Smoked Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Blue Cheese and Peppercorn Butter


How to grow and cook with herbs


In my personal opinion, every grilled recipe is made better with rosemary. It's a woody herb that holds up well in high heat, both in flavor and in texture. It pairs so well with olive oil and that smoky-char grill flavor. Furthermore, rosemary and vegetables were meant to be together. (Try it with some carrots, beets or other root vegetables. Delish!) Rosemary has a piney, almost lemon-like taste. But it has a strong flavor, so use it with a deft hand.

Just a few ideas for some ways to break out that rosemary:
Stuffed Crown Roast of Pork
Lemon & Rosemary Roast Chicken
Rosemary Cashews


There are quite a few different kinds of thyme. (lemon thyme, mint thyme, juniper thyme, silver thyme, etc.) Common thyme is the most popular type used for cooking. It has a slightly sweet flavor and so works well with a number of vegetable dishes. This herb also tastes great with lamb and pork.

Try practicing your hand at some of these enticing thyme-featured recipes:
Sherry-Roasted Root Vegetables
Pork Roast with a Beer and Honey-Mustard Glaze


Admittedly, when you think of basil, you don't exactly think of meat. Basil has light herb notes. It's a bit sweet and reminiscent of licorice. Basil is typically considered for combinations like tasty caprese salads (a favorite!), pastas and pesto sauces. But perhaps less known is that it goes great with fish and poultry.

Check out some of these tempting basil recipes:
Chicken and Parmesan Sliders with Pesto Mayonnaise
Grilled Chicken Alfredo Pizza
Mahi-Mahi Shish Kabobs


How to grow and cook with herbs


Chives are the end-all of garnishes. They give that needed hint of onion and fresh herbaceousness to the finish of any dish. They are perennials and will keep coming back each year. You'll probably have enough to supply chives for the neighborhood. I've had my chive plant for 5 years and it keeps popping up each year. Keep in mind that their flavor will be lost if you cook them. They are best highlighted by using them raw as a fresh addition.

Use chives to add some zest with these recipes:
Roasted New Potatoes with Mustard Seeds and Chives
Smoked Rib Eyes with Bourbon-Flavored Butter

Take a chance and plant some herbs this year! They literally are the gift that keeps on giving...as long as you water them.