I was going to call this Blog The Top 10 Herbs to grow in your vegetable garden. But Herbs are just such awesome plants that I like to plant them throughout my garden, not limit them to the vegetable or herb garden!
There are over 100 different herbs that grow easily in the sub-tropics, so whatever your gourmet tastes, you can grow something to use in your kitchen.
I love cooking and I love the taste that fresh herbs and vegetables bring to food, so it was a bit of a challenge to narrow this list down to just the Top 10 🙂
The following list of herbs is in order of preference, so obviously Basil is my favourite herb to grow. In fact I cannot imagine a garden without some fresh basil growing 🙂
Let us know in the comments area which herbs you consider most important!
Number 1: Basil
There are soo many great Basil varieties, each with a different flavour to impart. I really could start and finish this list with Basil.
In fact if you separate Basil out into Sweet Basil, Lemon Basil, Thai Basil, Greek Basil, Perenial Basil and Holy Basil you could almost make up the Top 10 Herbs to grow just with Basil 🙂
Basil is really easy to grow. All it needs is a minimum of 4 hours sunlight a day, well drained soil, food and plenty of water.
Basil is an annual, so it will grow, flower and die all in one season. To extend the growing season, and so you get to pick and eat more Basil, you need to pinch out all the flowers. If you let it go to flower, the leaves get a much stronger flavour, which some people like and obviously some people don’t!
Number 2: Coriander
Coriander is one of those herbs that people either love or hate! It is used extensively in Asian foods, in particular Thai food.
Coriander is really easy to grow from seed. It is pretty unfussy about almost everything. I have grown coriander in really poor sandy soils and in clay soils and both have been really successful. All you have to do is water it occasionally and give it a bit of a liquid feed! The bonus is that you use all of the plant including leaves, seeds and the roots.
The downside with Coriander is that it really doesn’t like humidity so it bolts to seed in Brisbane’s summer heat, and then refuses to grow until temperatures cool down.
Number 3: Parsley
There are several different types of parsley, but they are separated mainly into curly parsley or flat leaf (Italian) parsley. Parsley has come a long way from the days when it was used mainly as a garnish on the side of the plate! Now it is used as an ingredient in its own right in everything from Tabouli to Parsley Pesto and Salsa Verde.
Parsley is really easy to grow from seeds or from seedlings. It will grow in most types of soil and just needs the occasional water and fertiliser to grow well.
I use it as an edging plant thoughout my garden. When it finally goes to seed the native bees have a field day and I get more self-sown parsley.
Number 4: Rosemary
Rosemary is such a versatile herb that adds flavour to many dishes. One of my favourites is to add sprigs of Rosemary to roast lamb and to lay sprigs across potatoes as they roast. This adds the flavour of rosemary subtly throughout the meal.
Rosemary grows either as a ground cover, with a prostrate form or as an upright shrub. It needs really well draining soil and cannot abide having wet feet. If it is waterlogged for any length of time it will die, which means it is a great plant for that corner of the garden that gets full sun but very little water.
Rosemary is a perennial and will grow for many years. I have a bush that is over 15 years old and still growing strongly.
Number 5: Mint
Mint is like Basil in that there are soo many varieties you can grow. Everything from Spearmint and Peppermint to Apple Mint, Chocolate mint, Basil mint and one of my personal favourites, Eau de Cologne mint.
Mint is really easy to grow. In fact many gardening blogs will tell you not to put it in the garden as it becomes a weed. I grow mine in pots and what I love is that it really doesn’t mind having wet feet. In fact mint grows alongside rivers or on the edges of ponds.
It is fabulous to use in foods. The classic Lamb with mint sauce is an all time favourite!
Number 6: Chives
Chives come in two separate varieties, onion chives and garlic chives. The onion flavoured chives are the more traditional variety and are much thinner than the garlic chives.
Chives are a great herb that adds a mild onion-like flavour to foods. Because of their delicate flavour, Chives need to be added right at the end of cooking, or even when serving. Chives are brilliant with fish as they add a subtle onion flavour without overpowering the other flavours. I also love them in mashed potatoes.
Chives are really easy to grow and will grow from seeds which can self-sow if you allow your chives to flower. The flowers are an attractive mauve, much favoured by bees.
Number 7: Lemongrass
Lemongrass is one of those really useful herbs if you want a subtle lemony flavour. It is used extensively in Asian cuisine, especially in Thai and Vietnamese foods.
It is almost too easy to grow, and has definite weed potential. As I have learnt, it is best if you restrict it to a large pot and prune hard on a regular basis to stop it from going to flower and setting seed.
Apart from its use in foods, it makes a refreshing herbal tea. And its use isn’t restricted to the kitchen. I use the dried fronds in the chook house to stop fleas and mites from attacking the chooks. And for some reason, my dogs love chewing lemongrass more than pet grass!
Number 8: Thyme
Thyme is a herb that is used extensively in mediterranean foods. It imparts a lovely flavour to stews and sauces and is one of the herbs known as a pizza herb as it is great added to pizza toppings.
Thyme is an attractive groundcover plant that is used as a lawn substitute. It is also great growing in rockeries and on the edges of paths where it emits a lovely perfume when trodden on.
Thyme flowers constantly throughout the year with attractive mauve flowers that are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. It is easy to grow, preferring a sunny position with not too much water.
Number 9: Oregano
Oregano is another herb that is used extensively in mediterranean foods. It is used in Italian foods to add flavour to tomato-based sauces and is one of the herbs known as a pizza herb as it is great added to pizza toppings.
The Greeks use oregano more as a salad herb, adding it to dressings. I love oregano in a fresh dressing over Haloumi cheese.
Oregano grows easily and can be an attractive grouncover plant, if it is pinched out regularly, which helps it to thicken up. It is also great growing in rockeries and on the edges of paths where it emits a lovely perfume when trodden on.
Number 10: Pandan
Pandan is probably the least known of the Herbs covered in this Blog.
It is a tropical plant and although it can grow as far south as the central coast it needs to be grown in pots so that it can be moved indoors during winter. It has broad-blade leaves that are added during the cooking process, but which are removed before serving.
If you are a fan if Asian cuisine you have probably tasted Pandan, but not known what it is. It adds a lovely nutty flavour to Jasmine rice, and is used extensively in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Pandan plants are grown from cuttings or potting up offshoots from the mother plant. It prefers semi to full shade and reasonable water.
As you can see, I love cooking with fresh herbs because of the variety and flavour they add to food. These are my picks of the Top 10 Herbs.
I chose these herbs as I love Asian and Greek/Mediterranean cuisines. Perhaps you prefer more European cuisines, in which case Herbs like Sage and Tarragon would rate higher on the list. Whatever your choice, next time you are cooking why not try adding a different flavour using a home-grown herb. You might even find you can reduce the amount of salt you add to your foods and thereby improve your health and well-being.
Let us know in the comments area which herbs you consider most important!
Happy Gardening from Rohanne, Your Personal Garden Expert 🙂