My teen and I love growing culinary herbs. Not only do these fragrant plants add flavor to our favorite meals, they are fun and super easy to care for. Herbs are also quite resilient and can often be grown in areas where it's too hot or too sandy for other plants and veggies to grow.
This summer, we've expanded our herb bed and now have 23 different types of culinary herbs including some new "ethnic" herbs for seasoning our Asian and Tex-Mex dishes. While experimenting with new and different herbs is fun, we also make sure to leave plenty of space in the bed for basic herbs that every kitchen should have. Here they are:
Parsley is unique in that it blends well with all kinds of herbs. We use it primarily for seasoning soups, casseroles, egg dishes and vegetables. Six plants will yield enough fresh and dried parsley to keep us well supplied for a full year.
An important ingredient in Mexican and Italian dishes, oregano is the seasoning you taste in pizzas and tomato sauces. I have three large oregano plants which I use fresh when in season, with plenty to dry for fall and winter meal planning.
Basil has quickly become one of my family's favorite herbs which is why I generally plant about 40 plants each season. We eat it as a lettuce substitute on sandwiches and wraps. It's also tasty in casseroles, cold pasta dishes, and with fish. Our favorite way to eat it is with cheddar cheese and dried tomatoes on wheat which is grilled to perfection on a panini grill.
While rosemary doesn't have a broad use in cooking, we like it because of its piney appearance and fragrant smell that's not unlike camphor. My favorite use for rosemary is in Scottish Chicken Leek soup and dried in herb batter breads. We've discovered that one plant is more than enough.
Thyme is the herb you smell in stuffing mixes and Thanksgiving turkey, but can also be used in soups, stews, and casseroles. There are a number of different types of thyme available including some ornamental varieties. My favorite however is German and French thyme which can be used both fresh and dried. If you eat a lot of poultry, you'll want to plant at least two or three thyme plants in your herb garden.
Another family favorite, sage is easy to grow, attractive in the herb bed and has a delicious fragrance. Sage is great in meat dishes, poultry dishes, casseroles, and in making sausages. We use it mostly in the Fall, especially around Thanksgiving where handfuls of sage are used to stuff the Thanksgiving turkey. Most families find that one or two plants is more than enough.