Grow Your Own Perennial Culinary Herb Garden at Home


Growing food at home can save us a lot of money while probably providing healthier food than we would normally get. One of the best avenues for home gardening is the culinary herb garden, and perhaps the best way to grow culinary herbs is to start with perennials.

Perennials, of course, are those that grow year after year without needing to be replanted. Most supermarket vegetables, like tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce and potatoes, are re-planted every year. It takes a lot of work and energy. With perennials, a single plant can produce and live for years.

Unlike vegetables, many of our favorite foods and most common culinary herbs come from perennials. This means that creating an herb garden can pay off for years to come. Culinary herbs, whether dried or fresh, are extremely expensive to buy, but they are extremely easy to grow.

Plus, it’s a lot of fun. The culinary herb garden smells good. It attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. It doesn’t take up much space, and in general, culinary herbs grow so prolifically that one or two plants of something provides enough for all the fresh, dried herbs a home needs.

Bay of laurel

Laurel, which provides bay leaves, can be grown as a 60 foot tall tree or pruned as a four foot shrub. While not particularly cold hardy (USDA Zone 8 or higher), she can easily be grown in a container and brought indoors during the winter.

Bay leaves are the secret ingredient in a good casserole of beans, savory soups and sauces.

Chive

chive

Crystal / Flickr

Chives are a slow growing herbaceous plant that makes excellent border plants. They produce pretty purple flowers, also edible, in late spring, and widen their growing circumference a bit each year. They are one of the first herbs available each year.

In the kitchen, fresh chives are the way to go, and they play well with potatoes, tofu scrambles, beans, salads, pasta, stews, and all the other savory items on the menu.

Lavender

Lavender is used less as a culinary herb than as an aromatherapy ingredient, renowned for its calming effect. In the garden, it is a shrub that can easily grow a few feet tall and taller, and it sets beautiful flowers in the summer.

It can make a curious addition to savory dishes, but it is more often found in desserts. Lavender also makes an excellent tea.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Wendell Smith / Flickr

Part of the gigantic mint family, lemon balm is more of a clumping herb than mint. It will grow up to three feet tall, extending about as wide. It can be pruned significantly several times during the growing season to provide numerous harvests of its leaves.

Fresh lemon balm works well when a pinch of lemon can be welcome, such as in salads, stir-fries and desserts. The leaves can also be dried for later use in tea blends.

mint

There are a ton of mints to choose from: peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, and more. in the ground where it can spread.

Mint is tasty in desserts, with cucumbers, as tea, in jelly, in spring rolls, and in a variety of other ways. It is a plant that we are probably underutilizing.

Oregano

Oregano

Joi Ito / Flickr

A classic Mediterranean herb that also appears a lot in Mexican cuisine. Oregano is easy to grow, tolerates cooler climates, and can spread aggressively if allowed. It is a fairly short plant that works as a well-guarded ground cover (pruned).

An oregano plant will provide enough to keep it cool during the season and dry a lot for the winter.

Rosemary

Rosemary shrubs are super aromatic, evergreen, and grow quite large (up to a few feet) if allowed. They are another Mediterranean herb and can tolerate a mild temperate climate, and they are also drought tolerant.

Rosemary tastes good fresh, but probably just as good dried. Because it is evergreen, it can be harvested as needed.

sage

SAGE

Alice Henneman / Flickr

Sage has beautiful, fluffy leaves and pretty purple flowers. It grows into a beautiful shrub that can tolerate cold, dry climates, such as deserts. Sage can be a bit finicky with too much water, but it’s generally a very pleasant plant to grow.

Sage is the queen of stuffing, and it also pairs well with potatoes, scrambles, gravy, and beans (especially white beans).

Tarragon

Tarragon is a somewhat delicate plant that loves the sun and shelters a little from the wind. That said, it can survive in very cold climates (USDA Zone 2) where temperatures turn below Fahrenheit.

As a culinary herb, it has a mild licorice flavor that makes good salad dressings, and is classically used in béarnaise sauce.

Thyme

thyme

cookbook17 / Flickr

Often growing in the wild, thyme is a fantastic planted ground cover, staying quite low and spreading out in a rather non-threatening manner. It has small purple or white flowers that attract bees, and there are several varieties to enjoy.

Thyme is a traditional component of the Italian seasoning mixes we are used to in the spice aisle. It is a sweet and pleasant herb for tasty cooking.

That’s 10 perennial herbs to start! For a little more fun, it’s worth leaving some blank spaces for annuals (Italian basil) and biennials (dill, cilantro, parsley) when the growing season is in full swing. A well used herb garden is a much loved cuisine because the fresh herbs make the food so tasty.

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Terri S. Tomasini