Simon and Garfunkel sang of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and they are excellent kitchen basics. There are so many delicious herbs and each one imparts either a subtle nuance to a crescendo in a dish. That being said, here are our top 6 herbs for gardeners to grow.
1. Parsley – I would definitely this herb as a top choice and not just because it makes a great garnish. I prefer Italian flat leaf parsley, but you can grow the curly variety if you desire. The fresh leaves add a liveliness to foods, the stems can be used chopped into chicken salad for a dash of flavor and crunch, and even the roots can be sautéed. Grow parsley in full sun to partial shade in USDA zones 5-9.
2. Sage – What is a Thanksgiving turkey without sage? Sage comes in a variety of hues, from common sage with its wooly sage/gray leaves to cultivars such as Tricolor with variegated green, white, and pink leaves or Purpurescens with its deep purple leaves that become burgundy as the plant matures. Again, this herb is suited to USDA zones 5-9 in full sun.
3. Rosemary – Rosemary, don’t let the pretty name fool you. Rosemary packs a powerful flavor punch. This herb is also suited to zones 5-9 and does well in full sun. Once rosemary is established, it requires little care; in fact too much fawning over it can cause it to lose leaves. Do cut it back frequently unless you want it to turn into an untamed woody shrub.
4. Thyme – A low growing woody perennial, thyme is yet another Mediterranean herb suited to USDA zones 5-9. There is a thyme cultivar for everyone. Each has a unique habit useful in rock gardens, as upright specimen plants, or as ground covers that can even be tromped on!
5. Basil – To my palate, there is nothing better than fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, a jigger of good olive oil, and some sea salt. While I like sweet basil, there is also Thai basil and stunning purple basil. All are easy to grow.
6. Mint – Mint isn’t just for mint juleps or sweet teas; it is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. It goes sublimely with lamb makes a great mojito! Be wary of mint in the garden, though. It is a wild child and will take over a garden area in no time. You may want to confine it to a container.