Sometimes there’s nothing that could replace the taste of using fresh herbs in food. Whether it’s used in a base of a dish, flavor booster in pickling, garnish on top of an appetizer, or as a mix-in ingredient in all sorts of drinks, fresh herbs can enhance how things taste for the better.
Now, some people love to cook and eat just as much as they love to garden. For people like these, growing herbs for cooking is one of the most exciting and fulfilling things they can do: it’s an overlap of their two favorite worlds!
That said, there are so many culinary herbs out there in the world that you can grow— where do you even start? Which ones are easiest to grow? What kinds of new or tried-and-true dishes can I make using herbs?
Good news! Most herbs aren’t challenging to grow for the average person.
Here are some of the best herbs for cooking that you can grow yourself:
Fern Leaf Dill
It’s common knowledge among those with a green thumb that dill is one of the easiest culinary herbs you can grow. In fact, even in areas with harsh winters, the herb is likely to re-seed and return again…and again!
Dill’s tender fronds are excellent in creamy salad dressings, pickles, and all manner of delicious fare— and it’s incredibly easy and simple to grow. It’s a no brainer: you’ll want to include this one in your garden, especially if you want easier herbs to start with. Plant it in full sun with fairly fertile soils.
Fun Recipes Using This Herb: Great recipes prepared with dill include this creamy dill sauce or salad dressing from A Cedar Spoon. For ferment fanatics, try dill at its best in this Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
Golden Leaf Sage
Very closely related to the classic blue-green garden sage, golden leaf sage may take a little bit more growing know-how to be a successful harvestable cooking herb plant— but not by very much. Once it’s established the herb doesn’t need too much more attention or care. Plus, it’s a perennial, so you can look forward to it returning again in spring.
While its leaves have gold and white patterns, its flavor is very similar garden sage and can be used for the same things. You can pretty much replace garden sage with the same amount of golden leaf sage for any recipe.
Fun Recipes Using This Herb: Celebrate “golden” cooking, try sage with this golden sage thanksgiving turkey or put some in these sage gold rush cocktails.
Sweet Thai Basil
Ready for a taste of something a little different? If you’re not familiar with Thai food or cuisine, then you’ve missed out on the amazing tastes and beauty of sweet Thai basil, which grows very much like the more common Italian sweet green (or Genovese) basil.
This plant has an amazing aroma: like basil meets licorice. It is an annual like green basil and is very sensitive to cold. You’ll need to re-seed it year after year in cold zones.
Fun Recipes Using This Herb: Use Thai basil in this Vietnamese recipe by replacing the basil: delicious Vietnamese rice noodle salad! Or go for classic Thai cooking and something more meaty and substantial, with Thai basil chicken (also known as Pad Krapow or Pad Kra Pao).
Rue, Herb of Grace
While rue has been an enduring classic culinary herb from certain cooking traditions around the world, watch out: the plant is poisonous! When consumed raw in too high amounts, it can make you sick. For some people, it causes contact dermatitis.
That didn’t stop our ancestors from cooking and eating it. In fact, rue was a common ingredient in certain spice blends in Italy, and it is still added in small amounts to certain Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, or Chinese foods and dishes. The herb imparts an earthy and fragrant flavor and sometimes a tingly mouthfeel to foods.
Fun Recipes Using This Herb: Rue is not a very common online ingredient in recipes because of the potential health dangers, but if you’re feeling adventurous, try this traditional Chinese sweet soup with rue, or this ancient traditional mulahwaja herb and lamb recipe from the Arabian classic, 1001 Nights— which features just one tablespoon of rue for seasoning.
Have you grown any of these incredible herbs for cooking? Whether these are your go-to herbs or it’s your first time growing them, come visit our local nursery in San Jose, California at Payless Hardware, Rockery, and Nursery to grab your plants and add them to your sup-herb home garden!