So last week we talked about how to go about making your own vertical garden. While you can totally do vegetables in your garden, today we’re going to look at ten great herbs to plant, as well as some ways to use them when entertaining this summer.
Rare is the herb garden that doesn’t feature some type of basil. We’ll focus on sweet basil here, though I’ve always found that to be something of a misnomer thanks to the peppery taste of the herb. What I do love about basil is how versatile it is. Pesto, toppings for pizza, bruschetta – there are so many options. Put any of them out on a patio table and your guests are sure to snap it up.
One of my favorite herbs, hands down. Not only is it great for cooking with in pastas and meats, it also repels many insects. Keep a small decorative pot of this on an end table outside in lieu of flowers to help manage pests while spending time outdoors, as well as to use in the kitchen. A nice bonus? Rosemary is incredibly hardy and will flourish even if you aren’t the best about taking care of it, so no worries if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs.
Thanks to their mild, onion-y flavor, chives are mostly used as garnish, which is in no way a slight on them – chives are most definitely that much-needed finishing touch for home made potato skins. That being said, like Rosemary they also discourage mosquitoes, so having a small planter jar on your table is a nice alternative to citronella oil lamps or bug spray to keep your outdoor space pest free.
My wife has been growing mint in her herb garden for years. Why? Because she loves mojitos. Not that you can’t use mint with for something other than drinks (lamb is the most popular), but this is a great option for the cocktail enthusiast, for those that like to make their own mint tea, or anybody that likes to bake and have sweets available at the end of a party.
Mint is best planted by itself in a container as it can easily spread if planted in the ground or with other herbs – my wife’s kept killing her cilantro.
Available in both flat-leaf and curly varieties, parsley is another herb that most people think of as little more than a garnish, but if you’ve ever had chimichurri, you know how important it is. However you use it, it’s worth devoting a bit of space in your garden for this versatile herb.
I’m a fan of thyme for seasoning chicken and fish, but also for use in cocktails – I make a mean blueberry thyme shrub. With a flavor that blends lemon and mint with a woodiness, it’s a unique, yet versatile herb that you can grow in smaller planters for maximum benefit, and that easily moves indoors or out.
I know a lot of people will want to plant regular sage, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a great herb. But, if you want to mix it up a bit, try pineapple sage. Chopped up and added to chicken, it’s a great way to give your grilled chicken a herbal and tropical flavor. It’s also a great substitution for mint when making mojitos, and makes some tasty non-alcoholic drinks that are great for the kids.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really like anise. That being said, I do like tarragon, especially on fish. A little julienned up and sprinkled on some deviled eggs is a great way to change up a backyard cook-out staple. Mixed in with some foil wrapped fish with lemon and capers will give you a great blend of herbal and tangy flavors that are sure to be a hit at your next backyard party.
Most of us have thrown in a handful of dried oregano into some pasta sauce before, but as we all know, fresh is always better. The flowers of the oregano plant are a lovely shade of purple, making it decorative as well as functional thanks to its natural insect repellent nature. Plant in a small mason jar and keep on a bar height patio table to add a nice pop of color, get rid of insects, and have give yourself something to use in the kitchen.
Easily the most divisive pick on this list. A lot of people don’t like cilantro because of the soapy taste they get from eating the leaves (I’m not one of those people, but I totally get it). What a lot of people forget is that outside of the US and Canada, cilantro is primarily known as coriander – those seeds you have in your pantry that you didn’t know how to use. Great in baked apple dishes, curries, and for pickling, don’t discount this herb because of the soapy flavor you get from the leaves, because the seeds that it produces are pretty useful.
By no means should you grow all of these herbs at the same time, but a combination of them for cooking and repelling insects is a great way to utilize that herb garden you just built and to give you fresh herbs through most of the year (a lot of these will bloom year round indoors).
Have herbs you like that I didn’t think of? Leave them in the comments below. Want to show off your herb garden? Send in photos (firstname.lastname@example.org) – you never know when we’ll feature them on the blog. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and to subscribe to the blog for regular updates.