What herbs should you start growing in your culinary herb garden?
Consider the 5 most common Mediterranean seasoning herbs to start – they’re not just easy to plant and harvest, either indoors or out in your garden.
A critical herb for cuisines around the world and a favorite pairing for tomatoes, basil is easy to grow indoors. Pinch off individual leaves and add to salads, sandwiches and sauce. Make your own pesto. Plant seeds or purchase small plants and pot them in rich, organic potting soil. Basil loves heat and bright light, so give it a southern or western window or use a grow light.
Avoid cool, drafty spots, especially in the winter. Basil is not a long-term houseplant. You can expect to keep and use it for several weeks, until the stems start to grow woody. To ensure a steady supply, plant a new batch of seeds every few weeks.
Aromatic rosemary is a small shrub that makes a lovely low hedge. Spreading, low forms such as ‘Blue Lagoon’ and ‘Prostratus’ are wonderful to spill down banks or over walls. ‘Tuscan Blue’ is a rigidly upright form, ideal for harvesting flavoursome barbecue skewers. Rosemary is valued for its blue-mauve winter flowers, but there are pink and white varieties too.
You can tell sage is actually a salvia (Salvia officinalis) by looking at the pretty mauve flowers. Worth growing for its looks as well as flavour, it reaches about 50cm high, with silvery grey leaves. There’s a purple-hued form, ‘Purpurascens’, one with yellow variegation, and ‘Tricolour’, which has leaves splashed with green, cream and purple. All are equally edible.
OREGANO AND MARJORAM
These two are closely related and similar in appearance. Marjoram is sweeter and milder, with white flowers in summer, while oregano is bolder and spicier, with pink flowers. There are also golden- and cream-variegated forms of oregano. Both herbs are low, spreading plants, making them ideal as groundcovers.
The tiny leaves of thyme have intense flavour, which varies from one variety to the next. Most are mat-forming groundcovers, with pretty pink flowers that attract bees. Varieties include caraway, orange peel and woolly thyme. Other types such as pizza thyme, ‘Silver Posy’ and lemon thyme grow to 20cm high.