Choosing Fresh Herbs

Herb gardening can be rewarding, if the gardener can decide among all the varieties of fresh herbs to plant. Herbs fall into three main categories, with plenty of crossover as some culinary herbs make excellent teas, and some tea herbs can soothe physical ailments.

Culinary Fresh Herbs

Culinary herbs are the fresh herbs for cooking, seasoning pasta sauce, stuffings, pickles, casseroles and eggs. Some familiar herbs from the grocery spice section are rosemary, basil, sage, tarragon, parsley, thyme, dill, chives, basil and bay leaves. Growing fresh herbs expands the menu options into all manner of herbs that are not usually commercially grown and packaged, like garlic chives, lemongrass, lovage and sweet cicely. Fresh lavender can be used not just for sachets and potpourri, but also makes a unique ice cream and jelly when you grow the herb fresh.

Fresh Herbs: Tea Herbs

Herbal tea is made by drying fresh herbs and infusing them in hot water. A tea herb garden provides a wide variety of homegrown fresh herbs for unique blends of teas. Popular tea herbs include chamomile, bee balm, lemon verbena, borage and all types of mint. Mints are a spreading plant, so they should be restrained to a container or confined with sunken drain tile in an herb garden. A relative of mint, catnip is popular for cat owners, who find their pets go even crazier for the fresh herb than for store-bought dried catnip, and catnip can even be brewed into a calming tea for people. For an extra special tea garden treat, try growing stevia, a fresh herb that can sweeten teas without sugars. One popular variety is called “honeyleaf:” for a good reason.

Medicinal Fresh Herbs

Many fresh herbs have medicinal properties, and some people choose to grow their own medicinal herb gardens. When growing medicinal herbs, it is important to know exactly which variety of herb you are planting. For example, garden center seed packets marked as “calendula” may be one of several species, since calendula is common name for nearly 20 types of flower, of which only the calendula officinalis that is the medicinal herb. When sourcing seed for a fresh herb garden for medicinal purposes, find suppliers who provide the species name along with the common name.

Fresh herbs can be grown in a pot on a patio or in an elaborately designed knot garden edged in perfectly trimmed hedges of basil. Culinary, tea and medicinal herbs can all grow together, or be separated into individual specialty gardens of their own. However and wherever they are grown, nothing beats the freshness.