Homegrown herbs are a great way to add flavor and nutrition to any meal. By focusing your efforts on growing 3 or 4 herbs, you can create a wide variety of flavorful dishes.
This way, you will become an expert in growing your favorite herbs rather than trying to grow wide herb varieties in smaller quantities as quickly as possible.
Below I list my top 9 herbs that I love to grow for cooking, tea making, and spice blends.
9 you may ask? I thought you said 3 to 4. Yes, start with a few herbs and then gradually include more varieties as you hone your skills and and evolve as a home gardener.
My top 9 culinary kitchen herbs for home gardeners
Herbs are easy to grow and can be used in many different ways. Whether you are just starting your journey or are an experienced home gardener, there are many herbs you can grow indoors or in your home garden.
Growing indoors is different from growing in your garden. Check out our tips on how to grow herbs indoors to get started the right way.
Here are my top 9 flavor-enhancing herbs for home gardeners.
1. You can never go wrong with basil
Basil is an excellent herb as it is a prolific grower and allows almost anyone to feel good about their skills as a gardener.
Start from seed, propagate from cuttings, or grow hydroponically – the options are limitless.
Basil is very aromatic and will help deter pests naturally. Just brush against the leaves as you walk by and smell the sweet and spicy aroma. Takes me back to Italy every time.
Use to flavor pasta sauces, pizzas, and salads. Remember to add basil late in the cooking process. Think of basil as a garnish you add 30 seconds before serving.
And, I almost forgot, and of course, pesto which is why you can never grow too much basil.
Learn to grow basil: Our top 16 basil plant care tips (and tricks) and Growing basil from cuttings for limitless supply of fresh basil
2. Oregano – the big brother of basil
Oregano is very different from basil, but they are often interchangeable for me. And both tell tales of a visit to a humble seaside restaurant in Greece or Italy.
Where basil is excellent for freshness, oregano adds exciting dimensions to any soup, stew, or meat dish.
Oregano takes a while to get established when started from seed. But when established, the plant is close to invasive. If you are limited in space, growing oregano in a pot, container, or grow bag can make more sense.
You can also buy a small plant at a garden center. Or ask a friend with an established plant to divide the plant. Dig out the plant and divide the root system into equal parts, and you are both good to go.
Learn to grow oregano: How to grow oregano from seed – Add some Italian excitement to your cooking
3. Rosemary – a grown-up herb you could be using more
Rosemary is a herb you can use to flavor meats, poultry, fish, and even to make skewers for the barbecue. Add it fresh or dried, or throw it in the food processor with salt, pepper, parsley, and garlic. Does Lamb rack sound good?
I prefer to start new rosemary plants from cuttings as seeds have a poor germination rate and can be tricky to grow into established plants.
If you do start from seed, make sure you plant more seeds than the number of plants you are planning to grow.
As rosemary requires well-draining to almost dry growing conditions, it is often easier to grow rosemary in pots or containers.
Learn to grow rosemary: Grow rosemary from cuttings (problem free propagation tips)
4. Sage is one of my “new” favorites
Sage is a perennial herb that we successfully overwinter without problems in zone 7. The beautiful sage leaves are ideally used to flavor meats and poultry or to fry with salt and garlic. My wife likes to use sage for stuffing, it tastes great, and she swears by it.
But for me, sage really shines with pork. And preferably a fatty piece of pork that is simmered to render the fat.
Start from seed or grow from a cutting. Sage is not difficult, but make sure you provide enough light. And this is important.
You do not want leggy seedlings when starting a perennial herb. Use grow lights or wait for spring or even early summer. You want to start your plant right. It is an investment that will yield wonderful harvests for many years.
Learn to grow sage: Growing sage indoors (method, care & harvest) and How to grow sage from cuttings
5. Thyme is my quiet, hard-working everyday flavor enhancer
Thyme is a perennial herb and may not strike you as the most exciting culinary herb. And maybe it is less striking than, for example, basil, cilantro/coriander, chives, and parsley, but it is so versatile.
But beautiful things happen when you mix it with, for example, oregano in soups and stews. I also use thyme in wet and dry rubs when cooking fish, meats, and poultry. Mix thyme with other Meditteranean herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you are set to go.
You can start thyme from seeds, cutting, or root division. Or buy a small plant at your local nursery. Be patient if you start from seed, as the yield will be better from the second year.
Learn to grow thyme: How to grow thyme from seeds or cuttings
6. Parsley – a luxurious flavor enhancer for everyday cooking
Parsley is another one of my favorites. Whether you grow curly, flat-leaf, or Italian parsley, this everyday herb can put a zing in most dishes.
Parsley is versatile to the degree that I will claim it goes with everything from stews to seafood and cold sauces.
Start from seed or buy a small plant at your local nursery. Trying to grow parley from cuttings is more work than it is worth.
Be patient when starting from seeds. Parsley is slow to germinate, and the germination rate is often low. My best tip is to overseed and start indoors as early as possible, given available light, and then transplant the seedlings outdoors.
You never want leggy seedlings. But from my experience, it is better to start parsley early with poor lighting than to wait for spring to plant outdoors. Once transplanted, my leggy seedlings have adapted well.
Learn to grow parsley: How to grow parsley from seeds
7. You cay cilantro, I say coriander
For some, this versatile herb tastes like soap. But if you like the taste, this is a herb you should grow.
If oregano adds an Italian dimension to your cooking, cilantro/coriander adds a promise of Asian and Mexican flavor tones.
Coriander seeds are large, and it is wise to soak or gently crush them to help speed up germination.
Coriander develops a long central taproot and can be tricky to transplant, especially if you risk disturbing the roots of other plants during the process.
My best advice is to allow space between seeds and plant one or two seeds per starter pot or cell. And if seedlings are growing too close, snip the weaker seedling.
Use coriander/cilantro as a garnish and flavor enhancer, and add it late in the cooking process. You do not want to cook the leaves. Should you have too much, I recommend making salsa verde.
Learn to grow cilantro/coriander: Growing Cilantro (Coriander) & how to germinate Coriander seeds
8. Dill – paying homage to my Scandinavian heritage
I grow dill to flavor pickles and to use with fish and seafood. And yes, an abundance of dill is a must at the yearly crayfish party in August.
I prefer to start dill from seed in pots and containers, but it will grow well in your garden as well.
I do not recommend growing dill from cuttings. And since dill develops a delicate central taproot, it is not a candidate for plant division.
I start a new batch of dill every three weeks from spring forward. Dill can be dried, but I prefer to store them in the freezer.
Learn to grow dill: Growing dill: Complete guide from seed to harvest
9. Chives for that mild onion flavor
Chives are a perennial herb ideally suited as a border plant in your garden. I grow a lot of chives to flavor soups, salads, and cold sauces with a mild onion-like aroma.
Chives are sometimes misunderstood. But it is a bit like onions; they are fantastic for enhancing flavors, but no one eats them whole. Chives add interest and attitude to any bland meal.
Start chives from seed or by root division.
And if you have more than you can use, let the herb flower as a thank you to all the pollinators in your area. As a bonus, you get to enjoy impressive-looking flowers in your garden.
Learn to grow XX: Why we grow Chives indoors year-round