21 uses of herbs (or why you should start a herb garden)

Starting a herb garden at home is an inexpensive and ideal use of space in your garden. Herbs attract pollinators and bring flavor and fragrance into your home. And there are so many easy and beautiful uses of herbs that can enhance your cooking and life in general.

21 good reasons to start a herb garden

It is easy to start a herb garden. Start herbs from seed or buy a few plants to get off to a flying start. A home herbal garden is a luxury, and you do not need much space.

Are you not convinced?

Here is a list of 21 excellent and sometimes even surprising uses of herbs guaranteed to elevate your cooking to new levels.

1. Herbs make cold sauces and dips sing

Use herbs to make your dips and cold sauces more interesting. Perfect for raw or cooked vegetables and served with barbecued meat and fish.

Here is a fantastic and refreshing cold sauce that is perfect with grilled fish.

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz of smetana or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chives
  • Juice from 1 small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

Mix the smetana /sour cream with the lemon juice and zest. Mix in half the chives. Top with the rest of the chopped chives before serving.

2. Skewers for grilling tastier kebabs 

Mediterranean herbs like tarragon and rosemary develop woody branches as the plants grow and mature. And when you harvest the needle-like leaves, you are left with these branches.

Young rosemary plant growing in our herb garden

Save these wooden branches for skewers when barbecuing kebabs (or kabobs, if you prefer). You can store the skewers in the fridge and freeze them if needed.

3. Fresh herbs in Mediterranean-style grilled fish

We call it Mediterranean style. But really, it is as simple as grilling or roasting a whole fish with the belly stuffed with deliciously flagrant garden herbs.

It is so simple. Gut, clean, and dry the fish using a paper towel. Score the skin with a sharp knife. Salt the fish inside and out. Be generous.

Next, fill the belly cavity with your choice of fresh herbs. Our favorites are thyme and rosemary.

Serve with fresh lemon and a refreshing cold sauce.

4. Make your own potpourri sachets

You can easily make potpourri sachets from dried herbs, a piece of string, and fabric you have lying around the house.

Scents traditionally lean towards lavender and rose petals. But why not combine fragrant herbs like rosemary, thyme, and mint? 

Lavender uses include cooking, tea and potpourri
Lavender is great for cooking, potpourri, and tea.

Or add freshly ground pine needles, orange zest, and cloves for a perfect Christmas gift.

To make your potpourri sachets, cut square pieces of cotton fabric, place 1-2 tablespoons of dried herbs in the center, and then use string to tie them into the sachets.

5. Herbal salad dressings

Make your green salads a dinner favorite with a homemade herbal dressing for a delicious – and healthier – way to eat salad.

Salads are not always healthy. And adding too much dressing is often one of the main culprits (alongside croutons and bacon bits).

But you can make your salads tasty and healthy using herbal dressings. 

Mix your salad with the herbal dressing and coat every single ingredient with just a touch of delicious and decadent herbal flavors.

French tarragon harvested in herb garden
Newly harvested French tarragon

Try one of our favorite herbal dressings.

Ingredients based on salad size to serve a family of four:

  • 3 oz of mayonnaise
  • 5 oz of sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped French tarragon
  • 1 pressed clove of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chop herbs finely and mix with mayonnaise and sour cream. Add pressed garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ideally, leave in the fridge for 30 minutes before use to allow all flavors to blend and mature.

6. Make herbal salt

Salt is an everyday condiment for most people. But with the addition of fresh or dried herbs, you can transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.

And it may surprise you that we use a lot less salt in our household since we started to flavor or infuse our salt with homegrown herbs.

Our favorite herbal salt is a mixture of 1 part coarse rock salt to 3 parts chives, rosemary, sage, and oregano. Use a food processor (or pestle and mortar) to mix and enjoy the extra dimension of flavor to your salt.

Or why not start with thyme or basil-infused salt? Let us know your favorites.

7. Make your own Scandinavian Wasabi

If you like sushi or sashimi, you are no stranger to the potent flavor of the traditional wasabi paste.

And you know that a little can often go a long way.

Let me introduce you to my version of Scandinavian wasabi to use when you eat or make your sushi.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part finely grated horseradish
  • 1 part finely grated dill
  • Drops of water for taste and texture

If you like your wasabi hot, increase the amount of horseradish. 

Mix the horseradish and dill into a paste. Use single drops of water if needed to get the correct texture. Try replacing water with lemon for an exciting flavor profile.

8. Mix herbal butter

Home-baked bread with luxurious herbal butter can quickly become the star of the dinner table.

And it is so easy to make herbal butter. Here is one example that we use a lot.

  • Soften 200 grams / 7 oz of butter at room temperature. 
  • Mince 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp each of finely chopped thyme, sage, oregano, and parsley
  • Blend ingredients 
  • Place mixture in the fridge to set

Make sure to put the herbal butter at room temperature for about 30 minutes before eating.

And if you are worried about “garlic breath,” skip the garlic for a proper herb-flavored butter. 

9. Make herb-infused oils

Herb-infused oils are great for home cooking but will also make a great gift when poured into an attractive bottle. 

Combine herbs from the herb garden with garlic and hot peppers like habanero peppers or ghost peppers for even more flavor profiles and alternatives. 

Even a small herb garden can give many options
Even a tiny herb garden gives options.

Most people prefer to infuse olive oil, but you can also infuse, for example, rapeseed oil with the added benefit that it will not be set when placed in the fridge for storage. 

  • Place your herbs in a sterile container.
  • Heat oil to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Pour oil into the bottle and make sure all herbs are covered.
  • Leave alone for 3-4 weeks.
  • Strain using a sieve, pour into a sterile glass bottle, and store in the fridge.

10. Herbal dry rubs

Dry rubs are a great way to add extra layers of flavor to fish, meats, and roasted or cooked vegetables.

Start with an unseasoned ingredient, then mix your salt-based herbal dry rub to lift the flavor. 

Use 1 part coarse rock salt to 3 parts dried or fresh herbs. One of our favorites for meats and roasted vegetables uses a mixture of basil, oregano, chervil, thyme, rosemary, and sage. 

11. Herb-infused syrup

Sometimes you find a flavor combination, and then you stick with it. This is true for us with vanilla and cardamom-infused syrup. 

Mix 2 dl / 7 oz of syrup with an equal quantity of water and add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and vanilla to taste.

Boil for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Pour into a sterile glass bottle and leave to cool without a cap. When the mixture is cool, put the lid in place and store it in the fridge.

12. You do not need basil to make pesto

Traditionally we make pesto from basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. But there are other equally tasty ways to make pesto.

Why not replace basil with French tarragon, coriander/cilantro, or parsley? And while you are at it, try replacing the pine nuts with almonds or sunflower seeds.

Also, rapeseed oil is an excellent alternative to olive oil and stores well in your fridge without going solid. 

Now, find your favorite combination.

13. Herb-infused vinegar

Infusing vinegar with herbs is a great way to add a bit of attitude and zing to marinades and salad dressings!

Our favorite is a white wine vinegar flavored with fresh French tarragon. 

Heat vinegar to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), add a branch or two of fresh tarragon, and then leave to infuse for at least a week.

14. Salsa verde

Salsa verde is one of those condiments you can use with almost anything from fish, foul, and meat to just as a spread on a slice of fresh bread. 

The combination of fresh herbs with the salty anchovy fillets and the lemony undertones of capers delivers every single time.

And I know that at least some of you think “no way” when reading anchovy fillets. But you will not be eating anchovy fillets – you will enjoy the taste they deliver as they melt, disappear and blend with all the other flavors.

Parsley is one of many versatile herbs
Parsley is a very versatile herb.

Our favorite recipe goes something like this:
Mix 5 dl (2 cups) of fresh herbs, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of capers, 4 anchovy fillets, and 1 dl (0,5 cup) of olive oil coarsely in a food processor. 

Add more olive oil as needed for a smooth and creamy texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As for the fresh green herbs, I prefer to use parsley but will substitute for coriander/cilantro or basil if needed., 

15. Fresh herbal teas

No store-bought tea will taste as good as the tea you make from fresh herbs growing in your herb garden.

And there is no need to dry your herbs to enjoy a tasty cup of tea.

Heat your water to a light boil and add your favorite herbs. Let the herbs soak for a couple of minutes, then remove them. Sweeten to taste.

Be careful; only use safe herbs you are familiar with, and do not overdo them. Even a harmless drink like tea can cause health problems if not consumed responsibly. [1]

16. Herbs make tasty garnishes even better

Traditional garnishes like cucumber, lettuce, and tomatoes are fantastic. But did you know that adding just a hint of herbs can turn great into something outstanding?

Try spicing up your tomatoes with chopped Thai basil for fresh herbal undertones of aniseed. Give your cucumbers a new flavor profile with chopped mint or why not mix coarsely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves with your lettuce?

17. Herbs repel unwanted bugs and pests 

This tip is here to help you grow healthy herbs at home in your organic herbal garden. 

Aromatic herbs are a great and natural way to deter pests and unwanted bugs from invading and consuming your herb (and vegetable) garden.

Examples:

  • Basil will deter pests like aphids and is a great companion plant for beefsteak and cherry tomatoes.
  • Dill repels spider mites, squash bugs, and aphids and is a great companion plant for lettuce and cucumbers.
  • Mint and peppermint repel flies and fleas and are great companion plants for chili, bell peppers, lettuce, and peas.

18. Fresh herbs make salsa more interesting

Make your salsa or use your fresh garden herbs to make that store-bought salsa more interesting. 

Salsas come in all different shapes and flavors and can include ingredients like avocado, mango, balsamic vinegar, and spicy peppers like habanero or cayenne.

But a tomato salsa can also be simple for that meal when you are short on time preparing a mid-week meal.

Mix ingredients in a bowl:

  • Coarsely chop 20 cherry tomatoes and put them in a bowl
  • Add one thinly sliced small red onion
  • Add the juice from 1 lime
  • Mix the ingredients and put them on one side

Make the dressing in a separate jar or container:

  • Press 1 clove of garlic into a jar or container
  • Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Add finely chopped fresh oregano, thyme, basil, and coriander (cilantro)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, mix and leave to soak for at least 5 minutes before serving.

19. Make chili powder

Use fresh herbs and a combination of sweet and hot peppers to make chili powder.

Typical ingredients are equal parts of dried chili peppers, cumin, oregano, and coriander.

Try spicing it up using hot peppers like Cayenne peppers, habanero peppers, or maybe even Bhut Jolokia ghost peppers. But be careful, as some peppers are scorching and should not be eaten or handled by the faint of heart.

20. Flavour omelets naturally using herbs

Omelets can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and can easily be made into an entire meal.   

And fresh herbs are a great way to turn a good omelet into something extraordinary.

Add your herbs into the omelet mixture or sprinkle over as the omelet is cooking. 

Popular herbs include parsley, chives, chervil, dill basil, and tarragon. But frankly, only your imagination will limit you.

21. Herbs in refreshing and healthy cold drinks

Fresh herbs are a great way to make that plain jug of cold water sing a different melody.

Popular combinations include lemon, grapefruit, mint, pineapple with sage, and my favorite green tea with mint and lime.

Find your favorite and spice up those water-based health drinks to taste something more than cucumber or melon.

Useful sources:

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/side-effects-of-tea

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants, and garden vegetables. For the past two years, he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.