common herbs
Beginner Gardening

Common Herbs You Need in Your Garden

Herbs are inherent to cuisines around the world, providing distinctive flavors, aromas, and colors to a variety of dishes. The use of herbs spans from the burst of freshness that cilantro brings to a taco to the deep, earthy essence of rosemary in roasted meats. These plants hold historic significance with many used for medicinal purposes long before they made their way into the kitchen. Understanding the different types of herbs, their uses, and how they can enhance your cooking can transform ordinary meals into extraordinary experiences.

Herb gardening is another aspect that has gained popularity, as it allows you to have fresh herbs at your fingertips. Whether grown in an outdoor garden or in small pots on a windowsill, tending to these plants can also be a rewarding hobby. They’re actually SO easy to grow and you can have a ton of herbs grown in a short period of time. The biggest perk is not having to go to the store to buy them. 

Herbs contribute to the nutritional profile of your diet and are in products beyond the food on your plate, including teas, cosmetics, and skincare. They play a role in aromatherapy with their essential oils used for therapeutic benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Herbs enhance culinary dishes with unique flavors and have a rich history of medicinal use.
  • Growing your own herbs can be a simple and rewarding way to ensure freshness and add nutrition to your diet.
  • Herbs have diverse applications, including uses in tea blends, aromatherapy, and skincare products.

Historical Use of Herbs

Herbs have been integral to both the medicinal and culinary practices of civilizations for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were expert herbalists, with schools dedicated to the study of herbs dating back to 3000 B.C. Your knowledge of herbs might benefit from understanding their symbolic significance and their application across various domains, including medicine, cosmetics, and cooking. 

Through strategic cultivation, such as monastic herb gardens of the Middle Ages, you can appreciate how societies have consistently emphasized the importance of herbs. Today’s interest in botanical therapies also echoes a long tradition of herbal medicine, reaffirming your connection to a rich history of traditional practices.

types of herbs

Herb Garden Ideas: Common Herbs in the Culinary World

Culinary herbs are integral to enhancing the flavors in a wide variety of dishes. You will find that herbs are not only about aroma and taste, but also about bringing cultural authenticity to the recipes from different parts of the world. Let’s dive into some different types of herbs that are commonly used in many cuisines.

Note: This is not a complete list of all the herbs you can find in these cuisines. This list is intended to be used as a guide to get started with planting herbs in the garden. Think about what you most commonly use in your cooking. Or maybe you don’t currently use a lot of fresh herbs but would like to start. The below list is meant to jog your mind and give you ideas.

Mediterranean Herbs

The following herbs are typically used in Mediterranean cuisines:

Thyme: Typically used in its dried form, you’ll find thyme adds a pungent, woodsy flavor to your dishes. It’s a staple in many Mediterranean recipes, notably in French and Italian cuisines.

Rosemary: This herb boasts a lemon-pine flavor which works wonderfully with grilled meats and vegetables, commonly used in Italian dishes.

Basil: Aromatic and sweet, basil is a must in Italian pesto and pairs well with tomatoes.

Sage: With its slightly peppery taste, sage is often used to season meats and is found in Italian and other Mediterranean dishes.

Asian Herbs

Cilantro: Also known as coriander leaves, cilantro is a vibrant, lemony herb frequently sprinkled over Indian curries and Vietnamese dishes. Many Asian cuisines rely on its fresh, bold taste.

Lemongrass: Offering a citrus flavor, lemongrass is predominantly used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. It is used to infuse dishes such as soups and curries.

Thai Basil: With a spicier flavor than its Mediterranean cousin, Thai basil is central to Southeast Asian cuisine, especially Thai dishes like stir-fries and curries.

Mint: Refreshing and cool, mint appears in dishes ranging from Indian chutneys to Vietnamese spring rolls.

Middle Eastern Herbs

Coriander: You may be more familiar with cilantro than you are with coriander. Cilantro is the green, leafy part of this type of herb. However, its seeds are known as coriander. The seeds are dried out and either ground or left whole for seasoning.

Fenugreek: An ancient herb that is said to have originated in Iraq. It tastes similar to clover. Both the leaves of this plant and the seeds are used in cooking.

Oregano: This herb is common in Mediterranean cuisines, Middle Eastern, and Turkish cooking. It’s used most often for flavoring meats, like lamb for kebab.

Mint: This herb is not only common in Asian cuisines, but it’s also common in Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s also used to make other things like tea.

Herbs Used in Baking

Below is a short list of herbs you may want to consider if you like to bake, or you’d like to start baking. Here are some ingredients for your herb garden.

Lavender: Known for its floral aroma, lavender brings a unique flavor to baked goods such as scones and shortbread cookies.

Anise: With its licorice-like taste, anise is used in a variety of baked goods, from European breads to cookies.

Medicinal Herbs

People have harnessed medicinal herbs for their health benefits for centuries, providing natural remedies for a variety of ailments. Understanding their uses and limitations can be empowering for your personal wellness journey.

Herbs in Traditional Medicine

In traditional medical systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs are not only used for their direct pharmacological effects but also to restore balance and harmony within your body. For instance, Ashwagandha is used to boost energy levels and mitigate stress and anxiety.

Common Therapeutic Herbs

Certain herbs are renowned for their therapeutic properties and are widely integrated into natural health practices. For instance, Echinacea is utilized for its immune-supportive benefits, while Ginkgo Biloba is known for its potential to enhance cognitive function. Moreover, St. John’s Wort is often used for mild to moderate depression, and Peppermint Oil is applied for its soothing effects on the digestive system.

Safety and Precautions

While medicinal herbs can be highly beneficial, they must be used with caution to avoid adverse effects or interactions with other medications. Always consult healthcare professionals before starting any new herbal regimen, especially if you’re currently taking prescribed medication. Be mindful that “natural” does not always mean safe, and the quality and purity of herbal products can greatly vary. Always seek high quality herbal products.

The above about common therapeutic herbs is not medical advice and just general information.

Herb Gardening

Herb gardening allows you to cultivate a variety of flavors that can enhance your cooking and provide fragrant greenery in your home or yard. You’ll find that growing your own herbs can be both rewarding and practical.

Growing Herbs Indoors

To successfully grow herbs indoors, ensure you have containers with adequate drainage and place them where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight daily, using high-quality potting mix to promote healthier growth.

HerbLight RequirementWatering FrequencySpecial Notes
Basil6-8 hours of sunlightWhen topsoil is dryPrefers warm temperatures. Harvest regularly
Chives4-6 hours of sunlightModerate, consistentCan tolerate lower light
Oregano6-8 hours of sunlightAllow to dry outRequires less water, loves the heat
Thyme6 – 8 hours of sunlightWater occasionally, allowing soil to dry out between wateringsVigorous grower. Tolerant of cooler weather and does well in the heat.
ParsleyEnjoys full or partial sunWater deeply at least once a week. Prefers moist soil but not waterloggedPrefers cooler weather. Does well with a light frost or snow.
RosemaryLoves warm, sunny weatherNeeds well draining water.Doesn’t like too much water. Doesn’t like the cold – cover with fleece.
SageEnjoys full sunNeeds consistent wateringNeeds well draining soil, vigorous grower. Does well in soil with poor fertility and drought tolerant.
Cilantro/CorianderFull to partial sun up to 6 hours.Keep soil moist. Up to 1 inch of water per week. Don’t waterlog.Cilantro prefers cooler weather. Harvest regularly
LemongrassFull sunNeeds regular waterings throughout the season.Not drought tolerant. Needs rich, well-draining soil
FenugreekPart to full sunRegular waterings, let soil dry out in between wateringsDoesn’t transplant well. Consider sowing seeds.
MintFull sun to partial shadeLike moist soil that drains well.Vigorous grower
LavenderFull sunWater regularlyNeeds well draining soil. Does not like to sit in water at all! Prune regularly
AniseFull sunConsistent watering until well established.Prefers alkaline soil that is well draining.

Outdoor Herb Gardens

For an outdoor herb garden, choose a location with full sun and well-draining soil, as herbs such as thyme and sage thrive under these conditions. Start with seeds or plants after the last spring frost, and space them allowing room for growth. Add a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.

  • Soil Preparation: Amend with compost to improve fertility.
  • Watering: Varies by herb; however, most prefer soil slightly dry between waterings.
  • Companion Planting: Consider plant compatibility for best results (e.g., mint and oregano are good neighbors).

Harvesting and Preservation

Harvest your herbs early in the morning when their oil content, and thus flavor, is the highest. Snip off the needed amount without removing more than a third of the plant to ensure continuous growth. For preservation, dry them by hanging or using a dehydrator, or freeze them in ice cubes for longer shelf life.

Botanical Classification

In the study of herbs, understanding their botanical classification is crucial for identifying and utilizing these plants effectively.

Annual and Perennial Herbs

Annual herbs, such as basil and cilantro, have a life cycle that lasts only one season. These herbs germinate, grow, flower, set seed, and die within a single year. In contrast, perennial herbs like rosemary and thyme live for more than two years. They may go dormant in winter but will regrow from the same roots when conditions are favorable.

Here’s a simple way to distinguish them:

  • Annual Herbs:
    • Complete life cycle in one year.
    • Must be replanted each season.
  • Perennial Herbs:
    • Live for multiple years.
    • Survive winters and regrow.

Herbs in Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves using plant extracts to support health and well-being. Herbs, essential players in this practice, are often distilled into essential oils which you can use through inhalation or topical application.

Common Aromatherapy Herbs:

HerbPropertiesSuggested Use
LavenderCalming, sleep-inducing, anxiety-reducingDiffusers, bathwater
PeppermintEnergizing, clarity-enhancing, muscle-soothingLotions, candles, warm baths
EucalyptusExpectorant, respiratory system-soothingDiffusers, steam inhalation

When using essential oils derived from these herbs, it’s important to know their effects. Lavender oil is widely esteemed for promoting relaxation and better sleep, easing your mind’s tensions. Peppermint oil can boost your mental clarity and relieve physical discomforts, such as muscle tension and headaches.

Incorporating dry herbs like eucalyptus into aromatherapy practices can also be potent — the oil can help loosen phlegm and soothe respiratory conditions. Integrating these oils into your daily routines through a diffuser or personal care products can be a refreshing addition.

Remember, the potency of these oils means a small amount goes a long way. Always start with a few drops to see how your body responds. Enjoy a textured experience by combining different herbs, but do so with care to avoid overpowering scents or reactions.

Herbs and Their Nutritional Profiles

Herbs play a substantial role in enriching your diet with nutrients. Here’s a brief guide on the nutritional composition of some common herbs:

  1. Parsley: Rich in vitamin K, C, and A, parsley supports your immune system and bone health. It’s also a source of flavonoid antioxidants.
  2. Cinnamon: Known for its blood sugar regulating properties, cinnamon is a powerful herb with anti-diabetic effects. It’s also a good source of manganese and contains small amounts of fiber and calcium.
  3. Oregano: Carrying potent antibacterial properties, oregano is brimming with antioxidants that help fight free radicals. It includes vitamins A, C, E, and K, along with fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, and potassium.
  4. Dandelion: Every part of the dandelion plant is edible and nutritious. Dandelion provides vitamins A, C, and K, and it’s considered a nutritive herb with potential anti-inflammatory effects.
  5. Nettle: This herb is acknowledged for its role in relieving seasonal allergy symptoms, providing a wide range of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K, as well as several B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.
  6. Cardamom: Containing fiber, iron, and manganese, cardamom may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It’s also linked to digestive health benefits.
  • Echinacea: Often used to prevent or treat the common cold, this herb contains compounds that may boost immune health.

Incorporating these herbs into your diet can elevate your intake of vitamins and minerals, thus contributing to your overall health. Remember that while herbs add nutritional value, they should be consumed in addition to a balanced diet.

Herbs in Tea Blends

When you explore the world of tea blends, you’ll quickly realize that herbs play a crucial role in creating the vast array of flavors you enjoy. Herbal teas are often caffeine-free alternatives to traditional teas and come in a variety of tastes and aromas. Blending herbs can transform your tea experience, both for their nuanced flavors and potential health benefits.

Common Herbs in Tea Blends:

  • Chamomile: Known for its calming properties, chamomile is a staple in teas meant to encourage relaxation.
  • Mint: With its refreshing profile, mint can aid digestion and add a cool, crisp note to your blends.
  • Hibiscus: This herb introduces a tart and fruity flavor, perfect for vibrant, fruity herbal teas and is often enjoyed cold.
  • Ginger: Offers a spicy kick, supporting digestive health and adding a warming sensation.

To craft your blend, consider what you’re seeking in a tea: Is it comfort, energy, or health benefits? Your selection of herbs will guide the outcome.

Example of Herbal Blend:

  • To ease into sleep: Try chamomile with a hint of lavender.
  • For a morning boost: Pair ginseng with peppermint for an invigorating start.

When creating blends, experiment with balance. Start with a base, like green tea, and incorporate herbs according to your taste preference and the benefits you desire. Remember to steep your blend properly to extract the full flavor and potential benefits each herb has to offer. Enjoy discovering the perfect mix for your palate and well-being.

Herbs in Cosmetic and Skincare

When exploring the realm of natural beauty, it’s clear that herbs play a pivotal role in enhancing the health and appearance of your skin. Utilizing these botanicals in your skincare routine can offer a myriad of benefits due to their active compounds.

For example, Calendula is renowned for its soothing properties, effectively aiding in the repair of damaged skin. It is particularly suitable for use on all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Chamomile and Rosemary are celebrated for their anti-inflammatory effects. They have ideal components in products aimed at reducing redness and irritation. They are often included in formulations that address skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea.

Key Herbs and Their Benefits:

  • Calendula: Moisturizing, healing
  • Chamomile: Anti-inflammatory, soothing
  • Rosemary: Antioxidant, firming

Common Herbal Uses in Skincare:

  • Facial Oils: Incorporate herbs for their therapeutic properties to rejuvenate the skin.
  • Serums: Target specific skin issues with potent, concentrated herbal extracts.
  • Cleansers: Use herbal infusions to gently purify and prepare the skin for further treatment.

It’s essential to recognize that, while beneficial, some herbs might cause adverse reactions like contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Patch testing before widespread use is always advisable.

Additionally, astringent herbs such as Witch Hazel are used for their skin-tightening effects, which can be especially refreshing in toners or after cleansing.

By thoughtfully integrating these natural elements into your skincare, you can harness the power of herbs to maintain a vibrant, healthy complexion.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following subsections answer common queries about common herbs, focusing on culinary, medicinal, household usage, unique herbs, regional varieties, and recommendations for beginners.

What are some essential herbs for culinary purposes?

In the culinary world, herbs like basil, thyme, parsley, and rosemary are staples in the kitchen. Basil offers a sweet and fragrant addition to dishes, particularly in Italian cooking, while rosemary’s needle-like leaves provide a robust flavor, especially in roasts and stews.

Which herbs are traditionally used for medicinal purposes?

For centuries, plants such as echinacea, St. John’s Wort, and ginkgo biloba have been used for their medicinal properties. Echinacea is well-regarded for its immune-boosting capabilities, whereas St. John’s Wort is commonly applied to improve mood and alleviate depression and anxiety.

Could you provide a guide to the uses of various household herbs?

Household herbs like mint and cilantro offer diverse uses — mint can freshen up a fruit salad or be used in savory dishes, while cilantro adds a zesty, citrus flavor to salsas and curries. Understanding how to use different herbs can elevate your home cooking to new flavorful heights.

What are some lesser-known herbs with unique applications?

Herbs such as lemon balm and borage may not be common in every kitchen but offer unique uses; lemon balm can soothe nerves and aid sleep, while borage has cucumber-like flavor suitable for refreshing summer drinks and salads.

How do herbs from different regions compare in flavor and use?

Herbs from the Mediterranean, such as oregano and sage, are well-suited to the region’s sun-drenched dishes. Meanwhile, Mediterranean herbs like basil also play a prominent role in Asian cuisines, showcasing the versatile nature of these plants across various cultures.

If you’re new to gardening, herbs like basil, chives, and mint are excellent starting points. They are hardy, easy to grow, and can be cultivated in small spaces or containers, making them ideal for those looking to cultivate their own kitchen gardens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *