Want to start growing your own herbs for the kitchen? Here are 10 of the best herbs to grow for cooking (in my mind, anyway!).
I’ve been growing vegetables all my life, but herbs didn’t really come into the picture until my man and I settled in our little cottage in the countryside. With established garden spaces, it was finally time to dive into seed starting, grow and preserving my own herbs for cooking.
And now, I’m ready to share a list of my favorite herbs to grow and use in savory home cooked dishes.
Best Herbs to Grow for Cooking
Before we dive into this, I just want to point out that this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the herbs that can be used in home cooking. These are just my own personal favorites at this point in time!
Most cooks drool over fresh home grown basil. Whether they use it raw, cooked or preserved in the freezer, it’s definitely worth the effort of growing it yourself.
Growing: Basil is perhaps one of the easiest herbs to start from seed. It grows quickly and loves the summer heat. It isn’t frost tolerant though, so it only acts as a perennial in non-freezing zones!
Kitchen Use: basil looses it’s flavor when thoroughly cooked, so it’s most often used in raw form to make pesto, sauces, dips, dressings and makes a delicious addition to salads. It’s also wonderful if just lightly steamed on top of a morning omelet.
To Preserve: basil doesn’t hold it’s flavor well when it’s dehydrated. Freezing the leaflets instead or try my favorite basil preserving recipe!
Cilantro is a polarizing herb. It seems you either love it or hate it! Like basil, cilantro tastes best, fresh.
Growing: this herb loves heat. It isn’t difficult to start from seed, provided it has the warmth it so loves! Unlike basil, cilantro goes to seed in the summer and to keep a fresh supply on hand, you’ll probably want to plant a new patch every 2-3 weeks.
Kitchen Use: cilantro is commonly paired with tomatoes in fresh and home canned recipes. It’s also delicious in homemade fermented salsa. Unlike many others, this herb doesn’t hold it’s flavor well once it’s dried.
To Preserve: cilantro is best frozen in ice cube trays with water or oil.
The delicious dill herb will give you 2 harvests you can use in the kitchen: one from the young plants and another later on when the head goes to seed.
Growing: dill is easy to grow! Just sprinkle some seed over a patch of earth and keep it moist for a bountiful harvest of tender greens. If you want seeds, stop harvesting the greens and let flowers form. And you can harvest the seeds that soon follow.
Or let them fall to the ground, where they’ll sprout and grow up the following spring.
Kitchen Use: when it comes to herbs, dill is a favorite. Fresh or dried, dill leaflets are delicious in salads, dressing, dips, on potatoes, pan-fried trout and more! The seeds are delicious in traditional fermented sauerkraut.
To Preserve: dill leaflets dry beautifully. You can also pack fresh leaflets into ice cube trays, cover with water or oil and freeze. Seeds will keep well in dry form.
It’s debatable whether garlic is a herb or a vegetable! But here in my kitchen, we primarily use it for flavoring. So I think of it as a herb.
Growing: garlic is easy to grow. Plant sets in the fall and they’ll be one of the first things to appear in spring! They should be harvested mid-summer and cured for winter use.
Learn how to grow garlic RIGHT HERE.
Kitchen Use: you can use garlic fresh or dry the bulbs for garlic powder. Around here, I add fresh garlic to meat, potatoes, homemade condiments, plus pickling and fermenting recipes too.
To Preserve: these are many different ways to preserve garlic for winter use in the kitchen! Here’s a list.
- store whole bulbs in a dry, cool pantry for 4-8 months (learn how HERE)
- dehydrate slices and grind into powder
- mince and freeze garlic
- ferment your garlic
- preserve it in apple cider vinegar (learn how HERE)
If you’re only accustomed to using dry parsley in the kitchen, you’ll find that the fresh stuff packs a punch! Here’s what you need to know about growing and using parsley.
Growing: this herb is a biennial (meaning it returns every other year), so it’s often grown as an annual. Or, you can establish 2 patches in the garden, started 1 year apart so you always have some on hand.
Kitchen Use: parsley is delicious when paired with eggs, potatoes, dips, dressings and vinaigrettes.
To Preserve: parsley can be dried, but it’ll lose most of it’s flavor. Consider freezing it instead or ferment it in my mild fermented yellow tomato salsa recipe.
Ahhh, rosemary! I have to confess I’m not good at keeping rosemary alive. When I buy starts, this herb thrives in my garden during the summer, but our cold winters always kill them off. I’ve tried bringing them indoors, but they always die.
But let me tell you what I know about this herb.
Growing: rosemary can be difficult to start from seed. It’s easier to take cuttings and re-root them in moist soil. Something I’ve never actually done because I’ve pretty much given up on growing rosemary!
Kitchen Use: rosemary pairs well with red meat and I love sprinkling it over baked potato wedges.
To Preserve: I’ve only ever used rosemary in dried form. Though I’m sure you could freeze it as well.
I think sage is a beautiful herb with it’s silvery green leaves. The flavor you get with home dried sage is much stronger than the rubbed sage you’ll find at the grocery store!
Growing: unlike many herbs, sage has large seeds and is fairly easy to start yourself. It is an annual in warmer climates and will return for 4-5 years in the north.
Kitchen Use: sage pairs well with red meats. And truth be told, that’s the primary way I use it in my kitchen! If you’re using it fresh, you’ll want to cook it with your food. Dry sage can be sprinkled over finished dishes, if you desire.
To Preserve: because of it’s tendency to go bitter when canned, sage is best frozen or dried. I give you my favorite way to dry sage HERE.
This herb has tiny leaves that are difficult to remove from their stems unless you dry them first. But the robust flavor you get is worth the effort.
Growing: thyme is a cold hardy perennial that you can start from seed or dig starts from a friend. It spreads through creeping roots and will come back year after year.
Kitchen Use: thyme is one of those herbs that pair well with nearly every savory dish. Meat, potatoes, pasta, rice or eggs, thyme should be cooked with your dish.
To Preserve: I’d recommend drying this herb, so you can easily remove the tiny leaves from their woody stems. I teach you how to do it HERE.
There are so many types of onion you could choose to grow. There are bunching onions, walking onions, scallions and of course, globe onions. Are they vegetables or are they herbs? I vote for herb!
Growing: how you grow onions depends on the variety you choose. Globe onions can be grown from seed or sets. Walking onions are usually grown from bulbils. And bunching onions are easy to grow from seed or when you dig starts from a friend!
Kitchen Use: Regardless of the type, onions are wonderful for meat, eggs, raw salads and fermented salsa and sauces.
To Preserve: fragile onions (ones where you harvest the tops) dehydrate quickly and have a mild flavor when finished. Globe onions are easy to cure and store in whole form (I teach you how HERE), but you can also slice and dehydrate them as well.
I love oregano. This herb spreads like a weed in my garden, but I don’t care. The overabundance is welcome.
Growing: oregano is relatively easy to start from seed and is a perennial in my cold northern climate. A few starts will spread to fill in a garden bed over the course of a few years.
Kitchen Use: oregano goes well with nearly all meat, eggs and savory dishes. It’s delicious paired with tomato and brings something special to savory breads and pasta as well.
To Preserve: dehydrate oregano and you’ll find it holds it’s flavor profile quite well. This is the primary way I recommend you preserve it.
These are the 10 best herbs to grow for cooking. Many of them are perennials and will return in your garden year after year, which is something I love!
Read more about life with herbs: