One of the true delights of gardening is the access to fresh herbs. Herbs are wonderful fresh, but they are also great when dried. There is an amazing difference between herbs dried fresh and those dried before Pontius was a Pilot.
Annuals are some of the easiest and fastest herbs to grow. They will produce spices (seed) the first year. Annual herbs include anise, angelica, basil, borage, chamomile, chervil (french parsley,) coriander, cumin, dill, epazote, fenugreek, nigella, aka, love in a mist, mustard and parsley root.
Cilantro can be used as an herb and later in the season harvested for the coriander seeds. Dill leaves can also be used fresh or dried, (in cumbers dishes, Swedish meatballs, etc.), and then harvested for the dill seeds, an important pickling spice.
Perennial herbs include catnip, chives, lemon balm, lavender hardy to Zone 5, hyssop, anise hyssop, sweet marjoram, mint, oregano hardy to Zone 5, a Dave’s Garden user reported Greek Oregano overwintering in Zone 3 with mulch. Sage hardy zone 5 possibly lower, rosemary no colder than zero, in Zone 6 it’s likely you will lose plants in the ground during bad winters even with mulch, thyme hardy to Zone 4 .
When grown from seed, perennial herbs usually flower the second year, although I grew a lavender and it waited until this year, the third year, to flower.
Perennials grown as annuals include fennel and marjoram. Fennel is usually harvested for the bulb the first year before flowering, which occurs during the second year. Marjoram is technically a perennial, but is usually grown as an annual because it is unlikely to survive harsh winters with temperatures lower than zero, possibly hardy to zone 6.
Caraway and Parsley, are two of the few herbs which are biennials.
There are two different savories, Winter Savory and Summer Savory, both have a similar spicy flavor, but Summer Savory, the preferred drying savory, is an annual, while Winter Savory is a perennial hardy to Zone 5.
Marjoram and other semi-hardy perennials, like rosemary, can always be overwinter in pots. If you have a sunny location that’s great, if not store the plants is a basement or storage room and withhold water. Rosemary is one of the trickier herbs to grow from seed, they are sometime slow to germinate and slow growing after germination. For busher plants pinch seedlings once they have approximately 6 sets of leaves.
When herbs are dried the water evaporates, shrinking the leaves and concentrating the flavor. When substituting dry herbs for fresh it is best to use only 1/3 or 1/4 of the amount suggested and vice-versa.
One of my favorite all-purpose seasonings is Herbes de Provence. Although the name suggests a venerable origin in the pantries of the Francais it is a much more recent invention. French spice-giant Ducros, now owned by McCormick, was the first manufacturer to market Herbes de Provence in the 1970s. According to Wikipedia, Provencal cuisine traditionally used the same herbs, but cooks would have used each herb separately and with discretion.
Ducros recommends Herbes de Provence for soups, stews, casseroles, anything roasted, and even pasta sauce.
Here is a basic guideline for Herbes de Provence.
- Savory, preferably Summer Savory
- 1 or 2 crushed Bay Leaves
- Lavender flowers
- Fennel seeds