Worms and Flowers

Growing Herbs and Spices

Posted in Herbs, How To by Lzyjo on July 13, 2009

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.

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Italian Parsley 'Gigante' Seedling

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.

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Basil 'Genovese'

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.

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Culinary Sage started this spring

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.

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SLOOOOOW growing Rosemary 'Romero'

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.

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Greek Oregano started this spring

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.

Primary Herbs

  • Thyme
  • Savory, preferably Summer Savory
  • Marjarom
  • Rosemary

Secondary Herbs

  • 1 or 2 crushed Bay Leaves
  • Lavender flowers
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Sage
  • Chervil

Optional Herbs

  • Mint
  • Fennel seeds
  • Basil
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4 Responses

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  1. tina said, on July 13, 2009 at 7:26 AM

    You must have so much patience to grow herbs from seed. I’ve only tried basil this way. I do love herbs in the garden so much. I’ve not tried the savory and have heard it is really good.

    I am a seed junkie. I know I could just go to Lowe’s or K-Mart and pay $3, but this is so much more fun!

  2. Dave said, on July 13, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    Herbs are something in the past that we haven’t taken advantage of, this year is different. I just planted more cilantro and basil. Our last crop of cilantro is going to seed and I plan on collecting that for next year.

    I love the herb garden! Most of the things come back every year and it’s a huge savings compared to buying fresh or dried herbs!

  3. jeff-nhn said, on July 13, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    I plan on doing a container garden for my herbs next year.

    That’s a great idea! My grandparents always kept potted herbs on their patio and it’s so easy to bring them in for the winter! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. gururajr said, on July 15, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    Thanks for the info on herbs. I have started a small herb garden and planted basil, coriander, sage, lemon balm, rosemary, fennel, soapwort, yarrow, oregano, lavender, and mint. Except for a few such as coriander and basil, I am still not sure how best to make use of these herbs in cooking as well as for their aroma. Looks like I need to read up a lot. But posts such as yours do help. Do let me know how you harvest and use some of the herbs you have mentioned here. Thanks.

    A little herb garden?… It’s sounds quite extensive!! Coriander can be used for the fresh leaves called cilantro. It is common in Mexican cooking, salsas, black beans, etc., it is usually used fresh and added at the end of cooking. Of course you’re familiar with the seeds, dhania from Indian food.

    Basil can be used fresh or dried. Pesto is the main way for using the fresh leaves. The dried, or fresh, leaves are also great in tomato sauce, tomato entrees, Italian food, etc., hope this helps. Harvest the basil before it starts flowering. I usually pluck the leaves off of the stems, I think it makes them dry faster.


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