The term ‘herb‘ encompasses annuals such as dill, perennials like oregano and shrubs such as rosemary.
What unites them is their utility in the kitchen. Often aromatic, they can be used to deepen the flavour of soups, stews, casseroles and salads, as well as desserts and cocktails. In addition to their culinary use, many herbs have long been valued for their medicinal properties and are still found in herbal remedies today. The rich aroma of herbs can be also used to scent clothes and to add a relaxing perfume to bathwater.
Create a beautiful herb garden with the help of our detailed advice on growing and using herbs like basil, parsley, thyme and coriander.
Mint plant growing in a pot
Super-easy to grow, mint comes in an amazing range of differently flavoured and scented cultivars.
Chives in flower
Chives are well worth growing for mild, onion-like flavour of their grassy foliage and edible purple flowers. Bees love chives, too.
Picking curly parsley
Parsley is a biennial herb, best grown in partial shade where it’s less likely to bolt into flower. It has many culinary uses, working particularly well in soups and stews.
Coriander growing in a container
Coriander is a staple ingredient in Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. All parts of the plant are edible – leaves, stalks and seeds (which have a wonderful, orangey aroma).
The quintessential Mediterranean herb, rosemary has an unmistakable aroma and can be picked all year round.
Thyme is small in stature but big on flavour. It’s delicious paired with roasted veg, soups and roasts. It makes a fine addition to gin, too. Like mint, there are very many cultivars of thyme, with different scents and flavours.
Purple sage foliage
A shrubby herb that tastes just as good as it looks, culinary sage makes a wonderful addition to risotto, pasta and gnocci recipes.
A brilliant all-rounder, dill is easy to grow, tastes great, looks good and is very beneficial to pollinating insects when in flower. Well worth growing.
Bunch of tarragon
French and Russian types exist, but French tarragon is widely thought to have the better flavour. The strong aniseed flavour of French tarragon makes it an essential ingredient in sauces. Mash it with butter and spread over chicken before oven roasting.
The citrus flavour of sorrel adds a distinctive tang to potatoes, soups and risottos. Use the youngest leaves as culinary herbs and the older ones as you would spinach.
Chervil foliage and developing flower
An attractive relative of parsley, chervil has a delicate aniseed flavour and grows best in a shady location.
Grown much less now than it used to be, lovage is an easy-to-grow perennial with leaves that impart a warm, celery-like flavour. The stems, roots and seeds can be eaten, too.
Winter savory growing with other herbs
You can grow two types – annual, summer savory, which has a peppery, thyme-like flavour and winter savory, a perennial with a stronger, more peppery flavour. Savory is easy to grow and great for pollinating insects.
No herb garden is complete without basil. There are lots of differently flavoured types to grow, too, and a bunch of freshly picked leaves will bring pizzas and pastas to life.
Bay is indispensable in the kitchen, deepening the flavour of sauces, stews and cassseroles. The leaves work just as well dried as they do fresh.
English mace (Achillea ageratum) shouldn’t be confused with the spice mace. Use the aromatic leaves in rice, soup and pasta dishes. Very pretty and simple to grow, this perennial thrives in a spot in full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.
Shiso or Chinese basil
Also known as Chinese basil or purple perilla, shiso has a unique flavour similar to mint and basil, with notes of cumin.