If you think you need a green thumb to have fresh herbs for cooking, think again. Some of the most commonly used culinary herbs are also the easiest to grow. I should know, because I've been growing them for over 50 years, since I was just a young child. In fact, some herbs were originally considered weeds, which should tell you how little care they need.
Professional chefs demand fresh herbs for their dishes, as all cooks should, but fresh herbs are expensive. Growing herbs at home can solve that problem. There are dozens of herbs in all shapes and sizes, and some are easier to grow than others.
My six favorite herbs grow readily from seed or cuttings, tolerate a variety of soils, require no special care and have few if any pest or disease problems. All of these herbs have grown well for me in containers indoors and outside.
Top three easy annual and bienniel herbs
Basil grows easily from seed planted in early spring after the last frost. Pinching is required to make a bushy plant. Globe basil has a more compact growth habit and is good for a windowsill herb garden. Purple basil can be grown as an ornamental and used in cooking. Basil does not like heat and humidity, so is best grown in the cooler months of the year or indoors in hot, wet climates. Basil is used in tomato-based dishes and is popular with Italian cooks.
Parsley is a bienniel herb, but is usually grown as an annual. The leaves can be flat or curly. Parsley is a vigorous grower that usually takes over my mixed herb planters. Parsley is used to flavor a variety of foods and is often used as a garnish intended to freshen breath after a meal.
Cilantro has a unique flavor that is often found in Latin dishes. The seeds are used in confectionery cooking and are called coriander. I grow Cilantro from seed, and find it adaptable to a wide variety of soils.
Top three easy perenniel herbs
Thyme is a low-growing plant with wiry stems that can reach 10 inches in height. It likes well-drained, light soil. Thyme is easily grown from cuttings or from seeds. I replace my thyme plants every few years after they become woody and scraggly looking. Thyme is best used in seafood, poultry and beef dishes.
Sage, a member of the Salvia family, can be started from seed, but my favorite way to propagate it is by rooting cuttings. It's a slow starter that likes full sun and is adaptable to a variety of soils. Like thyme, plants eventually become woody and should be replaced every three to four years. Sage is often used to flavor poultry.
Rosemary prefers sunny locations with well-drained soil and grows well in sandy, infertile soils. Here in SW Florida, it's a perennial that often grows to several feet in height and width. It is generally kept inside in colder climates during the winter. Rosemary rarely produces seed, so it must be grown from plants and is easily rooted from cuttings in early summer. This herb is a popular seasoning for meats and dressings.
With these six herbs in the garden, there will be no lack of flavor in the family meals. Once growing these herbs has been mastered, moving on to more challenging herbs will be next on the list.