Cooking with fresh herbs and spices does not have to be complicated or expensive. You can also have an indoor herb garden, especially if you have a little space in your outdoor garden, or a large windowsill with lots of sunlight.
I have compiled a list of the 7 best kitchen herbs for cooking, so you don’t have to depend on your local grocery store anymore! They are BCCDOPR: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, and rosemary.
Most of these plants can be grown indoors, but keep in mind that some of them need lots of space. Spring is right around the corner, so check out the list, and start planting!
Basil is one of the most widely used herbs. Sweet basil is a key ingredient in many mediterranean recipes, and a must for fresh pizza!
Originally from India, basil likes warm weather. Make sure you plant the seeds or transplants only after all danger of frost has passed, into warm soil. You can start the seeds around 6 weeks before spring, to get a head start. If you want to plant directly outside you’ll have to make sure that temperatures, including nighttime, don’t drop below 50°F (10°C)
Basil has an abundant yield, leaves can and should be harvested continuously in order to keep the plant healthy.
The correct way to store Basil is freezing. You can chop up the leaves, or keep them whole. Make sure you put them into an airtight, sealed bag, and dry off any excess moisture.
Frozen Basil keeps most of its flavor, whereas dried basil is fairly weak.
Chives are so versatile! They are very popular in a herb garden. You can use them as a garnish, for cooking, for breakfast or on eggs!
If you are fond of garlic, then plant “Garlic Chives” as they have a more pungent taste with a mild garlic flavor. Keep in mind that common chives are more cold tolerant compared to Garlic Chives.
Chive seeds take a few weeks to germinate, so don’t worry about it too much. Soil temps should be higher than 60ºF or 15ºC.
Even though it tolerates light shade it yields the most and grows best in full sun. The soil needs to be moist, fertile, and well draining. Fortunately there is only minimal care involved once the plants are fully grown.
You can start to harvest Chives after around 60 days of planting, 3-4 times in the first year. The flowers are edible, and taste the best just after they have opened.
Store chives in the freezer in an airtight bag. Dried chives lose all of the flavor, so don’t bother with trying to dry them.
The love it or hate it herb. Some people have a group of genes that allows them to taste the aldehydes in cilantro leaves. Cilantro will taste soapy to them, no matter what you do.
You need to plant Cilantro in well drained soil, preferably a place with full sun or only light shade. You’ll be able to harvest the first leaves after only 3-4 weeks. Seeds start to develop in about 40 – 50 days.
Cilantro doesn’t like being transplanted, so you are better off by starting it by directly sowing seeds.
You can cut the leaves any time, but you should use the fine, upper leaves for cooking.
You can’t properly store Cilantro, since drying removes all flavor from the leaves. Read more on Cilantro from a Master Gardener here.
Dill is a plant most commonly used for soups and pickling. It is also known to attract beneficial predatory insects to your garden.
You should plant Dill into warm soil, after the last frost has passed. Seedlings will appear within 2 weeks. Keep in mind that Dill likes full sun but make sure that the soil is well drained. If it does not have enough sun then it will still grow, but the plant will not be as bushy.
Snip fresh dill leaves as needed after your plants have reached at least 8 inches height. If you want to get the best flavor then try to wait 65 – 70 days after sowing.Dill tastes the strongest just before the flowers open.
Similar to Basil, fresh Dill leaves can be frozen. For best results you should freeze stems as whole, and snip off leaves as necessary. You can return the remainder of the stem to the freezer.
If you think of italian cuisine, you probably think about Oregano. Featured in many mediterranean dishes it’s incredibly well known and well liked. The taste of Oregano is somewhat similar to that of Thyme.
Oregano is very versatile, it goes well with most meat. If you like homemade stuff, then you can make a wonderful herb and garlic marinade for beef jerky. Just make sure that you pick the best meat for beef jerky in order to get amazing results!
Oregano is a very hardy plant, especially suitable for beginner gardeners or cooks. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow.
Make sure to plant Oregano into full sun. The warmer, the better. Allow the plant to grow at least 4 inches tall before trimming lightly. This will ensure a fuller, bushier plant.
You don’t have to water oregano as much as other herbs, it prefers a well drained soil. Make sure to water it only if the soil around it feels dry. If you keep it in a container, then add water until the first drops appear from the bottom drainage holes.
You can harvest fresh leaves continuously, after the plants have reached 4 – 6 inches height after the first trimming.
Freeze whole leaves or stems and use as necessary. If you prefer dried oregano, then put the leaves into a dark, well ventilated area first. Once the leaves are dry store it in an airtight container. It will keep its flavor for around 3-6 months.
Parsley pairs well with meat and potato dishes, among others, and is generally easy on the eyes when used as a garnish. It adds a wonderful, fresh flavor to your dishes if used at the very end of cooking.
Did you know that using Parsley reduces the need of salt in some dishes? This is perfect for people who need to lower their sodium intake!
Parsley is easily grown from seeds, but it is somewhat slow to germinate. It might take up to 4 weeks on some occasions! You can try to soak the seeds for one day in lukewarm water before planting to speed up the process.
You can start harvesting the leaves when the stem they are attached to has three separate segments. Start by cutting the outside of the plant, and leave the inner parts to grow and mature.
You can store fresh parsley in the fridge for a couple of days. It may last somewhat longer if you keep the leaves on the stem, and put the stem into a glass of water. I don’t see the point of this if you have a whole plant or plants available among your kitchen herbs. Just go outside and pick off a fresh stem.
Frozen Parsley will lose some flavor, and the texture is way different from fresh. If you don’t need it as a garnish, then feel free to use frozen parsley in your dishes. It will keep well in an airtight freezer bag.
Rosemary is an attractive evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves similar to that of a christmas tree. It has wonderful blue flowers, and is well liked in the mediterranean kitchen.
You can use it to season poultry, lamb, soups and stews.
Rosemary prefers warmer climates. If you are living in a colder area, then you will have to grow it indoors in a pot during the winter. Since its germination rate is low and slow, you’ll have more luck with starting new plants from cuttings taken from a well established Rosemary plant.
Plant it in full sun in well draining soil. Your plant will die if it is constantly wet. Do not overwater! If you have optimal conditions then it can grow up to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide, so make sure you give it ample room.
You can air-dry sprigs of rosemary, make sure to keep them in an airtight container in a dark, dry cupboard.
These 7 kitchen herbs are perfect if you want to start your own small herb garden. If you like to cook, then you can also check out a list of 33 spices with pictures in order to see what the most popular spices are.
About the Author
Richard Peter is the founder of steakbuff.com. He loves eating steaks and grows his own Basil in a small hydroponic kit.