Niki’s Favourite Culinary Herbs – Perfect for Pots!
By Niki Jabbour
Everyone has their own favourite herbs to grow, but the following five are my essentials. That doesn’t mean I don’t plant other culinary herbs, like cilantro, chives, and mint, but these are the ones I tend to use the most in my kitchen. Some herbs, like thyme and chives, are perennials and return year after year. Others, like basil and rosemary, are annuals and you’ll have to buy or grow fresh plants each spring.
Don’t be shy about harvesting your herbs. In fact, the more you pick, the more they grow! Herb plants respond to harvesting by producing fresh growth. And if you find your plants have gotten too big, harvest and dry some of the bounty for winter or to share with family and friends.
I firmly believe you can never grow enough basil and this is one of the best herbs to plant in containers. The key to growing great basil is to practice patience. Don’t plant it out too early. It’s a heat-loving herb and shouldn’t be tucked in pots or garden beds until a week or more after the last frost date. It also needs full sun, at least 6 hours each day. My favourite varieties include Everleaf, Nufar, and Spicy Globe.
There are two main types of parsley: curly and flat leaved. I prefer flat leaved parsley as it has extremely flavourful leaves that are great in salads, pasta, soups and sauces like chimichurri. Parsley is very easy to grow and can even take light shading. Keep plants well watered, but not sitting in water.
Aromatic thyme forms compact, mounding or spreading plants and is hardy to zone 5. It will return in Nova Scotia if planted in garden beds. Potted thyme typically doesn’t winter over. That’s ok, it’s easy to pick up a few plants each spring. While I grow garden thyme for its punch of flavour, I also plant lemon thyme. The citrusy fragrance and flavour is so good in marinades or sprinkled over roasted potatoes.
I always tuck a few Greek oregano plants into my containers so that we’ll have plenty of fresh leaves for pizza and pasta, but also enough to dry for winter. Oregano is very easy to grow. Just give the plants sun and consistent moisture and you’ll enjoy a bumper crop of flavourful oregano.
The smell of rosemary always makes me smile and the flavour is a knockout in the kitchen! To be happy, rosemary wants consistent moisture but not wet feet. I find it helpful to mist indoor rosemary plants every day or two. The branches can get a bit lanky, so pinch the plants back often to encourage fresh, bushy growth. These new shoots have the most intense flavour.