Ready to kick your culinary skills up a notch? Herbs can easily uplevel your game in the kitchen and kick the flavor profile of your meals into high gear. The secret to restaurant-quality meals used by top chefs is correct seasoning, and herbs can help balance a dish so you can wow your dinner guests or your family.

Herbs are super easy to grow, making them a great project for beginner gardeners to dig into. Plus, they’re versatile: they can be grown in pots, containers, raised beds, directly in the ground, or in your kitchen (if you have the proper amount of sunlight). Whatever your living situation (apartment, condo, rental) you can always sneak a few herbs into your life. They add fresh flavor to your meal that you just can’t replicate with store-bought dried spices, which are often ultra-processed, fake flavorings that can disrupt a healthy gut biome and have addictive properties. The health benefits of plant power are undeniable, and you can read more about the health benefits of herbs here

If you’ve never gardened before, I’ve got a bunch of easy options for starting an herb garden. The goal of any garden experience is to grow a deeper connection to the food you eat, and reap all the health benefits of high-quality, nutrient dense, fresh home-grown food. If you really feel you aren’t in a position to start an herb garden, you should head to your local farmers market to get the freshest herbs available (and I’ve got tips for that below!). Let’s start by breaking down the different herb families.

HERB FAMILIES

Mint Family: This is the most recognizable plant family in your spice cabinet! The Lamiaceae aka the Mint family includes favorites like oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon balm, sage, lavender and mint.

Daisy Family: Love a good Bearnaise sauce? The Asteraceae aka the Daisy family includes the herb tarragon (which gives Bearnaise sauce that lovely flavor) along with more edible flowers such as calendula, chamomile, echinacea and sunflowers.

Carrot Family: Wondering where dill, cilantro, and parsley come into play? The Apiaceae AKA the Carrot family include these favorites.

Laurel Family: Bay leaves anyone! The lauraceae AKA the Laurel family has the beloved bay leaf in it along with cinnamon and camphor. In the midwest, we don’t see these in our landscape due to our temps, however, they are evergreen shrubs that can be grown in pots and wintered indoors. 

SIMPLE GROWING TIPS 

Plant

Find plants at your local nurseries so you can have the confidence that the varieties you choose will grow well in your area.

If you are looking to experiment with new or unusual variety or live in an area where the zones are close, just accept that your plant may not thrive to its maximum potential or come back the next year.

Nourish

Prior to planting, make sure the area is weed free. 

Plant seedlings or seeds in a fresh layer of compost.

Fertilize plants monthly with fresh compost, worm castings, or other organic fertilizers.

Harvest

Sunny days are optimal harvest times to maximize on flavor and scent, and morning harvests ensure higher essential oil content.

Harvest most herbs from the outside first. You will see new growth coming from the base/middle of the plants. 

Harvest only healthy stems.

Most of the mint family stores well in the fridge for a few days (with the exception of the basil, which is best used immediately after cutting).

Keep your harvested herbs handy for quick use. I have several mason jars filled with water on my counter with my fresh cut herbs for easy access when cooking – and it’s a great visual reminder if you’re still in the process of incorporating herbs into your diet on a regular basis. 

GARDEN TO TABLE STYLE

Top Tip: Chop and add them to everything!