Herbs have been grown for many thousands of years and used as medicines or remedies, preserving food, dyeing, as repellents, purifying the air and of course in cooking for food, flavour and fragrances. Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices. More...
Back to A-O Biennial and Perennial Herbs...
Peppermint - Teas, fragrance. Grows to a height of 20cm. Frost hardy.
Rosemary - Teas; flavouring for vinegar, jam, bread, butters, stuffing, vegetables, stew, and meat dishes. A frost hardy perennial. There are several varieties of this woody shrub with thin needle-like leaves and pink, white, light or dark blue flowers. They range in habit from upright, dwarf and semi-prostrate, with heights varying from 50cms to 2ms. Rosemary prefers full sun and a reasonably dry position with well-drained soil to lessen the risk of root rot. It is a good plant to grow in seaside positions as it will tolerate salt and wind.
Sage - Seasoning for meat, vegetable and egg dishes; stuffings. Sage is a small, frost hardy, woody perennial shrub growing to about 90cm. The long, oval, grey-green leaves, velvety in texture, have a slightly bitter, camphor-like taste, while the flowers are purple-blue in colour. Full sun and good drainage are essential for sage as it does not like wet feet.
Sage, pineapple - Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; teas; potpourri; cream cheese; jams, jellies. Pineapple sage has a fruity flavour. Evergreen frost tender shrub with pineapple scented leaves growing to a height of 1.3m. Masses of red flowers from summer to winter. Planting in a raised bed is advisable as this plant doesn't like wet feet. A well-drained, sunny position in the garden is preferred.
Sorrel - Flavouring of soups, butters, omelettes; some species of sorrel are toxic. A short-lived perennial reaching a height of 60cm. Frost hardy. It prefers moist, warm climates but grows in cooler regions and tolerates some dryness. Prefers a sun or semi-shade position in well-composted soil.
Spearmint - Teas; flavours sauces, jellies, and vinegars; leaves in fruit salad, peas, etc. Grows to a height of 60cm. Frost hardy.
Sweet marjoram - Flavours tomato sauces, eggs, etc. Leaves in salads, sauces, pizza, and meats. Can be substituted for mild oregano in cooking. It is often used in bouquet garni. Sweeter and milder than its relative oregano. Grows to 60cm. Prefers a sunny position especially in winter as it does not like the cold.
Sweet rocket - Salads. Grows to a height of 40cm. Grows in full sun to partly shaded position in summer. Likes a fertile, well-drained soil enriched with rotted manure or compost. Start picking young leaves about five weeks after seedlings have emerged, sooner in summer when growth is faster.
Tarragon - Sauces, salads, soups, omelettes, meat, vegetable, and fish dishes.The two best culinary varieties grown are French tarragon and Mexican tarragon. French tarragon is a perennial herb that spreads by rhizomes or underground stems, sending up erect stems to a height of 40-50cm or more. It dies down over winter and regenerates in spring. Tarragon needs to be replanted every few years as plants lose their vigour over time. The Mexican tarragon reaches 90cm in height and is said to be the best substitute for French tarragon. The flowers attract beneficial insects. Prefers full sun or partial shade.
Thyme, common - Teas; attracts bees; sachets; potpourris; flavouring for poultry, fish, stews, soups, tomatoes, cheese, eggs, and rice. Thyme is one of the most common of garden herbs, essential for all kitchens. Most thymes are low, creeping plants although Common thyme will grow up to 30cm high. Frost hardy. Best grown in warm dry climates in a full sun position. Light, well-drained soil which is not too acidic is the best type for thymes. Thyme is a classic component of the French bouquet garni.
Valerian - Roots for flavouring; ornamental plant.
Winter savoury - Leaves used to flavour meat, fish, salads, soup, stew, and sausage. Pungent peppery flavour. Grows to a height of 25cm.
Wormwood - Bitter flavour; toxic if consumed in large quantity; ornamental plant, dried arrangements; insect repellent. An evergreen shrub which reaches 2m in height and about 1m wide. Frost hardy. Used in gardens as a colour contrast as it has brilliant metallic silver foliage. It can be used as a hedge. These plants are very tolerant of summer droughts. Full sun is essential and in an open position with well-drained soil. A strong infusion of the leaves sprayed onto vegetables or ornamentals repels caterpillars and snails; just having the plants nearby will drive some pests away. Repels clothes moths. Prune regularly to keep its shape.
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