Have you ever wanted to grow your own herbs and spices? Do you dream of walking through your backyard and smelling the sweet fragrance of fresh basil or mint? Picture yourself throwing that fresh basil on top of your favorite pasta dish before bringing it to the table.
Picture yourself throwing that fresh basil on top of your favorite pasta dish before bringing it to the table.
There are so many to choose from and you may not know where to start. This guide gives you a little insight into 50 different herbs and spices you can choose to grow in your kitchen garden. Read on to get inspired and start “plotting” your own herb and spice list!
Your Handy A-Z of Herbs & Spices To Grow
1. Allspice – An All-Around Good Spice
Named by the English in the 1600s for having a flavor combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, the allspice plant is grown in many warm countries around the world. It is also known as “pimenta”, “Jamaica pimenta”, or “myrtle pepper”. Allspice is used to flavor food in a variety of ways such as Jamaican jerk seasoning when making sausage or curry, or baking desserts.
Allspice is also versatile in the way it can be grown and maintained. If grown outdoors in the tropics, it can reach up to 59 feet tall; if grown indoors, it thrives well in a greenhouse environment or even as a houseplant. Because of the many uses for allspice in cooking and baking, growing this spice is beneficial and tasty!
If you love baking you might be inspired to grow your own allspice!
2. Anise – More than Meets the Eye
Also known as “aniseed”, this herb is native to the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. It is similar in flavor to other spices such has fennel, liquorice and star anise.
Anise is used in a multitude of ways from cooking, liquor production, herbal medicine, and even to lure fish! If you have ever wondered what black jelly beans are made from, the anise seed is the culprit! If you happen to be in Greece, be sure to enjoy ouzo, which is flavored by anise.
If you are considering adding anise to your garden, plant the seeds in an area that is well-lit when the weather begins to warm up in the spring. Also, make sure the soil is fertile and well-drained.
If you love the taste of anise maybe this is the herb for you!
3. Annatto – Red Makes Yellow
Like the anise herb, the annatto spice also has a variety of uses. The flavor of this seed is often described as somewhat nutty and peppery, but sweet. It is mainly used as a food coloring agent, as its deep red color can lend a yellow color to foods such as cheeses, butter, and cakes.
In addition to food coloring, annatto is found in many different culture cuisines, from Latin to Jamaican, to Vietnamese and Filipino (and more!). One popular spicy pork Mexican dish, cochinita pibil, is cooked with annatto paste. It is also used in the sauce for a Filipino dish, pancit. You’ll enjoy all of the flavorful and exotic dishes annatto is used in!
Since the annatto seed comes from the achiote tree that is native to tropical regions, it is best to grow this plant in a warm environment.
4. Basil, Sweet – Royal Mint
Deriving from Latin and Greek roots, the basil herb means “royal plant”. Other names for it include “great basil” or “Saint Joseph’s wort”. The plant is native to tropical regions such as Southeast Asia and includes other varieties such as Thai basil and holy basil.
Sweet basil is best when used fresh; the most popular recipe it is used in pesto, a delicious Italian herb sauce. It is also great when you add fresh basil to your dish at the last moment since cooking it can cause the herb to lose its flavor.
Basil grows best outdoors in hot, dry conditions, but can also thrive in cooler climates. It can also grow indoors in a pot, but be sure to place it on a sunny windowsill. You can also use fluorescent lights if you don’t have good natural light settings.
If you’ve never grown fresh basil have you every really lived?
5. Bay Leaf – Used in Cooking and Herbal Remedies
The bay leaf herb is widely used in cooking as well as alternative remedies to heal conditions such as rashes, open wounds and in massage therapy. Also known as “bay laurel”, “sweet bay”, or just “bay”, this leaf is native to the Mediterranean region and grown worldwide.
Used mostly to flavor food, you can use the bay leaf in a variety of dishes such as Italian food, soups, stews, and even in a Bloody Mary. It is common to remove the leaf from the dish before serving unless the leaves are ground up (which makes them safe to ingest). One of the greatest advantages for growing bay leaf plant is the long shelf life the leaves have when picked (up to one year).
It’s so easy to grow if you ever use bay leaves in your cooking you might as well grow your own!
6. Caraway – Makes a Good Rye!
The caraway see comes from a small plant that resembles other plants found in the carrot family. It is native to Europe, West Asia, and North Africa, but can also be found in Canada as well. Also known as “Persian cumin” or “meridian fennel”, the seeds have a strong, anise-like flavor and is used mainly in cooking.
In the United States, caraway is often used in rye bread or Irish soda bread; however, it can also be used in desserts such as caraway pudding, liquors, or harissa (a Tunisian chili pepper paste). Because of its European roots, the caraway plant grows best in warm, sunny places with rich and moist soil.
In addition to flavoring your food, you can also enjoy using caraway in making soap, fragrances, or lotion!
Caraway is a less popular spice and you’d really need to love it to want to grow it.
7. Cardamom – Save Money and Grow Your Own Cardamom!
Did you know that cardamom (also known as cardamum) is the third most expensive spice in the world? That is reason enough to grow your own in your backyard! In addition to the flavors it lends food such as Indian and Thai curries, it can also be found in Wrigley’s gum!
The two different types of cardamom seeds: green and black. In addition to Indian dishes, green cardamom is also used in Scandinavian and Swedish breads. Black cardamom has a strong taste accompanied by a smoky and somewhat minty fragrance. You can even use them in herbal teas, such as the Korean traditional tea, jeho-tang.
Cardamom grows best in warm and moist environments, so be sure to keep the soil well-watered and give the plant lots of light!
It’s pretty easy to grow indoors, so if you like cooking Indian dishes maybe this is the spice for you!
8. Celery seed – Used in Perfume
Planted in the fall to grow into the celery plant, these tiny seeds pack a good punch of flavor and are used to season soups and stews. You can also ground the seeds up and mix them with salt; celery salt is often used on the classic Chicago-style hot dog and in Bloody Mary cocktails. It is also part of the seasoning makeup of Old Bay seasoning.
Did you know the seeds are actually considered “small fruit” and can produce an essential oil that the perfume industry is known to use? Also, it has been used in the past for certain health conditions such as arthritis, inflammation, and reducing blood pressure!
Celery needs a lot of water and can’t handle drought so it can demand a lot of attention.
For many, it might not be worth the effort.
9. Chives – Keeps Garden Pests at Bay
Chives produce a mild onion flavor and is grown all over the world in areas with cooler climates such as Europe, Asia and North America. The leaves of the herb can be used in savory pancakes, soups, cheeses, and many other dishes.
It can also be used in your garden to keep insects out. Chives naturally repel insects, so you can plant them around the border of your flowerbeds to protect your plants from those unwanted bugs.
When planting chive seeds, be sure to plant them in well-drained soil in a sunny area of your garden. The seeds germinate based in mild temperatures, so springtime is ideal.
A simple herb to grow and very tasty with cheese!
10. Cilantro – Not to be Confused with Culantro
Also known as “coriander” or “Chinese parsley”, cilantro is a widely used herb in many cuisines across the world. It is often confused with “culantro”, which is a similar plant but has a stronger fragrance and a spiny look and feel.
The leaves of the coriander plant are mainly used fresh in Asian salads, soups, and Indian dishes. The seeds have a nice citrus flavor, but when crushed can lend a nutty orange taste. Roasting the seeds only intensifies everything, so be sure you are someone who likes the taste of coriander!
Because it is native to areas such as southern Europe and southwestern Asia, cilantro may grow best in warmer climates.
Cilantro is one of the tastiest herbs and is awesome with stirfries and Asian cooking. If that’s your bag get growing it!
11. Cinnamon – The Spice of Life
The cinnamon plant is a tree with thick bark and oval-shaped leaves. The process of growing cinnamon trees takes about two years, so if you are considering adding this spice in your garden, you will need to be patient with the process!
However, the rewards of having homegrown cinnamon are worth the time and effort. The pungent flavor of the cinnamon tubes (formed through the drying process of the bark) will add warmth to your desserts, hot beverages, and countless dishes. You can also use to add a punch to some alcoholic beverages such as whisky or brandy.
If you have the time and the patience growing and harvesting your own cinnamon can be very rewarding.
12. Clove – Relieves Toothache
The clove spice is grown on a tree that can grow as tall as 12 meters high. They are primarily found in countries such as India, Pakistan, Madagascar, and others. Because the harvest season is different for the various countries they are grown in, cloves are available all year round. However, if you are thinking of growing your own clove tree, it is best to grow it in a climate similar to the Asian countries listed above.
Cloves are used in a few different ways, but mainly in Asian, African, and Indian cooking (think curries and marinades). It is also paired with fruit and mixed together with lemon and sugar in hot teas. When you make your famous pumpkin pie, clove is a common ingredient found in the spice mix for this dessert.
The essential oil derived from the cloves can be used topically to help digestive issues as well as toothache from a cavity.
I’m a big fan of cloves but they require a hot humid climate so the effort to reward ratio is not the most inspiring. If you love somewhere that you can plant the trees in your garden then I highly recommend it!
13. Chili Pepper – The Hottest Spice Around
Who likes a little heat? The chili pepper (or, chile pepper…or, chilli pepper) is one of the most common spices in the world. In 2014, over 32 million tons of green chili peppers were produced! That’s a lot of spice!
Chili peppers mainly get their spice from the capsaicin chemical. They are broken down into three major categories: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Chili peppers can be ground, roasted, dried, or blended into a hot sauce with other ingredients. Because of the variety of colors, some gardeners use them as decorative plants.
If you don’t have the climate for outdoor growing you can grow them in the greenhouse or indoors.
So if you like gardening… and if you like hot spicy food… why haven’t you tried growing your own chili peppers yet!
14. Cumin – Earthy and Warm
Cumin is a delicious spice that adds a distinct, warm flavor to food. Added to popular dishes such as chili, soups, and stews, cumin takes the dish from regular to “wow!”. Because India is one of the largest producers of cumin, it is highly common in Indian cuisine.
The cumin plant is short in stature with an average height of 12-20 inches tall and grows best in a tropical or subtropical environment. The leaves are just a few inches long and the small flowers are white or pink. The cumin seed has a unique feature of eight ridges with oil canals, but look similar to the caraway seed because of its oblong shape.
Sorry cumin but I just can’t get excited about growing you.
15. Dill – An Herb and a Spice
Dill is used as both an herb and spice in a variety of Eastern European cuisines, such as Russian, Swedish, and Hungarian (among many others). A popular use of dill is to mix it with butter and top boiled potatoes with it. It can also be used in salads, soups, or mixed with sour cream to make a cucumber salad.
Dill grows best in warm or hot climates with lots of sunshine. The soil has to be rich and well drained. To harvest the seeds, cut the flower head off the stalk when you see the seeds starting to ripen. Then, hang the seed head upside down in a paper bag for a week in a warm, dry place. The seeds will separate easily from the stems.
A nice easy window plant to grow that is great in potato salad.
16. Fennel – A Spice and a Vegetable
A milder version of the anise spice in flavor and fragrance, the fennel plant can be used as a spice and a vegetable. Once native to the Mediterranean area, it now found all over the world – including alongside the roads you drive on!
The fennel plant can grow up to 8 feet tall with tiny yellow flowers on short pedicels. The round bulb can be cooked in a variety of ways or eaten raw as a crunchy component to a salad. The seeds are often used in desserts as well as spice combinations such as Chinese five-spice or when making Italian sausage.
Easy to grow and attract the right kind of insects to your garden. It’s a win-win situation. Roasted fennel with Parmesan cheese is delicious!
17. Fenugreek – An Herb, a Spice, AND a Vegetable!
All parts of the fenugreek plant are used – the leaves are harvested as an herb, the seeds are used as a spice, and the young sprouts are used as a vegetable. This is the plant that will give you the most bang for your buck!
Once roasted, fenugreek seeds are used in Indian cuisine (as well as Turkish, Egyptian, and Persian cuisine). For example, they can be a part of a pickling spice or ground up to flavor vegetable dishes or dal. The leaves are used in curries and salads.
If you have a peanut allergy, there is a chance you may be allergic to fenugreek as well; however, if you are a nursing mother, fenugreek may help you with your milk supply!
If authentic Indian cooking gets you salivating then grow some fenugreek. It’s easy to grow and requires little effort other than some occasional weeding.
18. Filé powder – I’m Dreamin’ of a Good Gumbo…
Filé powder is a spice that is made up of ground sassafras leaves. It is most commonly used in Creole cuisine, particularly gumbo. Once the gumbo is ready to be served, the file powder is added on top to give the dish an earthy finish.
Sassafras trees can grow pretty tall, anywhere from 25-40 feet high! Except for some initial pruning, taking care of the tree is pretty straightforward – give it a good amount of water and partial sunlight. Once the leaves are grown, you can pick them and grind them up into file powder for your next bowl of gumbo!
If you have space in your garden and the right climate and your love gumbo maybe this is the spice for you! That’s too long a list for most people.
19. Ginger – Relieves Nausea in Pregnant Women
Ginger, or ginger root, is a common spice in Asian, Indian, and Caribbean cuisine. It is a relative of turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. The ginger plant’s flowers first start off as white and pink but turn yellow as they mature. If you live in a warm climate, you could take advantage of ginger’s beautiful blooms as part of your landscaping.
Although not officially studied, ginger has been known to relieve nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. When harvesting the rhizome, be sure to scald or kill the stalk to keep it from growing. Then, use the spice in your curries, gingerbread, or hot tea.
Fresh ginger root is way better than the dried powder for cooking but it can be expensive to buy in the stores. It’s easy to grow in a pot and believe me, it tastes even better if you grew it yourself!
20. Horseradish – A Vegetable that Acts as a Spice
Popular all over the world, horseradish a root vegetable with a pungent flavor. When cut or grated, it can produce the effect that onions have and make you tear up. Note: if you do grate horseradish, serve it immediately or store it in vinegar to keep the flavor.
This plant is pretty hearty and can withstand cold temperatures. It is possible to grow horseradish in warmer climates, but it won’t be as successful as an area with a long growing season and cold temperatures.
Since horseradish can survive some pretty cold temperatures, this is a great choice to add to your garden so that you have something to harvest in the fall or winter!
But it’s hard to get excited about the taste horseradish for me so marked down for flavor profile.
21. Kaffir Lime – Cleans Your Clothes and Your Hair!
Kaffir lime, also known as “makrut lime” or “Mauritius papeda,” is a citrus fruit commonly found in Southeast Asian countries and heavily used in their cuisines. Both the fruit and the leaves give off a citrus fragrance.
The kaffir lime plant is a thorny bush that can grow up to 35 feet tall. What’s unique about the plant are the hourglass double leaves. The fruit itself is small, bumpy and turns yellow when it’s ripe.
Kaffir lime would be a great citrus addition to your garden if you’re looking for another option to lemon trees.
They are tolerant of less than ideal condition but need to be protected from frost.
Want to try making your own Thai food with herbs grown yourself? Maybe Kaffir Lime leaves are the missing piece of the puzzle.
22. Lavender – Natural Mosquito Repellent
Lavender is found in many parts of the world from Europe to northern Africa, and all the way to China. It is mainly cultivated for their essential oil, which can be used in a variety of ways (including anti-inflammatory uses and acting as a mosquito repellent!).
Lavender can also be used in cooking, as it has a sweet aroma and a citrus-like taste. It can be used as a spice to flavor salads, dressings, desserts, and teas. Did you know that lavender buds are used to make marshmallows?
Lavender honey is also a popular item, as the flowers produce a lot of nectar. The plant grows best in dry, well-drained areas with sandy soil and full sunlight.
Grow it just for the scent alone! Choose dwarf plants if you need to grow it inside.
23. Lemon verbena – Also Called Lemon Beebrush
The leaves of the lemon verbena plant are used as herbs to add a lovely lemon flavor to dishes such as fish and chicken, but also in marinades, dressings, and jams. You can also make herbal teas and use it as a substitute for actual lemon.
The plant itself is a shrub that grows to about 6-9 feet tall. The leaves are glossy and pointed at the ends; when bruised, they give off a strong lemon scent. The flowers tend to bloom in late spring or early summer and are sensitive to cold temperatures. This is a highly popular herb to include in your garden!
Lemon verbena is nice but sorry I’d rather have lemons. Not inspired.
24. Licorice – “Sweet Root” in Greek
Licorice (also spelled “liquorice”) is a root and used to flavor candy and sweeteners. The extracts are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Though it can have a strong flavor, it is not related to anise or fennel, as one might think.
Licorice grows best in well-drained soils with plenty of sunlight. It takes about two to three years before the first harvest can take place and usually occurs in the fall.
Be careful not to consume excessive amounts of licorice, as it can have some negative effects on your health (no more than 200 mg a day) and also do not consume it if you’re pregnant.
Licorice candy is often actually made with Anise and not Licorice root. So if I wanted to make my own Licorice candy I’d be growing Anise instead.
25. Marjoram – Smooth Because It’s Hairy
Marjoram, also called “sweet marjoram,” “pot marjoram,” or “knotted marjoram”, is an herb with a piney, citrusy flavor. The leaves are small and have a smooth texture due to the tiny hairs all over the leaf.
Marjoram grows best in warmer climates, such as the southern half of the United States and the southern coastal areas. As the plant begins to flower, the top is cut off and then dried. The leaves and tops can also be steam-distilled to make an essential oil, but marjoram is mainly used in cooking (such as seasoning soups and adding the dried leaves to sauces or dressings).
A great indoor herb plant. It’s great with fish and meat. Easy to grow so why not if you have space.
26. Mustard, White – Makes Your Favorite Hot Dog Condiment!
The white mustard plant is grown for their seeds and when mixed with turmeric, makes the classic yellow mustard we all love to top our hot dogs with. The seeds are small and round, ranging in color from beige to yellow to light brown. In the Greek culture, the leaves can also be eaten before the blooming season begins (February-March).
The mustard plant is an annual and grow to about two feet tall. It is common all across the world, from Europe to Africa to Central Asia. Just before the pods that contain the seeds ripen, farmers pick the yellow flowers that contain seed pods. A popular use for whole mustard seeds is to use them for pickling spices.
I wasn’t inspired about mustard until I watched the video above. Now i need to try making my own french mustard style sauce.
27. Nigella – Also Known as Black Cumin
Nigella seeds are called by many other names such as black cumin, black caraway, nutmeg flower, and Roman coriander. The plant itself is small, with an average height of about 8-12 inches tall. The leaves are linear and divided, while the flowers are a beautiful pale blue and white. The seeds are contained in a capsule made of about seven united follicles.
Nigella is common in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The strong taste has been described as a combination of black pepper, oregano, and onions. They are excellent when dry-roasted and used in curries, vegetable dishes, and even breads.
28. Nutmeg – Can You Wait Nine Years?
The nutmeg tree is a dioecious plant and must be grafted using seedlings to in order for flowers to bud in the sixth year. Yes, that’s right – the nutmeg tree begins budding flowers anywhere from the sixth to eighth year. The first harvest can occur anywhere from the seventh to ninth year.
So, if you’re willing to wait that long, you will actually get two spices out of the same tree: nutmeg and mace. The seeds are dried in the sun for about six to eight weeks. The shells can then be broken and the seeds inside are picked out. You can use nutmeg to flavor many dishes from baked goods to vegetables, meats, and the ever-famous eggnog.
Just imagine 9 years from now sipping eggnog made with your own nutmeg…
Yeah, 9 years is too long to plan ahead for me too!
29. Oregano – Marjoram’s Cousin
When I think of Italian food, I immediately think of the oregano herb. It’s very aromatic with a slightly bitter taste at the end. However, it’s also used in a variety of other cuisines such as Mediterranean, Filipino, Turkish, and Argentinian.
Oregano should be planted in the early spring months in an area that gets plenty of sun. Although it grows best in hot, dry environments, it can also grow in cooler climates as an annual. Be sure to also space your plants about 1 foot apart to give each some room to stretch. Sometimes called “wild marjoram”, the oregano plant will sprout tiny purple flowers to add color to your garden!
You can grow it in a pot indoors if you don’t have the correct climate where you live.
Inspired yet? Okay I’m just going to add one more word…
30. Paprika – Heat in Oil to Bring Out the Flavor
Paprika is a ground spice made from the dried red fruits of the bell pepper plant. It is produced in many countries around the world such as Hungary, China, and parts of the United States. Some of the different grades of paprika are: noble sweet, rose, and strong.
Paprika is commonly used in Hungarian dishes such as goulash and paprikash. However, the spice is also used in a variety of other dishes such as rice, chili, stews, and sausage. Depending on the grade you choose to grow, the flavor and spiciness of your paprika will vary.
If you love red peppers and can grow them then why not use a few to make your own paprika!
31. Parsley – A Popular Garnish
Garden parsley can be grown as either a biennial plant in temperate climates or as an annual herb in tropical areas. In its first year, it forms tripinnate leaves and a taproot for food storage. In the second year, you will see the flowering stems with sparse yellow-green leaves.
Parsley loves to grow in a moist, sunny, well-drained environment with warm temperatures. It can take time for the seeds to germinate, so don’t be concerned if you don’t see anything happen in until about 4-6 weeks after planting. If you’re growing it to harvest the leaves, you an keep the plants pretty close together (about ten centimeters apart); if you’re growing parsley for the roots, spread the plants out a bit further (twenty centimeters apart) so they can develop.
Parsley is easy to grow. If you like cooking with it get growing it!
32. Pepper – World’s Most Traded Spice
Offering a different kind of heat that comes from chili pepper, peppercorns are the world’s most traded spice. Ground pepper has been used for ages to impart flavor in cooking and is the compliment to salt.
Some of the common forms of peppercorns are black, white, and green; however, there are red and orange peppercorns as well. White peppercorns come from soaking red peppercorns in water and rubbing off the flesh, leaving the seed within and changing the flavor of the spice.
The pepper plant grows as a vine and can get up to thirteen feet tall on supporting surfaces. The soil needs to be moist, well-drained, and have lots of organic material.
They need to stay warm and in moist and it will take a couple of years. But maybe you could refil that peppercorn grinder with your own homegrown peppercorns. That would be pretty cool!
33. Peppermint – A Cross Between Watermint and Spearmint
Peppermint is a hybrid of the watermint and spearmint plants. It is a perennial herb that can grow to about three feet tall with smooth stems and dark green leaves.
The peppermint plant loves water, so be sure to keep its habitat moist. You also don’t need to give it a lot of sun since it grows best in shady areas. Because it can spread so quickly, you may want to plant peppermint in a container and keep it in a shaded place.
Peppermint is used mainly to impart a minty flavor in cooking as well as in toothpaste, gum by extracting its essential oil.
A must-grow plant for any herb grower and a gateway herb for many addicted growers.
34. Rosemary – A Member of the Mint Family
Like many other herbs, the rosemary plant is a member of the mint family. The leaves of the plant look like tiny needles and provide a woodsy and somewhat bitter taste, which pairs well with roasted or grilled meats and vegetables.
There are many different cultivars of rosemary that you can choose from – all produce different colored flowers. For example, the “Gold Dust” variety produces flowers with deep golden streaks and dark green leaves – how beautiful would that be in your garden!
Such a delicious herb. Rosemary roasted carrots will make your mouth water. Growing rosemary isn’t difficult so it’s well worth trying.
35. Saffron – One of the Most Expensive Spices
With a grassy or hay-like taste and fragrance, Saffron spice comes from the crocus flower. The dark red stigmas (called threads) are plucked from the flower and dried before used in cooking for flavoring. Also, the threads color the dish they are added to a beautiful yellow or gold color. Rice dishes such as paella, risotto, and biryani will contain saffron as part of the flavor profile.
The crocus flower thrives best in areas with rainy springs and hot, dry summers. It also needs full sunlight, and you’ll want to plant in June for things to start sprouting between October and February. However, if you live in a colder climate, the crocus flower is hearty enough to withstand the temperature.
Some things are better off outsourced and growing saffron is one of them. The flowers are beautiful though!
36. Sage – Also Called Garden Sage
A member of the mint family, sage is a perennial subshrub that can be found all over the world. It is also called “garden sage,” “common sage,” or “culinary sage”. There are many varieties of sage and they all have their own unique characteristics such as leaf shape and flower color. Though small in size, sage plants love a hot and dry environment with lots of sunshine. Just be careful to not expose them to super cold and wet environments; the soil should always be well-drained.
Sage is used mainly in cooking, especially in Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. In America, it is commonly used as the herb for turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving. In some countries, sage can be used to make an herbal tea.
Are you going to Scarborough fair?
If not then grow your own sage at home instead.
37. Saigon cinnamon – Used in the Popular Vietnamese Noodle Soup, Pho
Also known as “Vietnamese cinnamon” or “Vietnamese cassia,” Saigon cinnamon is an evergreen tree whose bark is used to flavor dishes such as the popular Vietnamese soup, “pho”.
Cinnamon trees grow best in hardy zones 8-11, where there is a lot of moisture in the air. If you want to control how tall and wide it grows by planting it in a pot and pruning it regularly. In a small pot, the tree can grow up to three feet tall; in a larger pot, the tree can reach up to eight feet tall.
38. Sassafras – Used to Build Ships
If you’re thinking about growing a sassafras tree, be sure to have plenty of room in your yard since they can grow anywhere from 30-115 feet tall! They are deciduous trees that will lose their leaves when there isn’t adequate water for it to absorb. Sassafras trees grow best in moist and well-drained soils, so if you happen to live in the Southeastern part of the U.S., you are in a prime spot!
While sassafras trees are a good source of food for animals, there are also other uses for the bark, leaves, and fruit. All parts of the tree can be used for either cooking, treating health conditions, or even building ships!
39. Savory (Summer) – Classic Ingredient in Herbs de Provence Mix
The savory herb is an annual herb and is popular substitute for sage in the eastern parts of Canada. It is a small plant growing one or two feet tall with slender leaves. Savory grows best in rich soils, but takes a long time for the seeds to germinate.
Savory is used in cooking, to flavor foods like sausage and dishes like dressing. It can also be used to season stews and meat pies as well as grilled meats. One of the benefits of growing savory is that the flowers can be plucked and dried for later use.
40. Star anise – Used to Make Mulled Wine
The star anise plant is a spice that is common in Indian and Asian cuisine, giving dishes a licorice flavor. It is also used to make mulled wine, which is a classic French recipe. If you steep the star anise pods in your coffee, it will deepen its flavor. The spice is also used in making perfume, toothpaste, and skin creams.
Star anise is called by other names such as Chinese star anise or badian. A major characteristic of this spice is the star-shaped pericarps, which get harvested before they ripen. The plant grows best in subtropical climates with good moisture, so it cannot grow in northern, colder areas. You will also want to ensure it gets some sunlight as well as some shade.
Star anise is perhaps one of the more beautiful spices to look at but flavor-wise I’m not too excited about growing it.
41. Tarragon – Makes a Great Bearnaise Sauce!
Tarragon, also called “estragon”, is a perennial herb that is part of the sunflower family. It is very common in Eurasia and North America, and used in many different European dishes.
The plant can grow up to five feet tall and produces very slender stems. The leaves are long and slender; depending on the variety you may choose to grow in your garden, you may not get many flowers (for example, French tarragon, which is used the most in cooking, hardly produces any flowers). If you are attempting your own Bearnaise sauce, be sure to add tarragon for its distinct flavor. You can also use it in savory sweets or make your own tarragon vinegar.
I’m just not into the type of recipes that call for Tarragon so much.
42. Thyme – Oregano’s Cousin
A perennial evergreen herb, thyme is used in cooking, medicine, and for decorative purposes. It is a part of the mint family and related to oregano. When used in cooking, you can use a whole sprig (such as in a bouquet garni) or just the leaves (such as in soups or marinades).
Thyme thrives best in hot, sunny climates with well-drained soil. Springtime is the best time to plant so that it can grow as a perennial plant. Thyme is hearty enough to survive deep freezes, so if you live in a colder climate, you may still be able to grow some!
Thyme should be one of the first names on any herb growers herb list!
43. Turmeric – Popular in Asian Cooking
Turmeric is a perennial herb in which the roots of the plant are used for cooking purposes, especially in Asian cuisine. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine, where the root is called “haridra”.
Turmeric can grow up to three feet tall. The plant has many branches and the rhizomes are yellow or orangish in color. The long leaves can grow up to 45 inches long!
The flavor it provides to dishes like rice, cakes, curries, and other sauces is earthy and mustard-like. It’s typically used dried and ground into a powder, but it also can be used fresh. Did you know it is also used to color cheese, dressings, and canned chicken broth? If you are planning to ground it into a powder, boil the root for 30-45 minutes and then dry it in a hot oven.
Ginger’s less attractive cousin. If I get around to growing it it will be for making Tumeric Tea which is a great anti-inflammatory.
44. Vanilla – Time-Consuming, but Worth It!
Imagine walking into your kitchen and smelling your favorite dessert baking in the oven – odds are, the fragrance of vanilla is adding to your warm and cozy feeling inside! Vanilla primarily comes from the Mexican species of the orchid plant and is translated to mean “little pod”. It grows on a vine, so you will want to give it wood or something for it to hold on to. It grows best in hot, humid climates that gets pretty good rainfall, but if you live further up north, you can try growing it in a greenhouse and mimicking the temperature and humidity.
The process to cultivate vanilla is pretty time consuming and labor-intensive, so this isn’t for the faint of heart! The process includes: harvesting and curing, which is broken down into four steps (killing, sweating, slow-drying, and conditioning). From beginning to end, it will be about 8-9 months before the vanilla beans will be ready. If you start early enough, you may have some ready for that pumpkin pie you’re famous for at Thanksgiving!
My wallet says yes. My heart says yes. My brain says… it’s going to be a lot of work. Inspired? Yes. But I still didn’t accept the challenge of growing my own vanilla pods. Did you?
45. Wasabi – A Popular Spice, but Not Commonly Cultivated
Wasabi, or Japanese horseradish, is closely associated with sushi. Although its popularity in the U.S. has grown considerably over the last several decades, it is a rare plant to grow in America (only a small number of farmers grow this plant in large quantities). Because there are issues surrounding the cultivation of wasabi, the price of the product is very high.
If you’re able to get your hands on your own wasabi seeds and plant some in your garden, you will be able to use it for more than just wasabi paste for your next round of sushi. When you grate fresh wasabi, be sure to cover it immediately or it can lose its flavor in fifteen minutes! Consider turning it into a fine powder and mixing it with other seasonings over roasted peanuts.
Even some Japanese restaurant don’t use real wasabi and substitute horseradish. You’ll be forgiven for doing the same or passing altogether.
One for real Japanese cuisine aficionados.
46. Watercress – One of the Oldest Known Consumed Leaf Vegetables
The watercress plant, also called “yellowcress”, is a perennial that is related to mustard, radish, and wasabi because of its strong, bitter taste. It is best suited when growing in water, so if you are thinking of growing watercress, you may need a bucket or some kind of large container that can create a hydroponic environment.
Watercress can grow up to four feet tall if left unharvested! It is mostly water, but has a high level of vitamins K, A, and C. It is most commonly grown in the UK, but Huntsville, Alabama also has watercress farms. The shelf life of the plant once harvested is short, so you must store it in the refrigerator and consume it in a day or two. Change up your salads by adding a little watercress!
Watercress is easy to grow but hard to get excited about since it’s pretty bland to taste.
47. Willow herb – Blooms Teeny Tiny Flower Buds
The willow herb plant, also called “hoary willowherb,” or “smallflower hairy willowherb,” is a perennial herb that can grow to about a foot and half feet tall. The pale pink or purple flowers are extremely small, only six or seven millimeters in diameter. A small capsule contains even smaller black seeds. The oil has been used to treat inflammation, kidney issues, and even has been shown to stop human prostate cells from reproducing.
Willow herb grows best in very moist areas such as swamps and marshes. The stems can grow between four and eight feet tall, so be sure to give it plenty of room!
Are you a gardener with prostate troubles? Check out willowherb.
48. Wintergreen – Make Some Root Beer!
The name “wintergreen” is used to describe a group of plants that stayed green through the winter months. The most common species in North America is the American wintergreen. It is used to provide a mint flavor to a variety of things such as gum, candy, mouthwash, and even root beer!
Did you know that wintergreen oil is used to transfer images or laser print to art paper? It can also be used to clean your firearms and preserve the metal surface. Some old folk remedies attribute wintergreen to the relief of many health conditions such as arthritis, poor circulation, headaches, eczema, and many other conditions.
To grow wintergreen, keep the soil moist – water the plant when you notice the top ½ inch of the soil is dry. It should be planted in early spring in a spot that gets both shade and sun.
If you like the idea of making your own root beer maybe wintergreen is the herb for you!
49. Yerba Mate – May Help with Weight Loss
Translated in Spanish as “mate herb”, yerba mate is most commonly used to make hot tea. There is a tradition in Paraguay, Brazil, and a few other countries when partaking in yerba mate – friends gather in a circle and share a gourd full of the tea, refilling it after each person has taken a few sips.
Yerba mate can also be mixed in cold drinks, such as lemonade, when the weather gets warm. The flavor has been described as “grassy” much like green tea, but can become bitter if steeped in boiling hot water.
A benefit to adding yerba mate into your diet is weight loss. The herbs contain elements that help suppress your appetite and also increase your mood and focus. Just be mindful not to drink it too late at night because of the caffeine inside it!
50. Zedoary – Common in Indian and Thai Cooking
Although this spice is not very common in the Western world, it is used in countries such as Indonesia, India, and Thailand. Zedoary is a friend to ginger, having a similar flavor with a bitter aftertaste.
There are a few ways you can use Zedoary if you’re feeling adventurous in your cuisine:
- Ground-up the rhizome (the edible part of the plant) into a fine powder and add it to your curry.
- Peel and thinly slice the rhizome and add it to a Thai-style salad.
- Pickle it! Then, cut it into strips and eat it by itself or as a side dish.
If you like fresh ginger root but want to branch out into something a little different then try Zedoary!
What’s the difference between herbs and spices?
You may be wondering why some seasonings are called herbs and some spices. The main difference is the part of the plant they are harvested from. Herbs are flavorings that derive from the leafy or green part of the plant. Spices can be the root, stem, bark, or seeds of the plant.
Why grow herbs and spices in your own garden?
There are many benefits to growing your own herbs and spices in your garden. In addition to the nutritional benefits, saving money at the grocery store and always having fresh herbs on hand, gardening is also great exercise and stress reliever. Spending time tending your garden as you breathe in the fragrances of the herbs can provide a relaxing experience.
Growing an herb and spice garden is also a great way to spend time with your kids. Your little ones can learn about the different plants as well as get their hands dirty tending to the soil. Imagine how much enjoyment your kids would have seeing the variety of herbs and spices they helped to grow!
Is it easy? What do you need to consider?
Growing an herb garden is highly achievable with the right setup. Herbs can grow pretty easily with some sunshine, good soil, and water. When you think about where the boundaries of your garden should be, look for a place in your yard that gets ample sunshine and enough space for your plants to stretch out. Also, you will want to prepare the soil by loosening it up and making sure water can drain through it well. Finally, you will need to water the plants as you notice the soil on top becoming dry. It’s not recommended to over-water, as it can reduce the growth of your herbs.
Time to Plot Your Plants!
Did you find this guide helpful in picking out your herb and garden’s profile?
I hope it taught you a few things about each plant so that you know what will work best in your climate and your cooking!
If you have any questions or thoughts on this list, start a thread in the comments section below!
Spread the word to your gardening buddies pinterest repins are much appreciated!