Basil - Bay leaves- Chives - Coriander - Dill - Marjoram- Mint - Parsley - Rosemary - Sage - Tarragon- Thyme - Angelica - Curry leaf - Fennel - Lemon Balm - Lemon Grass - Lovage - Savory - Sweet cicely - Tansy

Basil - Lettuce - leaf basil

One of the truly great culinary herbs. basil Ocimum basilicum is an essential ingredient for cooking enthusiasts. The plant probably originated in India although is the little used there. It is in the Middle East and the Mediterranean countries that basil is greatly appreciated, undoubtedly because it thrives in warm climates and cannot stand frost. It is an annual plant, with light green ovate leaves. There are forty types of basil to choose from. Sweet or common basil- the main culinary variety - boasts the finest flavour, with the larger leaved lettuce-leaf basil a close second. The flavours of the other popular types - purple-leaved variety and the low-growing bush or dwarf basil - are inferior; they are grown more for their looks. Other varieties include curly or Italian basil and lemon basil. The plant known as wild or hedge basil is related to calamint, not basil, and is quite different in taste. The young leaves are the sweetest, so the plant should be sown regularly and used when only 15-23 cm (6-9 in) high.The taste is quite unlike that of the fresh herb. It can be quick frozen, however, although it loses its colour unless blanched first, or preserved in goods quality olive oil.

Bayleaves (laurus Nobilis)

Native to the Mediterranean, is a small shrubby evergreen with wonderful aromatic leaves. It is often grown as an ornamental tree, although it can reach up to 20 m (about 65 ft). The bay tree's dark green ovate leaves are indispensable in cooking, used fresh or dried. As they are dried, the leaves turn a pale greyish green and mellow, losing the bitterness characteristic of the fresh leaves. However, dried bay leaves should not be kept too long, as they tent to lose their flavour.

Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum

Grow in clumps, have thin, cylindrical, grass-like leaves, which are bright green, and produce purple pompom flowers. They are easy to grow, in pot or in the garden, and are popular in decorative borders. Chives are member of the onion family and their flavour is similar but more delicate. Chives are best kept in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator, or freezer. But, as they can be grown so easily it is possible to have fresh chives on hand most of the year.

Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum)

Is a slender annual, which grows up to 0.6 m (2ft) high. It is easy to grow and an extremely useful and distinctive culinary addition. As well as being one of the most ancient herbs known, coriander is one of the most widely used. The leaves look slightly similar to flat-leaved parsley (it is also known as Chinese parsley) but coriander is recognizable by its lighter green colour and distinctive smell. The plant is also harvested for its seed, used as a spice. Coriander leaves taste quite different from the seeds. The leaves are sharp and aromatic, with a freshness quite unlike any other herbs.

Dill (Anethum Graveolens)

Is grown for its fine feathery leaves- dill weed and seeds. A native of southern Europe, it is now found all over the world. An annual or biennial, the plant grows to about 1 m (3 ft). It is easy to grows, but often difficult to find on sale. Dill was well known to the ancient world: there is evidence that the Egyptians used it medicinally. Its name comes from the Norse word dilla, meaning 'to lull', a reference to the dill water from its seeds which is still given to babies as a mild sedative. The flavour of the leaves has been variously described as being like fennel or parsley, although it is sweeter and more aromatic than either. The leaves are not as widely used.


Marjoram is a sweet-scented herb characteristic of the Mediterranean. There are, in fact three different marjorams. Sweet or knotted marjorams (Origanum majorana), the most delicate flavoured, prefers a hot sun . Sweet marjoram is delicious fresh but, like all the marjorams, seems to become more aromatic when dried. Pot marjoram (O. onites) is also of Mediterranean origin, but is much harder and therefore the type usually grown in colder climates. The third marjoram is the herb which is known as oregano (O. vulgare).


There are a vast number of mints, many of them hybrids. They all share the same cool, refreshing, aromatic taste of menthol: the mint contains varies, which affects the flavour. There are three mints commonly cultivated and used for culinary purposes: spearmint, apple mint and peppermint. Spearmint (Mentha viridis or M. spicata is the best known and most widely used of the culinary mints. It has long pointed leaves and an upright stem, and is a native of the Mediterranean, much used by the ancient Romans. Apple or Bowles mint (M. rotundifolia), one of the best of all mints, is a large round-leafed variety, which combines the taste of mint with that of apples. It is sweeter and mellower than most of the other mints. M.piperita , with its deep red stem and Peppermint red-blushed long leaves, is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint. Peppermint leaves are rarely used in food; they are generally made into oil of peppermint sweets and chocolates. Water mint M.aquatica is one of the less important mints. It growns prolifically in very wet conditions and is rather rank tasting. The fragrant eau de Cologne mint (M. citrata ) has delicate flavour variously described: its other common names - orange mint, lavender mint and bergamont mint - reflect difference of opinion about its flavour. Pennyroyal (M. pulegium is another common mint, mainly dried and used for teas. It is said to repel mosquitoes and fleas, and is used as a contraceptive in China. Other mint cultivated for the herb garden include Pineapple mint, which has variegated green and white leaves, and Corsican mint (M. requienii ). Mints are widely used in India, The levant the Middle East and North Africa.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Is probably the most popular and versatile herb available. Parsley is a biennial that grows very well in window boxes and pots. The leaves of the curled variety are divided into segments, the edges of which are tightly curled.Flat-leaved parsley, which is poisonous.The origins of the parsley plant are much disputed: some say it is a native of Sardinia, other claim its origin lies in the eastern Mediterranean. Parsley helps to bring out the flavour of other herbs and is therefore always included in a bouquet garni and the fines herbs mixture.


Is a strong flavoured herb. In many places this shrub is cultivated for its sweet scent and attractive appearance, rather than for culinary purposes. The rosemary bush has spiky evergreen leaves and produces small blue or white flowers. A dwarf variety of rosemary (R. lavendulaceus is available. The word rosemary means 'dews of the sea' for the plant grown wild all round the Mediterranean coast. Rosemary leaves were also infused to make hair rinses and toilet waters and these natural products are once again seeing a revival. The essential oil of rosemary is used in perfumery too.


There are several different types of sage- for example, purple, golden and variegated leaf varieties; pineapple and lavender flavoured ones. The less common types include pink and white flowering varieties. The most common sage used in cooking is garden sage (Salvia officinlis), which has purple flowers and grey leaves. Narrow-leaved, blue flowering sage is aslo excellent for culinary purposes. It has a powerful flavour, pungent and aromatic with a slight camphor taste. Sage dried well, although it takes longer than most herbs and it is also suitable for quick freezing.


The spiky leaves of tarragon is little used by anyone else. Nevertheless, it is one of the great culinary herbs, with a sophistication and refinement that is quite unique. There are two types of tarragon: French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus), the finer flavour variety, and Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides), which has larger, paler leaves. The herb was introduced to Europe by the Moors. A bushy perennial, it is quite difficult to grow from seed - propagating from rooted shoots is more successful. Tarragon requires a well-drained sunny position, and does well in pots and window-boxes. The herb can be quick frozen, but drying distorts its flavour too much and is not recommended.


Garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a powerfully aromatic herb with a strong, slightly bitter flavour, which is due to the volatile oil thymol. It is a low evergreen with tiny leaves blue flowers - one of over a hundred varieties of thyme and the kind most favoured for cooking, The other favourite culinary thyme is Lemon thyme (T.citriodorus); this has a citrus taste and is often used where a more subtle flavour is required. There are also orange and caraway flavour thymes and many decorative varieties, including silver thyme and golden-edged thyme. Thyme is one of the most important culinary herbs of Europe, and was recognized as such by the ancient Greeks; today it is widely used in all the Mediterranean countries. It is easy to grow, from seed or cuttings, and thrives in the garden or in window-boxes. It also dries extremely well.An essential herb in bouquet garni, thyme is also used for flavour.


(Angelica archangelica) is a giant member of the parsley, growing to over 2m (6 ft)) high, with thick, hollow stems, large bright green leaves, white flowers and a strong sweet scent. It is a biennial, native to northern Europe, Russia, Iceland and Greenland, thriving in a cool damp climate and a partially shaded situation. According to tradition, the herb got its angelic connections from an archangel who recommended its use at the time of the plague. It has widely used through the ages for its medicinal qualities, particularly as a cure for indigestion. The best known use of angelica is in its candied from, when the young green stems are served as sweetmeats and used as an attractive decoration for cakes and sweet dishes. The leaves are sometimes dried and used as a tisane. In northern Europe and some part of ltaly, the stems are treated as a vegetable in a similar manner to asparagus. The taste of angelica slightly resembles that of juniper, and the essential oils made from its seeds, leaves and roots are used together with juniper to flavour gin, vermouths and liqueurs such as Anisette and Chartreuse.

Curry Leaf (chalcas koenigii)

Is a native of south-east Asia. It is grown, principally in southern India, for its leaf, which is an essential ingredient- and the predominant aroma and flavour - in Madras curry powder. Many southern Indian dishes are flavoured with the leaves, and it is also popular in south-east Asia and in Africa. Curry leaves are shaped rather like bay leaves. In India, they are generally used fresh. Dried curry leaves are usually available in India and Chinese Food; sometimes the fresh leaves are stocked too. These can be dried, in the oven, or quick frozen.


The ancient Romans were very fond of fennel in all its forms - the feathery herb, the aromatic seed and the bulbous vegetable - and made great use of it, introducing it to the far reaches of their empire. To the Romans fennel was a symbol of flattery, and it was one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. Fennel is a native of southern Europe. The plant used as a herb looks rather similar to dill, with fine bright green leaves and yellow flower-heads, but grown to some 2 m (6 ft). There are two main types: Sweet or Roman fennel (Foeniculum) tastes strongly of anise, while there is little or no trace of this in the slightly bitter wild fennel, the type which is grown extensively in central and eastern Europe. The seeds harvested from the herb or the bulbous vegetable Florence fennel (F. vulgare dulce ) are used as a spice. The leaves of Florence fennel can be used in the same way as those of sweet fennel, but they have less flavour.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Is a small evergreen of Mediterranean origin. The plant, which is easily grown, has oblong, light green leaves which have the taste and smell of sweet lemon.It is also known as melissa, the Greek word for bee (which is greatly attracted to the plant).

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus & C. flexuosus)

It has a bulbous base from which its long Lemon-flavoured leaves grow. Lemon grass is a available at Oriental stores. It should be peeled and finely chopped before use, and freezes well. If lemon grass is unavailable, lemon peel can usually be substituted. The dried grass is also ground and sold as sereh powder.


With its distinctive savoury taste, somewhat similar to celery, lovage Levisticum is a useful garden herb, albeit widely neglected. It is a tall stout perennial, growing to 2 m (6-7 ft), and a native of southern Europe. It likes rich, moist soil and is easily grown from seed or propagated from the root. In the past, lovage was widely used as a vegetable, treated in a similar way to celery. Like angelica, its young stems were candied and its seeds were used on cakes and breads.


There are two main culinary varieties. Summer Savory Satureja hortenties is an annual, strongly aromatic with small narrow leaves. It thrives in sun and a fairly rich soil. Winter savory (S. montana) is a hardy parennial and has a tidier growing habit than the summer type. Both of these savories can be dried very successfully.Savory has a flavour little like thyme, but is hot and peppery.

Sweet Cicery

The large, feathery leaves of the sweet cicely plant (Myrrhis odorata) are sweet-tasting with a hint of anise. The plant is a native of both northern Europe and America. A perennial, it like partial shade and can be easily grown from seed, reaching a height of about 1 m (3 ft). A tea made from the leaves is said to cure indigestion.


A rather hot, bitter-tasting herb, tansy (Chrysanthemum vulgare) is a common wild plant, used as a herb until the 17th century but not much cultivated for kitchen use today.