Grow Your Own Spice Rack: Guide to Herbs To Grow From Seed

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Let’s talk herbs to grow for your spice rack. But first, what are the differences between herbs and spices? Spices are the name for herbs that have been harvested and dried. It could be the root, stalk, seed, leaf, flower or fruit. It’s part of an herb, in its dehydrated form.

Most of the commonly used spices you purchase from the store can easily be grown in your own garden, dried in your home, and stored in your kitchen!

Spices can be expensive, and from the traditional store, they’ve been in the bottles for many months and depending how they were grown and harvested, may lack flavor and nutrients.

With each of the herbs to grow listed below I’ll share:

A mini history: To appreciate a herb, I think it’s fun to learn a bit about its origin and back story.

Common uses: The ways in which the herb is most used in recipes etc

Medicinal uses: My goal here isn’t to turn everyone into someone who uses tinctures or has a herbal apothecary in their backyard. But rather, to expose you to how amazing these herbs are incorporated into our everyday diets, and what they can do for your health.

How to grow + harvesting tips: Basic info for how to grow and how best to harvest each herb.

Let’s get growing!

This post is in partnership with Washington Grown TV. That’s right, I’m on the big screen! In season 10, we cover local to the PNW farms, recipes, farming in general, and even the restaurant industry. Its expertly put together and very fun to watch. You’ll learn something from each episode. Binge watch them now on their YouTube channel!

Tip for purchasing herbs:

My favorite spot to buy herbs that I can’t grow, or when I have a failed crop (hey, it happens!) is Mountain Rose Herbs. They have wonderful prices and amazing quality.

Herbs to grow

Oregano

A mini history:

Oh oregano, the mediterranean herb. First used by the greeks, it was said that the herb was created by the Goddess Aphrodite, because she took joy in tending her garden. I

t’s a must of the herbs to grow!

drawing of oregano.

Originally a perennial in the climate of the mediterranean, it’s more of an annual in the northerns regions due to the cold winters.

Common uses:

This herb is often used in dishes where tomatoes are a main ingredient. Such as sauces and pastas. It also complements cooked meats well. Truthfully, I don’t think there’s many dishes that wouldn’t be improved by a little oregano.

Medicinal uses:

Oregano is a powerful antiseptic, disinfectant, and effective at fighting bacterial and viral infections. For more info on medicinal uses, I recommend Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs for Beginners Guide.

How to Grow + Harvesting Tips:

Use to the sandy Mediterranean soil, this herb doesn’t like wet feet. Give it a bed or pot with well draining soil. It enjoys full sun and lots of heat. Most herbs grow best with 6-8 hours of full south facing sun. As a rule of thumb, most vegetables and herbs will not thrive in a north facing area. They need morning light, and several hours of full sun.

Pull up a compass on your phone, and walk around your yard until you locate the best area to grow these plants.

If need or desired, begin indoors for a head start on the growing season. I’ve also planted it successfully after all chance of frost has gone. Oregano can usually being to be harvested 80-90 days after planting. Clip off stems to dry, as well as for use fresh, or as a gift to a friend. It’s even a wonderful filler in bouquets.

If you want to harvest from it all summer long, do not let it flower. Once it begins to flower, it will stop putting effort into the leaves, and they will become bitter. Once flowered, it will go to seed and your production for the year will be over. If you continue to remove the flowers by cutting off the flowering stock, it will produce until the first frost.

Mint

A mini history:

Mint is ancient herb used for its medicinal and aromatic properties. Also originally from the Mediterranean, its history dates back over 3,000 years. Fist used for its pleasant aroma and taste, it was soon found to help settle the stomach and other gastrointestinal issues. Mint was also a go-to additive to help mask the taste of other medicinal herbs in tinctures. It became, and still is to this day, used in many teas and other drinks.

drawing of mint, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

Mint is a wonderful addition to yogurt and berries, makes a great tea, and adds some fun flavor to a protein smoothie. It’s also yummy in salads, sauces, jellies, and in the summer especially, to garnish a nice cold watermelon snack or to use in home made freezer pops!

Medicinal uses:

As mentioned in the brief history, mint has long been used for queasy stomachs, gas, and to help with stress and anxiety. It’s also great for promoting sleep.

How to Grow + Harvesting Tips

Similar to oregano, these plants need well drained soil. Start indoors if your growing season is short, or start outdoors after all chance of frost is gone.

Mint takes about 90 days to mature until you can harvest.

To harvest, pick the leaves as needed. If your goal is to get two to three large harvests in one growing season, cut the entire plant down to only a few inches tall right before it flowers. After a month, it should grow back to almost the original size. Cut again, and do this as many times as possible in the growing season.

Want tips on how to dry mint and other herbs to use all year long? This is an article I wrote detailing the whole process from start to finish!

Thyme

A mini history :

The Mediterranean is stealing the show here, since thyme is another herb originating there. Egyptians utilized thyme as part of their embalming process. It was said to help halt bacterial degeneration of the body. Because of this, we know it’s been in use for thousands of years. Thyme is very easy to grow, and is a perennial in zones 5 – 9. This makes it a no brainer to add to your herb collection.

drawing of thyme, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

Thyme is a great herb to layer in a dish for a deeper flavor. It’s often used fresh and dried in chicken and other meat dishes, stews, soups, with eggs, pastas, vegetables, beans and potatoes. It also pairs well with seafood.

Medicinal uses:

Thyme has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties. They have been used for centuries to help heal cuts, bruises, scrapes, and burns. Basically most skin injuries. It’s also been touted to help improve eyesight, treat acne, help respiratory disorders, muscles cramps, basically, it’s a powerhouse in the medicinal herb world.

Growing + Harvesting Tips:

Sow indoors late winter to early spring and transplant after all chance of frost is gone.

Thyme is a little different in that you shouldn’t harvest the first year as the plant is still working to establish itself. On year two, you should get a good enough yield to harvest.

Like most herbs, it’s best to harvest jut before the plants flower. Another tip is to harvest in the morning hours, when the herbs are filled to the brim with water and oils, and not dried out from the heat of the day.

Sage

A mini history:

At this point, the mediterranean is just showing off. Because here is sage, or Salvia officinalis, which is a staple in culinary and medicinal uses. There are records of the Egyptians used sage for fertility and the Greeks and Romans using it as a meat preservative. And to the Romans, it was also a sacred ceremonial herb.

Burning sage is also something I think we’ve all heard about, and besides the wooowooo reasons for doing it, it does show that the smoke can help scientifically purify the air in your home. It’s said to help remove bacteria from the air, improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety, and also is a great insect repelent.

drawing of sage, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

When I think of sage, the first thing that comes to me is as a seasoning in breakfast meats, such as sausage. Also, sage fried in butter is hands down the best delectable treat. You’ve got to try it. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet, add sage leaves and toast on each side for just a minute or too, remove from pan and place on an absorbent paper towel, and sprinkle with a tad bit of sea salt. Enjoy as a surprising and delicious appetizer before dinner with friends.

Along with sausage, it’s great as an addition in poultry seasoning, and adds flavor to root vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips. Its also tasty in stuffings, cured meats, winter squash, and creamy pasta dishes.

Medicinal uses:

Sage is used for digestive problems, including loss of appetite, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn. I found it fascinating that it also used for reducing overproduction of perspiration and saliva. And also for for depression, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s disease. I mean, basically it’s a miracle drug. I mean . . . herb.

If you can tolerate it when you have an upset stomach, chew on a few fresh leaves and see if it helps!

Growing + Harvesting Tips:

Sage doesn’t like to be started indoors or its roots moved. Its best direct-sown into the soil after all danger of frost has passed.

Basil

A mini history:

Of all the herbs to grow, basil has got to be on the tip three if I had to guess. The Mediterranean is taking a breather here, as basil is native to India. Basil comes in lots of different varieties, over 150 actually. It came to American in the 17th century by the English.

drawing of basil, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

When basil comes to mind, its usually in a sauce or on top of pizza. It’s delicious in both of those. However, there are many other uses including pasta, pureed into soups, chopped in salads, and as a garnish in many dishes.

Medicinal uses:

The oils in basil contain eugenol, linalool, and citronellol, with can help to fight inflammation. In turn, this can help lower the rise of conditions like heart disease, arthritis, even bowel issues. It also has anti-bacterial properties that help with skin health, digestion, and detoxifying the body.

How to Grow + Harvesting Tips:

Basil is a quick growing plant. Seed to harvest can happen in about six to seven weeks. Plant indoors if needed or outdoor after all chance of frost is gone. Basil does not like cold, so don’t tempt fait and make sure the soil is around 70 degree before laying seed.

Harvest similar to oregano.

Parsley

A mini history:

Another Mediterranean staple, Parsley quickly became popular throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It’s part of the dill and carrot family. Back in the day, parsley was commonly grown in monasteries and even royal gardens.

drawing of parsley, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

Parsley is know as the most used garnish of the herb world. It’s beautiful added as a finish on a meal. Garnish using dried or fresh parsley. Along with being pretty, it’s also great in pestos, pasta, sauces, meat dishes, and with veggies.

Medicinal uses:

Parsley has long been used to make medicine. It’s been known to help with bladder infections, kidney stones, gastrointestinal issues, skin conditions and more. It’s also high in vitamin K, which helps blood to clot and contributes to bone health. It also contains vitamin C and other antioxidants which help to reduce the risk of health contains such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Parsley is much more than just a pretty garnish!

How to Grow + Harvesting Tips:

Parsley is a bit tricky. Here are a few tips.

The germination rate for parsley can be low, so soaking for a few hours can help soften the seed and promote a better rate of germination. Also, parsley does not like its roots messed with, so it’s best not to start indoors. Rather, wait until all frost is gone and plant outside. Be patient, it could take up to two to four weeks for plants to appear.

While it can be a biannual in some areas, the leaves the second year around tend to be on the bitter side. So it’s best to start fresh with a new plant each year.

Cilantro

A mini history:

Cilantro, you either love it or hate it. There’s not much wiggle room when it comes to this herb. All parts of the plant are edible, including the roots, leafs, and seeds, which are called coriander. Also from the Mediterranean, it’s been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and was thought to be grown in their gardens. With help from the Romans, it spread to Asia while the Spanish conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and Peru, where it then made its way up to America.

drawing of cilantro, one of the herbs to grow recommended in this article.

Common uses:

Cilantro is a herb best used fresh. The taste deteriorates a lot once dried. Not that I still don’t use it dried. I’m in the cilantro lovers club and I’ll take as much of it as possible. If I don’t have fresh, dried is the next best option. Raw leaves are commonly added to salsas, pestos, marinades, dressings, and as garnishes on top of soups and stews. And of course we can’t forget salsas and pico de gallo.

Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Medicinal uses:

Researchers have found that cilantro may provide health benefits in the form of reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and seizure severity, as well as raising energy levels and healthy hair and skin.

How to Grow + Harvesting Tips:

This is such an easy herb to grow! While you can start indoors, it’s such a quick growing herb that direct seeding works well. Harvest frequently to prevent flowering, which will cause the leaves to yellow and bitter. Once done for the year, let flower and go to seed and harvest the coriander seeds for cooking as well!

Are there other herbs to grow that you would recommend? I have many, but these sever are a solid start.

And if you need some amazing, sturdy, stand the test of time garden beds for all your delicious herbs, we made these at our old house and they were amazing!

What other herbs to grow am I missing?

This post just scratches the surface of all the herbs to grow. We could go on and on, and based on the area you live, there will be some that are used much more than others. It’s also a cultural thing!

I’d love to hear what are some of your favorite herbs to grow are. Maybe I don’t have them and need to add to next years garden. I’m always ready and willing to add to my herb garden area!

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