Enjoy herb seasonings from your own backyard (or patio) all year long

I love the fact that my local supermarket carries a great selection of fresh herbs. But what I love even more is that I seldom need to buy them. I grow my own and it’s easy as can be.

All it takes is a little snipping in the fall to collect those that die back, and some shuffling around of the potted evergreen perennial herbs in areas colder than zone 6.

Here are the seasonings I have learned to rely on:

Annual/Biennial Herbs

Shortlived or not, most herbs can be in ready supply for all four seasons.

  • Cilantro/Coriander: As soon as the ground warms in March, I plant cilantro. It seems to be the one herb I can never get enough of, as it grows like a weed, then bursts into seed. The little round seed heads, confusingly called coriander, are easily ground with a mortar and pestle to add sumptuous flavour to Asian soups, fish and curries.
  • Dill: I love the Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) plant family (dill, fennel, carrot, celery, cilantro, lovage, parsley, etc.) for its graceful stature, often aromatic foliage and because bees and beneficial insects flock to the pretty umbrella-like blossoms. Cut and dry dill come fall for year-round use.
  • Parsley: While you can dry parsley too, I don’t much bother. Biennial parsley feels like a perennial in my garden because just when it’s on the out, it plants itself again, self-seeding a fresh crop to last another two years.

Perennial Herbs that Die Back in the Winter

There’s nothing nicer than perennial herbs, even those that die back through the winter.

  • Chives: This allium with edible blossoms benefits from continual clipping to stay tender and lush. For easy gourmet fare, fling masses of freshly snipped chives with a speck of butter or olive oil onto potatoes, vegetables and more. Store frozen in ice cube trays for winter soups.
  • Fennel: I grow this mostly because I love the look of the feathery foliage. And there’s a bonus – in summer the mustard-coloured umbels are a magnet for beneficials. We use the foliage, fresh and dried, in tea, and the licorice-flavoured seeds year-round for more tea and baking.
  • Mint: Why bother with packaged herbal tea when a simple sprig of fresh mint or a handful of crushed, dried leaves is invigorating for the body and abundant in the garden? Grow in a contained, somewhat shady spot.
  • Oregano: The ultimate addition to Greek cuisine, oregano is fabulous fresh, and can also be dried. Grow in a pot, hanging planter or sunny rock garden.

Perennials with Year-Round Foliage

When it comes to perennial herbs to pick year round, there are two that we repeat all through our garden for almost daily gathering.

  • Rosemary: Gloss-green gorgeous and sumptuously scented, rosemary takes me to the Mediterranean climes of Tuscany where it grows like gangbusters. In my zone-6 garden, I keep it happy on a well-drained, south-facing slope.
  • Thyme: Time after time, I’ve waxed lyrical about thyme. It’s perennial, evergreen and a perfect “spiller” for containers, rock walls and hanging baskets. It’s bee-friendly, beautiful, hardy to zone 4 and a boon in the kitchen. All winter, my family loads it onto roasted dinners and into soups. Come summer, we toss clouds of tiny thyme leaves like confetti onto anything on the grill.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.