Though Minnesota's rather short growing season limits herb-growing choices somewhat, a number of herbs do grow well in Minnesota gardens. Whether you are interested in growing herbs for their fragrance, flavor or beauty, begin with several easy-to-grow varieties. Give your garden herbs adequate attention as they grow and then enjoy fresh-from-the-garden herbs.
Either set basil plants out after all danger of frost has passed or sow seeds in the garden in full sun. Basil thrives in sunshine and warmth and will only grow as an annual in Minnesota. It also likes a fair amount of water, so water it deeply every seven to 10 days. Basil reaches a height of 18 inches. Try purple basil, which has a subtle flavor and makes a colorful addition to salads. Basil leaves are best used fresh.
Common chives grow as a perennial. This hardy, easy-to-grow herb makes a tasty addition to soups, salads and other dishes. Even the lavender flowers may be eaten. If you don't want the chive plants to multiply in your garden, pinch them to prevent self-seeding.
A large, hardy perennial propagated by cuttings, horseradish has a root with a sharp zesty flavor. The plant's lush green leaves make a nice addition to a flower garden. To grow large roots, which are easier to peel and prepare, remove newly-developing leaf shoots and leave only one or two leaf shoots at the head end of the horseradish plant. Grind harvested horseradish in the blender with a little water. Add a bit of white vinegar to help preserve and enhance the taste.
A relative of oregano, marjoram is often used in Italian cooking to add a sweet spicy flavor. In Minnesota, marjoram seed is started indoors and transplanted out to a sunny location after the danger of frost has passed. This annual grows to about 12 inches. You can use marjoram fresh, but it also dries well for flavoring soups, beans, meat or dressing throughout the year.
Common sage is a hardy perennial that grows to a small shrub. This easy-to-grow herb may reach 2 to 3 feet tall. Sow sage seeds in well-drained soil in full sun. You will find sage, with its gray-green leaves, to be a nice addition to a flower garden or a perennial border. Sage has many uses in cooking, but is an especially nice addition to poultry dishes.
With its peppery flavor, summer savory is often used when cooking peas, beans, and lentils. Savory is an annual herb that grows quickly. Sow seeds directly in the garden once the danger of frost is over. Harvest savory before flower buds appear, for best flavor but also to prevent reseeding.
With a mild mint flavor, spearmint is considered the ideal mint for cooking. Use spearmint as a garnish, add it to salads or brew the leaves to make tea. Spearmint is also used to treat nausea. The plant, which grows to about 2 feet, produces lavender flowers that attract bees. Mint can grow in partial shade.