Herbs benefit a home garden in several ways--they can provide an aesthetic beauty, deter pests, enhance a chef's cooking or be used for medicinal purposes. When growing herbs it is important to consider your growing space. Whether you live in a small apartment with a cozy nook or a large house with a yard, complementary herbs can be grown with each other anywhere as long as they have the proper lighting and watering. When growing herbs, pick ones that complement each others' flavors.
The most common Italian herbs have strong flavors that not only accent dishes, but can be the main star of the dish as well (such as herb pesto). Basil is probably one of the most well-known and can be incorporated into pesto, tomato sauces, soups, tossed into salads or placed on top of pasta or meat dishes as a chiffonade (cut ribbons of basil). Fennel is a licorice-tasting herb whose leaves and seeds are incorporated into meatballs and sausage. Oregano has a strong peppery flavor that can be overpowering if too much is used. When paired with basil, it adds a depth of flavor to sauces, pasta dishes, roasted vegetables and fish. Italian flat leaf parsley is a common garnish, used for soup stocks, marinades, crusts and pesto. Rosemary is a simple herb to plant and needs little maintenance (at least less than the other Italian herbs). It is paired best with basil on roasted meats and vegetables, especially lamb and fish, or sprinkled on bread than baked. Sage is a main part of the popular Italian dish saltimbocca, and is tasty to stuff into veal, poultry, beef, pork or lamb.
Lavender, native to the Mediterranean, is probably the most popular aromatic herb and attracts butterflies to the garden. Sweet marjoram is in the mint family with a slightly spicy aroma and has been used for hundreds of years as a perfume. Sage is seen primarily as a cooking herb, but is another aromatic member of the mint family. When rubbed between the fingers, a strong oily aroma is given off. Peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint and thyme all thrive in various conditions with several uses. All of these herbs can be made into potpourri or oils.
One of the most common French herbs is tarragon, a main ingredient in the popular French sauce Bearnaise. It is also used to flavor seafood, eggs, poultry and vegetables. Parsley is ideal for soups, seafood, sauces, marinades, garnishes or even to eat alone. It is regularly used in the French "bouquet garni," an herb bouquet used to flavor stocks. Chives are in the onion family and is best in sauces, creams, yogurts and dips. It is best fresh (so resist the urge to dry out this herb) and is also used to sprinkle over meat dishes, soups, eggs and vegetables as a finishing garnish. Thyme, rosemary, basil and lavender are also ideal additions to a French herb garden.
Herbs have been used medicinally for centuries, and many culinary and aromatic herbs are also used as remedies. Herbs to grow in a complementary garden like this includes bergamot, wormwood, horny goat's weed, comfrey, yarrow, evening primrose, St John's Wort and tansy. These can be made into ointments, oils, teas and rubs.