Herb gardens are grown with many different uses in mind, from being culinary or medicinally beneficial, aromatic, or used in specific cooking styles. Whether you have a small, sunny apartment windowsill or a large backyard garden bed, you can grow a complementary herb garden. This type of garden provides herbs that work well together.
French cooking is one of the most popular cuisines in the culinary world, whether it is classic or modern. Many French sauces have gained notoriety because of the herbs that provide the flavors. For instance, the well-known French sauce Bernaise is seasoned with tarragon. This herb is also used to season and flavor eggs, seafood, poultry and vegetables. Part of the onion family, chives are sprinkled on dozens of different dishes, even desserts, creams and yogurt. Parsley is an herb routinely used as a garnish, but can be pureed or cooked into sauces, marinades, soups and seafood dishes by way of a "bouquet garni," an herb bouquet used to flavor stocks. Other complementary French herbs include rosemary, thyme and basil.
Aromatic and Medicinal Herbs
Medicinal and aromatic herb gardens are very useful if put to proper use. Two of the most well-known aromatic herbs are lavender and mint. Native to the Mediterranean, lavender not only attracts butterflies but is used in baking, to create rubbing oils and to help aid in sleep. Mint plants, such as sage, peppermint and spearmint, have a strong familiar smell and are made into bouquets, used in cooking or to make rubs or ointments to help ease breathing and invigorate muscles. Sweet marjoram has a slightly spicy aroma and has been used for hundreds of years as a perfume and massage oil. Other medicinal herbs include bergamot, horny goat's weed, comfrey, yarrow, wormwood, evening primrose and tansy. These can be made into ointments, potpourris, oils, teas and rubs.
Italian herbs are known for strong flavors that not only accent dishes, but may act as the main feature of the dish, like herb pesto. Herbs like basil and rosemary are very popular in Italian cuisine and are used in sauces, salads, pasta and meat dishes. Oregano is an Italian herb used in small amounts, since it has such a strong pepper flavor; it is usually used in correlation with basil to balance sweet and peppery notes. Fennel's seeds and stems are both used for meatballs and sausage; this herb has a strong licorice taste. Sage is the feature player of the popular Italian dish saltimbocca and is also commonly stuffed into veal, poultry, beef, lamb and pork. Italian flat leaf parsley (just one variation of parsley) is a garnish in many cultures, but in Italy it is also made into crusts, pestos, marinades, soup stocks, salads, desserts and roasted meats.