I’m often asked to recommend herbs for beginners. The following are 7 of my favourite potted herbs. And they all do well in colder areas as well.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is the hardiest of all the herbs. It makes a small, bushy pot plant and the more the leaves are picked the better it does. An infusion of lemon-scented thyme, helps relieve coughs and colds. Use thyme in casseroles and stews, to garnish roasts or added to salad dressings and salads.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a robust herb that stands up well to cooking especially in slow simmered casseroles, roasts and grills. It also combines well with cheese. An infusion of sage leaves can be used to treat colds and coughs and it also makes an excellent gargle for sore throats. To make a Sage gargle infuse 3 teaspoons fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle three times a day.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) does better in semi-shade if grown in a pot and the soil should be kept moist. The leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and Iron. Build your immune system by eating two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley each day. Sprinkle it on salads, add it to meat, pasta or cheese sauces at the end of cooking or juice it up in a blender with apple or tomato juice.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) actually prefers cooler weather. Its delicate, fern like leaves are full of vitamin C and have a slightly aniseed taste. It’s best used like parsley, chopped as a garnish or added to salads, soups, sauces, vegetables and meat dishes at the end of cooking. An infusion of the leaves stimulates digestion, relieves head colds, and acts as a blood cleanser.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) easily withstands winter frost but likes full sun. The more you harvest the better it grows. It has a strong aromatic taste ideal for rich winter food, but use sparingly or it can be overpowering. An infusion of oregano can be used to treat coughs, tiredness and irritability.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) grows well in pots and tolerates quite cold weather. It has a bushy form and attractive spikes of blue flowers. Both the leaves and flowers can be used in an infusion to treat bronchitis and loosen mucus. The leaves have a peppery taste and are a good addition to thick soups and stews.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is principally a medicinal herb and can be used to bring down fevers, and helps relieve infections, influenza, and sinusitis. Both the leaves and flowers of the plant are used as an infusion. Add peppermint or a teaspoon of honey if you find the leaves a bit bitter. I use it en-masse in borders and Teresa likes using the flowers in arrangements.