Aristotle Basil: One of cutest herbs around. It has petite smooth leaves in a globe shape.
I think of Aristotle Basil as versatile: excellent in sauces, marinades and egg dishes, and good for containers with annual flowers just give it plenty of room. It doesn't stay small for long unless you are continually cutting it back. Next summer I want to plant them in a row as a border. Basil is easy to dry in a paper bag at the end of the growing season.
Greek Columnar Basil: This one is a bit spicy and can get a little tough. My chef husband says it is best for tomato-based sauces. Gorgeous leaves and it will get a few feet tall by August.
Smells delicious! The blue-violet flower is way at the top of long stems. It might look delicate but it can be essentially ignored after planting. Grows in any type of soil.
Peppermint's: There are hundreds of varieties of mint and with all the choices it might be baffling to decide which one to bring home. If you rub a leaf between your fingers to release the oils you can smell and appreciate their differences. Over the last several years I've been trying different varieties and especially like the Mojito and Pineapple Mints. I typically plant mint in a large pot with flowers since their leaves brighten the arrangement nicely. However, they can take over their neighboring plants so don't be afraid to cut out some of the roots if that happens.
At your local farmers market or garden center you might find Apple Mint, Orange Mint, Mojito Mint, Ginger Mint, Chocolate Mint, Corsican Mint, Mountain Mint, Pineapple Mint, Lavender Mint, Lemon Mint and good old fashioned Peppermint.
What do you do with your fresh mint? A few friends suggested tossing some leaves into Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies or adding mint leaves and cucumber slices to water. It makes a Mojito a Mojito. I'm partial to mint leaves in lemonade and iced tea. I've found adding a Chocolate Mint leaf to a glass of Bailey's is pretty good.
All of the mints have a strong creeping habit. They are extremely resilient. I've heard stories of mint shoots still being dug up decades after the original was pulled from a garden. Planting this herb in a pot or window box is the smart way to go. If you want mint in the yard or garden, merely dig a hole and sink the potted mint into the ground. Plant in full sun or partial sun.
This oregano is exactly as it is named. If you want to add zip to salsa or chili this is a good choice but it's intense so start with a small amount. You know that phrase 'a little goes a long way'......it applies with this herb.
Berggarten Sage: The soft leaves are fun to rub between your fingers. They need full sun. This variety is excellent chopped up for soup, meat and stuffing dishes (think: Thanksgiving Dinner). I also like to add this variety to flower arranged containers but need to remind myself to give them space to grown, up to a foot wide.
Purple Sage: The bi-color leaves are beautiful. It is excellent for baking and cooking in any recipe that calls for Sage. Purple Sage is attractive in a container but it will get fairly large - up to 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide - so if you are combining it with other plants you will want to use a super large container or a pot all by itself.
Gray Sage: If we are going to plant only one type of Sage, I'd recommend this one. It resembles what you typically find in grocery stores. It's perfect in Cucumber-Sage Martinis and any recipe that calls for fresh sage. The small purple flowers are a bonus; it's fine to cut the small flowers off any time and for sure cut them off when you are using the leaves for cooking, baking or cocktails.
We are big fans of Thyme at our house.
It's so amazing in spaghetti sauces, soups and scrambled eggs. And here is a secret for using Thyme: you do not need to labor over stripping those tiny, tiny leaves from the stem........just toss the whole stem with the leaves into the sauce and after cooking slowly the leaves just fall off (remove the stem from the sauce, tho)
This is Golden Thyme that I put in the garden three years ago. Thyme is a rare herb that we find comes back every year so we put one plant in the herb garden, like the English Thyme pictured above, and then have extra in the ground. It's easy to dry in brown paper bags for winter use.