If you could only grow 3 herbs, what would you pick?

tomatotomataFebruary 24, 2013

I've been persuaded by knowledgeable voices here to grow only one plant per pot. Basil is a given, but what else? There are just too many choices! What would be your choice?

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opal52(z7b GA)

I suppose it depends on what you use most for cooking. For me, it would be basil (of course), thyme and sage. Chives or Rosemary would come in close to tie with sage (both grow well in ground for us), and I have become very fond of tarragon. I have become so dependent on having fresh herbs I would have a hard time choosing just three. Thyme is so useful, surely it deserves to be second after #1 basil :~).

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:22PM
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CA Kate

Since we moved a year ago these are what I have replaced: Parsely, Bay laurel, thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, Lemon verbena, and chives; so I guess these are what I really do use for everyday cooking. I have all of these in large pots in sunny spots.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:43PM
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Aindra(8, BC)

Rosemary and Dill, in that order.

I couldn't decide on a third herb -- I like several, can't settle. But why limit yourself? Get many pots! Haha.

In this year, I will triple my herb varieties for my balcony garden. I have limited space but dangit, I'll find a way. Is there a reason why you're limited to three pots?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:45AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I assume you are looking for culinary herb choices? Because there are a wealth of "herbs" used for dyeing, medicinal use, utilitarian uses, etc.

If speaking only culinary use: sage, angelica, parsley or basil (toss up).

Sage - beautiful blooms/foliage, culinary & medicinal use, perennial, hardy, âÂÂCur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?â [trans. âÂÂwhy should a man die while sage grows in his garden?âÂÂ]

Angelica - so beautiful. I tend not use it as much as just admire it. Culinary and medicinal uses.

Toss up between basil and parsley - both tasty and easy to grow. Parsley medicinal as well as culinary.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 1:16PM
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I'd grow the ones that are pricier to purchase. Arugula would probably my #1, followed by shiso (also ridiculously pricey for a small bunch of leaves ~ maybe 8?) and then green onions. The latter, I have my own issue with solely because in Asian markets in SoCal, I bought them for 10-15 for $1 whereas in SF, it's over a dollar for ONE. Combined with how easy it is to grow and the overall cost savings, I think I'd choose these three.

But like others have said - it depends entirely on what you cook with and/or eat a lot of, in conjunction with your zone and what you can make thrive, I guess.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:33PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

The easiest ones. For me that would be bay, rosemary and mint. But I would miss sage, thyme and parsley. Sadly Basil is not easy here. I never buy any herbs so if I can't grow it I don't use it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:05PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

Sage, lovage, rosemary

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 9:45AM
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I do not know about Lovage, will it grown in our warm climate? Maybe as an annual in the fall like Florence Fennel? Mint needs a moist area here in Texas but seems to do well in large enough pots, but needs to be used or it will get leggy and woody. Sweet and Thai Basil does fine in our area, in fact I am still waiting to see if my Thai Basil has lived thru our winter season. Sage seems to do fine here also. A Bay tree would need a large pot after a few years. As for Thyme I keep looking for one that will not just up and die off, maybe in pots it would do better? I have even stuck Lemon Grass almost anywhere and it does fine under almost any conditions but gets to be a large bushy plant on one year. Your cooking habits should decide what you will chose to grown.
Happy gardening.
As everyone has

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Rosemary, garlic chives, sage for the criteria of year-round harvesting, and the food grilling purposes. :)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 7:00AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Oregano(per.), Thyme(per.), Savory(ann/per.).

Things like chives, parsley, mint, basil, ..often available in stores. And I have never liked rosemary that much. I have sage, but rarely use it.
Other than Rosemary, I have the rest of them in my garden plus shiso, lemon balm, lemongrass, marjoram, leeks, chinese celery, mints ...

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 10:28AM
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Hi. Been there in the past when I had to limit myself to "the bare minimum" in potted plants. Here's what I think: What the other folks are saying about what you go to first when cooking; is what you should grow. I also say, go one step further and ask yourself, "What am I too lazy to run out to the store for in the last minute?" Some of the herbs that I grow were a direct result from that last thought. I found myself running out just to buy one item--usually a herb...And always something that won't keep fresh over a few days. My go to herbs are often: Ginger, long green onion (always a great substitute when out of regular onion), and basil.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 3:56PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

My ranking is first mint, second sage, and third lovage.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 4:16PM
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Mintman2013(6 PA)

I would choose Mint (I currently have 37 varieties), Lemon or Lime Balm, and Basil

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 1:08AM
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HotHabaneroLady(7a Central MD)

I would choose the ones I use most and enjoy the most in cooking. That would probably be basil, hot spicy oregano, and either German thyme or dill. I probably use dill more often, but enjoy the thyme more when I use it. :)

The only herbs I grow and virtually never use are sage and stevia.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 1:18AM
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Basil, Oregano, and Thyme.
Mint falls in fourth place. It would be hard to live without mojitos.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:38AM
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I love basil - but since it's an annual, it's a pain to have to keep replanting.

Is there some trick I'm missing?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:15PM
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River_City, you have to replant it yearly, but I cut mine back (AKA big harvest) a few times a year and it lasts until the first frost.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:25PM
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basil, lemon verbena, rosemary

then mint, Syrian hyssop (za'atar), which grows wild here but I love it in my garden, wormwood, yarrow....

Don't think I can limit myself to three!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 3:28AM
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margowicz(8/9 UK)

I have several I couldn't be without any

mint easy grown good in tea's but main reason I grow it my bearded dragon eats it so its free dragon food to me.

rosemary - one I always loved always thought of this as the basic herb to grow with sage parsley and thyme.

Bay - king of herbs to me no bay I'd stop even if I don't use it daily.

They are all there for a job I don't think you can choose only 3 for eg if you were making curry you can hardly put basil in it rather than coriander.

the 3 things you cook most will depend on what your favorite 3 are

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 3:23PM
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HotHabaneroLady(7a Central MD)

River_city, there is a variety called pesto perpetuo that is supposed to be perennial. I believe it's a new hybrid. At least it is something I only recently learned about. I can't vouch for it, but I am going to try it!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:35PM
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Wow - I love this thread. Someone from Israel, and then UK!

Thanks for the tip HotHabaneroLady (whoa what a name!) - I just ordered a couple pots.

I'm addicted to rosemary - currently have about a dozen varieties, and just planted another today (santa barbara). Try a rosemary cocktail sometime....

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Rosemary, sage, and thyme

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 8:30PM
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Rosemary, Bay Laurel, and lavender.

If I could get a forth, it would be lemon verbena.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 5:19PM
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That's one large, nice looking bay laurel for zone 7. No problems overwintering lemon verbena outside in your zone? Is it grown against the house?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 8:03PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Interesting preferences. Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Mint are among the most popular.
But nobody (except me) mentioned SAVORY. I think it is not know to most people. But it is the "FIVE SPICE" of the herbs. It has a little bit from, Thyme , Oregano , Tarragon and Rosemary. Its aroma is as long lasting as Thyme's. There are two kinds: summer and winter savory.
Then I have never ever grown and used LOVAGE. I will try it next year.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 4:13AM
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River City, I have overwintered lemon verbena onside before successfully, but currently have mine containerized. Yes, there are several bay bushes planted on the west side of the house, but white foundation keeps it relatively cool. When I grew them in pots, they never grew--they are trees after all, and my theory is that many people who grow them in pots are underplanting them grouping them with such herbs as parsley or oregano.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 6:37AM
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Basil, Basil, and Basil....

(and Rosemary and Sage probably)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 4:21PM
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joppa -i was going to say that too. basil was my first gardening success and im in love with it now!

but if i could only do one basil, my other choices would probably be rosemary and dill. i love mint also but dont use it often. i use rosemary and dill pretty regularly.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:35PM
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Sweet marjoram, peppermint and lemon verbena. I love them for their fragrance.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 7:17PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Fennel, garlic, and parsley are my go-to herbs. I was going to say cilantro but since the part I grow and use it for is a spice (coriander), it doesn't really count on this list.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 10:03AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)


I also use garlic more than any herbs. But the thing is that it is readily available and if you plant it , you harvest it at one point.
So to me,, garlic is not an herb garden herb, just like onion.

Now you can pick another herb while you enjoy garlic too: LOL

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 9:54AM
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scents_from_heaven(z9b Orlando FL)

Basil, Rosemary and Greek Oregano

I use Basil in everything and it would cost too much to purchase it at the store. I used to have almost every flavor but not after my room-mate did not tend to them most of the summer. Greek Oregano because 9f it's beauty and great aroma and Rosemary because it cooks well with all the chicken and turkey I am suppose to eat. I have a rosemary that is 5' tall and 7' wide. The more I cut it the more it grows. Ted did not manage to kill this.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 9:16PM
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To eat...dill, basil, spearmint.

In the garden (with my roses) lavender, catmint, bee balm :)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 12:59PM
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After years of growing various herbs, thyme is the one that has always been dependable, available, and trouble free, as long as I grow it in a pot in adequate sun. I have never been left without it when I go to make my favorite spaghetti sauce. (I can't say the same for oregano, despite its cooperative growth and overwintering abilities).

Lemon verbena, despite its weediness, would be my second pick, as I am never without a healthful tea as long as it is anywhere on my property.

Since it is so helpful in chest congestion, which is a recurrent concern for me, white horehound is my third must-have herb. Since it can be used in candy (it is very bitter otherwise), I guess it can skitter into the culinary category. I have had it overwinter in the same large pot on the north side of my home for two winters now with minimal attention.

The above are the ones I have always been able to rely on; the least demanding, and the most useful to me. They have never died on me from lack of attention or hardiness, or from insect damage. I love basil and cilantro, but have had little luck with them, as they sicken and die on me because I cannot provide enough sun or consistent moisture. Sage grows well for me, but I have found that it is almost as good dried as fresh, and can be purchased in large amounts for use in tea fairly economically. Bee balm comes back for me, but I hesitate to harvest my little stand of it for fear it will give up and not come back at all; additionally, in its early growth it greatly resembles the poisonous snakeroot, which some birds have sowed in my garden. Lovage grew well for me the first year I planted it, but never again. I live close enough to several grocery stores to purchase as much celery as I want whenever--and celery is a staple that stores well.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 11:25PM
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French tarragon, sweet marjoram, and true chives.

For me tarragon is an absolute must in salad dressing and it is rather expensive.

As it happens I do have four biggish pots of tarragon permanently outside in my little garden, since, as I grow it, tarragon is not very vigorous and I want to be sure to have enough. But I still end up using a lot of dried, store-bought tarragon.

I have yet to crack the secret of tarragon cultivation. It thrived for my mother in the ground in neutral soil in Pennsylvania. She had sufficient quantities to be able to use it lavishly in cooking. Her garden was also cooler and breezier than mine is in the summer. Come to think of it, her soil was more clay than sandy, too, but basically just good.

Harold McGee, the food scientist, says that the flavor of tarragon, which is related to anise, changes when you combine it with food, into something different and wonderful (fennel does the same thing). He says basil has the same chemical -- though it tastes quite different to me -- not as peppery.

Two other musts are chervil and summer savory, the bean herb. These are hard to find and delicious fresh.

Of course I do grow parsley and basil and would grow dill if it were more tolerant of my urban summer heat. But you can also easily get these in the store.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Just looking at google books, I see that tarragon is an alpine type plant that is said to thrive at temps between 40-60 degrees!

Definitely a cool weather plant, by preference, like so many desirable things, including chervil and watercress. Oh, well. I keep trying.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 1:56PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

A couple of things, Monarda. Tarragon isn't related to Anise. It just has a similar flavour. The former is in the Asteraceae and the latter is in the Apiaceae. And I'm not sure what your source means by an Alpine plant. It is native to dry semi arid soils which doesn't sound Alpine to me. And I'm sceptical about its being a cool weather plant. Here we are advised to grow it in a warm sunny position. Can you share your reference?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 3:05PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

When I think of alpine, I think of a mountainous environment. Somewhat dry, rocky, kind of poor soils. Sunny but moderate temps during the day with cooler nights. At least during the summer.

Now whether tarragon is an alpine plant, I haven't a clue.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 3:54PM
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Well, my source didn't say Alpine, exactly, it said "grows best at temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees." (Thereabouts.)

I have seen sources saying it comes from Siberia. Whether this is correct I can't really say. I also saw a source that said it grows well in the North American Midwest in soil that is arid on top and moist way below -- so the roots have to quest for it. That would be prairie conditions, no?

I believe it will withstand some heat in the right conditions. Some people also say they have success in a deep pot. My mother's were grown on a hillside and did very well.

My plants hang in there, but aren't especially vigorous. I think the problem is the bouts of extreme heat and unrelenting humidity we get here probably. I bet out on Long Island they would do much better, because the nights there are cooler and more refreshing, however hot it gets during the day.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 6:57PM
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