From the green expanses of White House Nursery in Upperco, MD, we bring to you an informative guide on the top ten herbs that you can grow in your Maryland garden. Regardless of the garden size or your expertise level, these herbs are fairly easy to cultivate in raised bed gardens, traditional garden beds, or even containers, giving a delightful twist to your culinary endeavors. Not only will you enjoy fresh, aromatic herbs in your dishes, but these plants will also enhance the aesthetics of your surroundings with their vibrant colors and pleasant fragrances.
1. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
An essential in Italian cooking, basil is an excellent choice for Maryland gardens due to its warmth-loving nature. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Whether in a garden bed or a pot, be sure to plant it after the last frost, as it is sensitive to cold weather. Basil is an indispensable ingredient in pesto and a perfect pair to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in a Caprese salad.
2. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
This biennial herb, used as garnish or for its refreshing flavor, prefers well-drained soil and partial to full sunlight. Its curly or flat leaves enrich dishes such as tabbouleh, soups, and pasta.
3. Mint (Mentha)
Mint is a resilient and fast-spreading perennial. It loves a partly shady spot with moist, rich soil. Contain mint in a pot to avoid its invasive nature. Add a refreshing touch to your summer drinks, salads, and desserts with freshly plucked mint leaves.
4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
This perennial herb, with its needle-like leaves, is a must-have for any herb garden. Rosemary enjoys full sun and well-drained soil and is tolerant of Maryland’s winter, though it should be protected in harsh conditions. It’s a lovely addition to lamb dishes, roast potatoes, and bread.
5. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme, a versatile perennial, prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Its tiny leaves pack a punch of flavor, perfect for soups, poultry, and vegetable dishes.
6. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Chives are perennials that appreciate full sun or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Their onion-flavored leaves are a fantastic addition to salads, omelets, and baked potatoes.
7. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
Cilantro is an annual herb that enjoys cooler weather, making it perfect for spring and fall in Maryland. It thrives in full sun or light shade with well-drained soil. It’s indispensable in Mexican and Thai cuisines and is the star ingredient in fresh salsa and guacamole.
8. Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill is an annual herb that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. The entire plant, including seeds and leaves, is edible. Dill is a popular ingredient in pickles, seafood dishes, and dips.
9. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
This perennial is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. Oregano prefers a sunny spot and light, well-drained soil. It’s a hearty plant and can survive the winter with some protection. Oregano is a mainstay in pizza and pasta sauces.
10. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is a perennial herb that loves full sun and well-drained soil. Sage leaves have a strong, slightly peppery flavor. They’re often used in stuffing for roast meats and poultry, sausages, and can also be fried as a crispy garnish for dishes like risotto and gnocchi.
These ten herbs are a great starting point for a productive herb garden in Maryland, but remember, the success of your garden also depends on care and maintenance. Regular watering (but avoid overwatering), pruning, and harvesting, as well as monitoring for pests and diseases, will ensure a healthy garden that will add freshness and flavor to your culinary delights.
There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in using herbs that you have grown yourself in your cooking. Your pasta sauce can become more aromatic with home-grown basil and oregano. Your mojitos will have that added freshness with the mint leaves plucked right from your garden. Your roasted chicken will be more flavorful with your home-grown rosemary and thyme. The options are endless!
Growing herbs at home not only elevates the flavor of your dishes, it can also be a delightful hobby that connects you with nature. The act of nurturing a plant from seed to maturity, where it finally finds a place in your kitchen, is a rewarding journey. Even if you’re a beginner in gardening or have limited space, you’ll find that herbs are a perfect place to start. They are forgiving plants that can often thrive in less than ideal conditions, offering beginner gardeners a good chance of success.
So, why wait? Whether in raised bed gardens, garden beds, or containers, make your culinary endeavors more exciting and flavorful by starting your herb garden today! The freshness, taste, and aroma of home-grown herbs are unparalleled and will truly enhance your cooking and dining experience. Happy gardening, and even happier cooking!