Thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary and mint are Mediterranean herbs that grow in full sun and well-drained soil. “Basil and mint like a little more moisture, but soggy roots will kill every one of these,” says Debra Knapke, central Ohio gardener and newly appointed honorary president of the American Herb Society. “If you have too little or too much drainage, add 2–4 inches of compost.” Click ahead for additional tips.
Pungent, sweeter English or narrow-leaf French varieties are flavorful all-around choices. Lemon and caraway thymes are also popular. Harvest the whole plant to 2 inches midseason to encourage new growth.
Turkish and Greek varieties are most often used in cooking. Get two harvests by shearing back just before flowering and again in late summer.
“‘Genovese’ is my favorite,” says central Ohio gardener Debra. “I could just roll in it.” She also snips peppery ‘Spicy Globe’ into salads, adds lemony ‘Mrs. Burns’ to veggies and uses cinnamon basil in baked breads.
This tender perennial likes it hot and dry, with gravel mulch at its feet. ‘Madeline Hill’ and ‘Arp’ can survive to zero degrees. ‘Tuscan Blue’ has beautiful blue flowers. Sturdy ‘Barbecue’ stems work as skewers for flavor-infused shish kabobs.
Corral vigorous-growing mint in pots or in bottomless containers sunk into soil with a few inches above ground. “‘Kentucky Colonel’ is a good all-around spearmint if you can only have one mint,” Debra says. But why limit yourself when there is pineapple mint, chocolate mint—even mojito mint?
Bring 2 cups white wine vinegar to boil. Place thyme or rosemary sprigs in a sterilized glass bottle. Funnel hot vinegar into the bottle. Cover tightly with a nonmetallic lid. Use in dressings and marinades.
Place 3 cups loosely packed basil, 1⁄2 cup kosher salt and 3–4 garlic cloves in a food processor. Pulse to grind. Spread on a baking sheet; leave at room temp for 3–5 days. When fully dry, process again to form a powder. Yields 1 to 1 1⁄4 cups. Sprinkle on chicken, veggies or eggs.
Bring 1⁄2 cup water to boil. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon snipped mint. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours. Strain into a clean glass jar. Cover and chill for up to one week. Drizzle over fruit or use in cocktails.