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  • Jennifer Hoglin

Hardy Perennial Culinary Herbs

Today we are going to explore the many herbs that are perennial in our climate. There are more than you think! I have included in this group bulb and root type herbs which, although perennial in our climate, are often dug up to harvest and then small portions replanted. For perennials herbs that are higher than zone 4, see the article Tender Perennial Culinary Herbs. Check out the introduction to culinary herbs article here to see details on the growing, maintaining, harvesting, propagating and storing methods for all the herbs mentioned below.


Silver Springs Botanical Gardens Thyme Walking Maze

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

There are a few things you need to know about angelica. First off it is quite short lived, 2-3 years only, unless you deadhead the flowers before any seeds form. You will get a few extra years out of it if you do that. Secondly, if you want to start it from seed (which you probably do, as I have rarely seen it for sale as a starter plant), you need to stratify those seeds. They need a good 6 - 8 weeks in the refrigerator before planting. Once angelica is growing, it is a fantastic companion plant (like all umbellifers, it attracts many beneficial insects) and one of the few herbs that does really well in shade. It is also a very attractive plant with many ornamental varieties available. The foliage looks like extra large curly parsley and the flowers do not usually appear until the second or third year.


Plant type: Hardy, short-lived perennial.

Hardiness zone: 4 - 9

Sun requirement: Part to full shade.

Soil requirement: Well-drained, slightly moist and acidic soils with lots of compost.

Start seeds indoors: 8 weeks before LFD (may take 6 - 8 weeks for seeds to germinate).

Transplant outdoors: 1 week after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 4' tall (up to 6' with flowers) and 3 - 4' wide

Edible parts: Stems, leaves, seeds, shoots, roots.

Harvest: Fresh leaves and stalks in its second (or later) growing season. Roots can be dug up in the fall of its second year. Seeds can be shaken into a paper bag once dry and brown.

Best way to propagate: Best by seed. Seeds are not viable for very long (6 months max usually) so your best bet is to store them in the refrigerator, which will be their stratification time as well. Also a great candidate for winter sowing.

Best way to store: Air dry leaves and flowers by hanging out of direct sunlight. Stems can be chopped and frozen for cooked desserts.

Flavour description: Musky, sweet licorice flavour.

Best used: Dried leaves in tea, soups, stews, marinades and poaching liquids (especially for fish). Steamed or boiled stems used like a vegetable (similar use as asparagus or celery). Stems pair well with rhubarb and add sweetness to tart dishes. Blanched shoots are an interesting addition to salads. Candied stems (and sometimes leaves) in confections and fruit cake. The dried seeds and stems are a component of many liquors such as Chartreuse, gin and vermouth. Powdered roots used to flavour breads.

Good varieties: Plain old Angelica is what you want for culinary applications, but you may also see other varieties such as Ornamental Angelica (A. pachycarpa), Purple-stem Angelica (A. atropurpurea) or Korean/Red Flowered Angelica (A. gigas).


Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)


This herb is also a fantastic pollinator attractor. In fact, there are a number of bee keepers that produce honey with bees foraging solely on anise hyssop (and yes, it tastes beautiful). Korean mint (A. rugosa), Licorice mint (A. rupestris) and Hummingbird mint (A. cana) are slightly less hardy perennial species that are also stellar in the kitchen.


Photo by Pixaby

Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3/4

Sun requirement: Light shade.

Soil requirement: Average to slightly moist soils with good drainage.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD (may take 6-8 weeks for seeds to germinate).

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (best if allowed to grow indoors for its first year).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 4' tall x 1 - 3' wide.

Edible parts: Leaves, flowers, and sometimes seeds.

Harvest: Pinch off fresh leaves and flowers throughout the growing season or prune off whole branches to dry.

Best way to propagate: Softwood cuttings from basal shoots/rhizomes or multiply by root division, spreads in the garden via basal shoots/rhizomes and can aggressively self-seed in some gardens.

Best way to store: Air dry leaves and flowers by hanging out of direct sunlight.

Flavour description: Licorice with mint and citrus.

Best used: Teas, herbal jellies, salads, lamb, chicken, salmon. Seeds in cakes and muffins.

Good varieties: Golden Jubilee, Alabaster, Heather Queen and Just Peachy are all good choices.


Beebalm (Monarda spp.)


Beebalm is also known as Bergamot (although it is not the same as the citrus fruit bergamot) and as Oswego tea. This is a plant you should be growing in your garden whether you use it as an herb or not. It is an easy to grow and very popular perennial that you can find in every garden centre. There are multiple varieties to choose from ranging from short to very tall and in many colours. One of the best reasons for growing these plants is that they are pollinator magnets. They are called bee balm for a reason! Hummingbirds love the blooms as well. And don't forget, they are amazing in tea! Give the leaves or flowers a rub with your fingers and take a deep sniff. It is easy to recognize the aroma of Earl Grey tea. Although it is the foliage of the citrus bergamot that is used in the popular tea, Beebalm is an easy and common substitute. And they are absolutely gorgeous to boot!


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3/4, check your tags as some varieties are hardy than others.

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soils. Wild bergamot (M. fistulosa) is more drought tolerant.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 18 - 48" tall and up to 36" wide, varies by variety.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers.

Harvest: Pinch off fresh leaves and flowers throughout the growing season. Ensure you do not select leaves with mildew.

Best way to propagate: From seed, soft wood cuttings, or by division (easiest if you already have some in your garden).

Best way to store: Use fresh or air dry and store in an air-tight container away from light and heat.

Flavour description: Strong citrus with oregano.

Best used: Tea, florets in a salad, in desserts (great as a flavouring in custards, jams, and jellies), flavouring roasted meats.

Good varieties: There are lots of great varieties out there. Rub and smell first before buying to ensure you enjoy the smell (some are more lemony and some are more oregano-like). Also look for varieties that are disease resistant, especially to powdery mildew to which Beebalm can be prone. Many of the newer varieties will state this on the plant tag.


Catnip and Catmint (Nepeta spp.)


Okay, let's get this out of the way right from the start. There is catnip (only goes by Nepeta cataria) and there is catmint (Nepeta grandiflora, N. mussinii, N. racemosa, N. subsessilis, N. yunnanensis and many hybrids). You will usually find catnip in the herb section of the greenhouse and the catmints in the perennial section. The thing to remember is that cats go crazy for catnip, but tend to stay away from catmint (N. mussinii and Nepeta x faassenii are exceptions). Catmint is also much prettier and more well-behaved in the garden, but it is less often used for tea. Like bee balm, you should rub and smell catmint before you buy it if you are thinking of using it for tea. If you have cats in the neighbourhood and you want to harvest your catnip one day, you will need to cage your plants to prevent crushing. All varieties are fantastic at attracting pollinators too.


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3

Sun requirement: Full sun. Leaves will be less fragrant in shade.

Soil requirement: Poor, drier soils with good drainage.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 3' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Leaves.

Harvest: Pinch off fresh leaves throughout the growing season.

Best way to propagate: Can be started from seed, but best and easiest to propagate by division. Note that catnip can be quite aggressive, so you may want to plant it in pots to contain its growth. Catnip may also self-seed.

Best way to store: Can be used fresh or air dry leaves by hanging branches out of direct sunlight until dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Mild mint with a hint of citrus.

Best used: Tea. Be careful using this one, as it has strong medicinal properties. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should check with their doctor before using. The tea may also cause drowsiness.

Good varieties: If you want tea the first choice is always catnip (N. cataria) with a second choice of catmint N. mussinii or N x faassenii. If you just can't deal with the cats, start sniffing any of the other catmints for your favourite.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)


Chives should be in everyone's garden. They are dead easy to grow and incredibly hardy. Plus, they go in just about everything. Well, maybe not desserts, but everything savory for sure! They are attractive plants with fluffy balls of pink or white flowers that attract pollinators and beneficial insects. And they even deter some of those less desirable insect pests. Chives are a standard in the food forest. Really, if you could only pick only one herb in this entire series of articles, it should be chives. We will include garlic chives in this discussion (also called Chinese chives, A. tuberosum). They have flattened leaves, white flowers and a flavour that is, unsurprisingly, more garlic than onion. They are also slightly less hardy at a zone 3 (but still really hardy). You should just grow both.


Photo by PIxaby

Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 2 (zone 3 for garlic chives).

Sun requirement: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil requirement: Average, well-drained soil.

Start seeds indoors: 10 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: around your LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 24" tall by 12" wide.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers.

Harvest: Cut off fresh leaves (right to the base) and flowers throughout the growing season. Entire plant can be cut down to 4" once or twice per season to promote new growth.

Best way to propagate: I guarantee you there is a gardener out there with a big patch that is willing to dig up a bit for you. There is no need to start it from seed (but you can if you really want to. Start just as you would onion seeds).

Best way to store: Fresh or frozen. To freeze, chop into 1/2" lengths and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze, then transfer into a zip-top bag. Can also be frozen in ice cube trays along with just a dab of water.

Flavour description: Mild onion.

Best used: Sauces, stews, vegetables, fish, poultry, potato dishes, egg dishes, cream cheese, and salad dressing. And pretty much everything else savory you can think of. A member of the blend Fines Herbes. Flowers can also be used to flavour beautifully coloured vinegars (refer to article Culinary Herbs - Growing, Harvesting and Preserving for details). Add chives toward the end of cooking to preserve flavour, or sprinkle fresh on finished dishes for both flavour and a pop of colour.

Good varieties: Sold as just garden chives or garlic chives.


English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)


There are three different types of lavender available here. French and Spanish types are not at all hardy and they are covered in the article on Tender Perennial Herbs. In contrast, English lavender is hardy here. It will survive our cold winters, although it often has a fair bit of winter dieback (mostly due to those dang chinooks). Mulch really, really well and prune off any dead parts once the plant begins to green up in the spring.


Plant type: Perennial, woody subshrub.

Hardiness zone: 4 - 9

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Requires well drained soil. Lavender will tolerate poor soils and drought.

Start seeds indoors: n/a

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 1 - 2' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Flowers.

Harvest: Prune branches as needed and to shape. Try not to prune down to hardwood, as this can stress the plant.

Best way to propagate: Difficult from seed and often not true to type. It is best to use tip or root cuttings.

Best way to store: Fresh or air dried.

Flavour description: Sweet, floral, pungent fragrance like a cross between mint and rosemary with subtle hints of lemon.

Best used: Tea, sweets (such as custards, shortbread, jams, and jellies), as a component of Ras el Hanout and Herbes de Provence. Flowers can also be crystallized for garnishes. Really watch how much you use as it can be quite overpowering and too much tends to taste soapy or like perfume.

Good varieties: Hidcote (fruitier flavour) and Munstead (slightly hardier and a dwarf variety) are both hardy and easily available.


Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides syn. Chenopodium ambrosioides)


This is an uncommon herb here in Canada, but in its homeland of Mexico and the Caribbean, it would be unheard of to cook beans without it. Epazote is thought to help combat the flatulence that comes with eating beans. This plant is also known as Wormseed, which is a horrible name for an edible, and quite pretty looking herb. Try not to hold that against it.


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 4 - 12

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Prefers sandy, well drained soils. Epazote can get a little aggressive, so growing in a container is a good option. Note, that it will not over winter in a container outdoors. You must dig it into the ground for it to survive our cold temperatures.

Start seeds indoors: 7 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 3' tall by 6" wide.

Edible parts: Leaves.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Flavour is best when picked before flowering. Young leaves are milder in flavour than older leaves. Deadhead religiously to prevent it from self seeding everywhere (unless you want to collect seeds).

Best way to propagate: Best from seed. Bottom heat will help speed up germination. Seeds need light to germinate, so only a light sprinkle of soil on top of the seeds when planting. You can also bring the entire plant indoors for the winter season, which is easiest to do if it is kept in a container. Soft root cuttings can also be used to propagate, but they really are easier from seed.

Best way to store: Fresh or air dried. Store dried leaves in an airtight container away from light and heat.

Flavour description: Rich, grounding grassy flavour. A cross between pepper and mint. Or a mix of oregano, fennel and tarragon. It's a hard one to describe.

Best used: Tea, in soups, and while cooking beans (add within the last 15 minute of cooking only). Not very tasty eaten fresh (the word turpentine is often used), epazote is best used cooked. This herb can be poisonous in very large quantities, especially the seeds (which you shouldn't be eating anyway), so don't overdo it. You only need around 1 Tbsp chopped epazote leaves per 2 1/2 cups of beans.

Good varieties: Usually sold as just Epazote. You may also be able to find seeds for Oaxaca Red Epazote, which is a more ornamental version with the same culinary uses.


Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)


We have covered most of the sages in the tender perennial herbs article (link here), but we need to specifically cover Garden Sage, as it is the one variety that is a zone 4 and will often overwinter in our climate. All other sages should be considered tender.


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 4

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Drought tolerant. Prefers well drained, poor soils so hold back on the fertilizer. All of the Salvia officinalis is partial to alkaline soil.

Start seeds indoors: 8 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 2' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Hang the entire plant to dry at the end of the season (take some cuttings first).

Best way to propagate: From seed or by tip cuttings potted up indoors. Most sages do not do well indoors long term, so it is best to start new cuttings each year. Mulch well if left in the garden over winter.

Best way to store: Fresh or air dried. Store dried leaves in an airtight container away from light and heat. Flavour will intensify with drying.

Flavour description: Savory with an overtone of camphor.

Best used: Tea, meat dishes, soups, stews, stuffing, sausages, poultry, beans, casseroles, eggplant, tomato sauces, in breads, in honey, in drinks, as a garnish (try it deep-fried too). Also good for flavouring vinegars. Sage can be quite strong so use a light hand with it.

Good varieties: Look for plain old Common or Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) if you want the hardy one. Any hybrids or named varieties will be less hardy. Once again, see the Tender Perennial Culinary Herbs article for all other sages.


Garlic (Allium sativum)


I debated whether or not to include garlic in this list. We do use it as a seasoning, but then do we also include onions on this list? Where is the herb/vegetable line? So what I'm going to do is direct you to an entire article just on garlic alone. Here's the link to Garlic - The Stinking Rose.


Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)


Although they are both called hyssop, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) are very different plants. Hyssop grows as a woody semi-evergreen perennial, similar to English lavender. It is often used as a short hedge in some places, but it typically has too much winter dieback to pull that off in our climate. The plant has marvelous blue spike flowers which are great at attracting pollinators and hummingbirds. It is also helpful around the veggie garden as a trap crop for cabbage moth and their caterpillars. I like to think of this one as a cross between lavender and perennial Salvia, in terms of growth, strength of fragrance, and how much you want to use in your cooking.


Plant type: Hardy perennial subshrub.

Hardiness zone: 3/4

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Well drained, slightly alkaline soils.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: Up to 2' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers.

Harvest: Leaves and flowers may be picked throughout the growing season. Prune as you would English lavender.

Best way to propagate: From seed, root divisions or soft cuttings.

Best way to store: Fresh or air dried. Store dried leaves in an airtight container away from light and heat.

Flavour description: Strong, bitter mint, almost camphor-like. This herb is very strong flavoured and can be overwhelming, so use sparingly.

Best used: On game meats, in salads, soups and stews. Used as a flavouring in liquors such as Chartreuse. This is another one to be careful using, as it has strong medicinal properties. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should check with their doctor before using. Is often used medicinally in tea, but check with a healthcare professional before you do so.

Good varieties: Sold just as Hyssop, but you may also come across a white flowered ('Alba') or pink flowered ('Rosea') variety as well which are not as pretty, in my opinion.


Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)


Ask anyone which herbs they should plant in a tea garden, and I will bet you that lemon balm will be one of the top three every time. It is one of my go-to tea herbs for everyday. It is a member of the mint family, and has the same aggressive growth, so you should contain it in some way. A pot or a deep edging around your bed will save you frustration later on. Mulch really well if you are going to keep in the garden over winter. It is right on the verge of hardy here. Bees absolutely love the tiny flowers on this plant; Melissa is Greek for honeybee after all!


Photo by Pixaby

Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 4/5

Sun requirement: Full sun to part shade.

Soil requirement: Well drained, fertile, moist soil. Does well in containers as it has the same spreading habit as regular mint.

Start seeds indoors: 7 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: Up to 2 1/2' tall and 2' wide.

Edible parts: Leaves and tender stems.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Prune often to keep it compact and to prevent it from going to seed. Try not to bruise the leaves, as it will affect the flavour and harvest in the morning for the highest concentration of essential oils.

Best way to propagate: Easy to grow from seed, but also super easy to grow from softwood cuttings. Similar to mint in terms of growth and propagation.

Best way to store: Flavour is best fresh, but dried can be used if you need, you will just need a lot more of it. Air dry leaves by hanging branches out of direct sunlight until dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Light lemon.

Best used: Tea, garnishes, fruit salads, soups, stuffing, and stews. Try it in a wine spritzer for a refreshing summer drink. Also used as a flavouring in liquors.

Good varieties: The standard Lemon Balm is the best in terms of flavour, but you can sometimes find a golden coloured and a variegated variety as well. Watch for some new flavour varieties in the,, next couple of years, such as Lime and Citronella too.


Lovage (Levisticum officinale)


As a good Canadian, I do appreciate the occasional tall, cold Caesar during the summer months (the drink, not the salad). If you are the same way, lovage is going to be your new best friend! The stems of these plants are tall, stiff and hollow, making them the perfect celery-flavoured straw for Caesars. And you're being very environmentally conscious by using compostable straws too! That alone is enough to warrant some room in my garden, but there is another great reason to grow it. It is the perfect addition to soups, stew and especially stocks/broths. I use the leaves of lovage instead of celery all the time, as I find it much easier to grow. Even the roots can be eaten (similar to celery root). Be prepared for the size of this plant: it can get up to 6' tall! Great as a statement plant in the perennial border. Like all the umbellifer plants, lovage is also great at attracting beneficial predatory insects.


This plant is just getting started. It will get way taller!

Plant type: Hardy short-lived perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3

Sun requirement: Sun to part shade.

Soil requirement: Deep, moist, well drained soil with lots of compost.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 4 - 6' tall and 3' wide.

Edible parts: Leaves, stems and seeds.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Prune stalks as needed. Deadhead to prolong leaf harvest. Seeds can be collected by removing the entire flower head once seeds appear and placing upside down in a paper bag until seeds dry and fall.

Best way to propagate: Divide every 3-5 to extend its life in the garden. It has a tap root, so dig as deep as you can when dividing. Fairly easy to grow from seed.

Best way to store: Leaves are best fresh, but can also be air dried or frozen whole (to use in stocks and broths where texture isn't an issue).

Flavour description: Leaves taste like celery with a slight curry undertone. Seeds have a slightly more fennel-like flavour.

Best used: Salads, soups, steamed vegetables, meat and stew. Use leaves anywhere you would use celery. Stems can be used as straws or chopped and candied in confections. Use seeds as you would celery seed: in breads, pastries, spice blends and liquors.

Good varieties: Sold only as Lovage.


Mint (Mentha spp.)


This is a big one. There are absolutely loads of mint varieties out there, and you should really try every type you can. They all have different uses in the kitchen, different growth patterns and you never know which one will become your new favourite! The mints can be generally divided into two categories: spearmints (Mentha spicata) and peppermints (Mentha x piperita) which are a cross between spearmint and water mint (Mentha aquatica), although there are a couple of exceptions (see varieties below). You may also come across Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum) a zone 4 perennial that can be used interchangeably with peppermint. Most mints tend to be quite aggressive in the garden, so they are best grown in containers or a bed with deep edging (it can spread by underground rhizomes or above ground by stolons). Whichever you choose, you need at least one (or two or three) mints in your life!


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3 - 5, depending on variety so check your tags.

Sun requirement: Sun to part shade. Mint likes slightly cooler temperatures, so if you have it in a hot spot, give it more shade.

Soil requirement: Moist, rich soil.

Start seeds indoors: 8 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 2' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Leaves and flowers.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Flowering can turn leaves bitter, so keep your plants well deadheaded.

Best way to propagate: Peppermints are hybrids and therefore not true to seed, so they are usually best propagated by cuttings (softwood or root) or division. If you do find seeds, ensure they are from a reputable source to ensure you are getting what is advertised. Growing from seed is quite easy, although helped along with the use of a heat mat for germination. Mints need a cold dormant period for best growth so if you want to bring an entire potted plant inside for the winter months, it is best to leave it out in cool temperatures for at least a month first.

Best way to store: Leaves have the best flavour fresh, but are acceptable dried as well. Air dry leaves by hanging branches out of direct sunlight until dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Peppermints have that classic toothpaste/after-dinner mint flavour and spearmints tend to be a bit fruitier. Labelled varieties usually have their flavour description in their name (see varieties below).

Best used: Spearmints in vegetables, fruit salads, roast lamb, stews, sauces, potatoes, peas, jelly, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Moroccan cuisines. Peppermints in tea, liquors, and sweets such as ice cream, gum, and candy.

Good varieties: Richters Herbs alone has over 42 different varieties of mint! There are also many new mints coming out all the time, so please experiment. I am looking forward to trying Sweet Pear Mint myself. Here are some of my favourites.

Spearmints: English mint (good all purpose), Moroccan mint (my pick for tea), Vietnamese mint

Peppermints: Peppermint (for tea), Chocolate mint, Swiss mint, Grapefruit mint

Other mints: Mojito mint (M. x villosa), Applemint (M. sauveolens), Ginger mint (M. arvensis 'Variagata' or M. x gentillis), Pineapple mint (M. sauveolens 'Variagata')


Rose (Rosa spp.)


If you have an established garden, chances are you have at least one rose bush somewhere. Did you know you can eat the flowers and fruit from that rose bush? You absolutely can! Many cultures around the world have used the petals in everything from syrups to sweet candies to teas. Hips are a fantastic source of vitamin C and were used by native peoples in pemmican and teas.


Plant type: Hardy perennial shrub.

Hardiness zone: 2 and up. Varies widely by variety so check your tags.

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Well-drained, rich soil. Slightly acidic is preferred.

Start seeds indoors: 12 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: Varies widely by type and variety. There is everything from 2' tall shrubs to 20' tall climbing vines.

Edible parts: Flowers and hips (the fruit).

Harvest: Harvest flowers throughout the growing season when they have just opened, preferably when they are cool and dry (sunny mornings are perfect). Hips can be harvested once fully ripened (a bright red/orange colour all over).

Best way to propagate: It is possible to grow non-hybrids from seed (such as the Rugosa roses), but they are difficult and it will take years before you have a harvestable sized plant. It is better to buy potted or bare root shrubs from the nursery.

Best way to store: Use both hips and flowers fresh or dried. Air dry out of direct sunlight and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Flower petals taste quite floral with the typical rose fragrance. Hips taste slightly sweet, tangy, and floral.

Best used: Hips in tea, preserves, sauces. Flowers in tea (great mixed with black tea too), salads, syrups, sweets (such as Turkish Delight and Gulab Jamuns), sometimes found in Ras el Hanout spice blend, and also candied.

Good varieties: There are literally thousands of rose varieties available, but not all of them produce good hips. Some have very small or seedy hips and some have extremely fragrant flowers (which may not be the best choice in the kitchen depending on its use). Do some research before you choose to ensure you have the right variety for your needs. The absolute best for hips are the Rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa).


Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)


Sorrel soup is the traditional use of this herb, but it can be so much more! It is most often used as a green but don't let that deter you from experimenting. The lemony pop of grassy flavour works well as an herb in soups, omelets, salads and refreshing drinks too.


photo by T&T Seeds

Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3/4

Sun requirement: Sun to part shade.

Soil requirement: Moist, well-drained, rich soil.

Start seeds indoors: 4 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks before LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: 1 week before LFD.

Mature size: 16" tall by 12" wide.

Edible parts: Leaves.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season until the plant goes to flower. Leaves become tart after that point. Cut back flower stalks to encourage more leaf growth. Pick outside leaves first to allow for new leaf growth from the center of the plant.

Best way to propagate: Easy to grow from seed. Although it is perennial, many people start new plants each year as the quality of younger plants tends to be better.

Best way to store: Frozen whole leaves in a zip top bag . You can also blanch, squeeze dry and freeze in blocks like you would for spinach.

Flavour description: Sharp, tangy, sour, lemony green.

Best used: Soups, salad greens, poached fish. Flavour is reduced by heat, so you will need to use significantly more in cooked dishes to get that flavour. Only cook in stainless steel or enamel pans, as the acid in sorrel turns other metals black.

Good varieties: Garden sorrel (R. acetosa) has larger leaves and lemony flavour. Look for new varieties coming out that do not go to seed. True French Sorrel (R. scutatus) has smaller leaves and a stronger flavour. You may see red veined sorrel varieties sold as ornamental perennials. These tend to be a bit more bitter and less tasty, but they are still edible.


Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)


Haven't heard of this herb? You aren't the only one. This was what was used as a sugar substitute before stevia arrived on the scene. It's not quite as sweet as stevia and it has the addition of a delightful anise flavour. The plant itself looks similar to a fern with ornamental crinkly leaves. One of the best reasons for growing this plant is its versatility. Almost every part of it can be used, from root to stem to leaves to seed. Add to that its beauty, ability to grow in shade, and its use as a companion plant (like all umbellifers, predatory insects love its flowers), and you have a home run of an herb.


Plant type: Hardy perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3 - 7

Sun requirement: Part to full shade.

Soil requirement: Prefers cool, moist soil with lots of humus or compost, but will tolerate less ideal soils.

Start seeds indoors: 8 weeks before LFD. Seeds must be cold stratified before planting (see below).

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: Best to start indoors as rodents really like to eat these seeds (use a wire mesh cover if you are going to try) and they also greatly benefit from warmth to germinate.

Mature size: 3' tall and wide.

Edible parts: Roots, stems, leaves, green seeds.

Harvest: Leaves and stems may be picked throughout the growing season. Pick and use seeds when green. They will not be good to eat if brown and fully mature. The entire plant must be dug up to harvest the roots.

Best way to propagate: Seeds do not remain viable for long and must be cold stratified to germinate. Place them in a zip top bag in the refrigerator mixed with moist sand or peat for at least 8 weeks before sowing. These are a great candidate for winter sowing.

Best way to store: All parts of this herb are best used fresh.

Flavour description: Warm, sweet anise flavour.

Best used: Roots can be boiled and eaten like a vegetable. Stems can be chopped and candied like angelica (see above). Leaves and green seeds are great in salads, sweet puddings, preserves, wine, soups, stew, salad dressings, omelets and with all types of fruit. Try adding them to cooked rhubarb, gooseberries or other tart fruit to boost the sweetness and add a unique flavour. Sweet cicely is an essential component of Chartreuse and Aquavit.

Good varieties: Sold as just Sweet Cicely.


Thyme (Thymus spp.)


Thyme is one herb that you can get really creative and funky with (see the photo at the beginning of the article). Like mint, there are a huge number of varieties with specialty flavours, but there are also lots of variety in leaf variegation, flower colour, and plant height to make things even more interesting. Different types planted together really highlight their variety and look stunning. Some varieties are only hardy to zone 5, so check your labels. Also, not all varieties are the best flavour-wise in the kitchen, so taste first before you buy if you can (none of them are inedible). All thymes are fantastic ground covers; they will spread to fill in any bare spots you may have. The shorter varieties are perfect for using between stepping stones, as they don't mind being walked on at all. Plus, thyme is supposed to help you see fairies, and who doesn't want to see those little ones prancing around in your garden?


Plant type: Hardy, creeping, woody, evergreen perennial.

Hardiness zone: Most are zone 3 or 4, but a few are zone 5.

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Needs well-drained soil. Thyme is drought tolerant once established.

Start seeds indoors: 11 weeks before LFD.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD.

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 2 to 8" tall with a creeping habit.

Edible parts: Leaves.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season.

Best way to propagate: Best propagated by softwood cuttings or just digging up a small patch and moving it to a new location. Thymes are fairly easy to grow from seed as well. You can find seed for species thymes, but hybrid varieties you will need to use cuttings or division (or purchase starter plants).

Best way to store: Can be used fresh, but it is just as good dried. Air dry leaves by hanging branches out of direct sunlight until completely dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Earthy, with a flavour like a cross between mint, citrus and pine. Many varieties have their flavour description in their name.

Best used: A standard in slow cooked dishes such as stews and soups with meat and poultry. Thyme goes great with tomatoes, eggplant and root vegetables. If you are cooking French cuisine, it is in pretty much everything. It is also a major component of many herb blends such as Bouquet Garni. Thyme can also be great in tea, especially the citrus varieties.

Good varieties: There are over 350 different types of thyme out there so please experiment! For flavour, you can't go wrong with the classic Garden or Common Thyme (T. vulgaris). It may also be labelled as English or Winter Thyme. If you can find Caraway Thyme (T. herba-barona) it is worth trying as well (although it is a bit less hardy). There are many citrus flavoured thymes now available that are all fantastic such as Lemon, Lime and Orange.

Doone Valley Thyme, a hybrid of Wooly Thyme (T. pseudolanuginosis), is my absolute favourite lemony type, by far. Mother Of Thyme or Wild Thyme (T. praecox) and its hybrids are the quintessential carpeting thymes due to their short stature. Although these two have great flavour, they are usually found in the perennial department due to their hardiness and landscape value.


Winter Savory (Satureja montana)


We covered summer savory in the article on annual herbs (link is here), which is usually preferred for flavour and ease of growth. However, winter savory is also worth growing, as it is more attractive and only needs to be planted the one time. It also gets bonus points for liking our alkaline soil. And it will do just fine in the kitchen. Your specific growing space will determine which one is right for you. And who says you can't grow both? Like summer savory, winter savory is a great companion plant for beans and onions. In addition, the flowers attract bees and butterflies while deterring cabbage moths.


Plant type: Hardy, woody perennial.

Hardiness zone: 3/4

Sun requirement: Full sun.

Soil requirement: Average to alkaline well-drained soil. Drought tolerant once established.

Start seeds indoors: 4 - 6 weeks before LFD. Sprinkle seeds on the soil surface, as they need light to germinate.

Transplant outdoors: 2 weeks after LFD (once nighttime temperatures warm).

Direct seed outdoors: n/a

Mature size: 6 - 12" tall and wide.

Edible parts: Leaves.

Harvest: Leaves may be picked throughout the growing season. Flavour will be best if picked before flowering.

Best way to propagate: Softwood cuttings are best if you need to increase your number of plants, but they are also known to self seed if they are happy. Easy to start from seed too.

Best way to store: Fresh or dried. Savory retains its flavour when dried, making this a great option for storage. Air dry leaves by hanging branches out of direct sunlight until completely dry. Remove leaves and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Flavour description: Full bodied pepper taste with a hint of thyme. Winter savory is less strong but more pungent than summer savory.

Best used: Beans, lentils, peas, egg dishes, mushrooms, potatoes, olives, fish and seafood, soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, sausages (especially salami), a component of Herb de Provence. Can be used to flavour butters and vinegars.

Good varieties: Winter Carpet Savory (S. montana illyrica) is the hardiest variety and has a milder flavour than the common type. There is also a new lemon winter savory out that I am looking to try. I will keep you updated.



Well, that's it for herbs everyone! I bet that there were way more than you thought you could grow here in our cold environment wasn't there? Obviously, you don't need to grow them all, but there are so many possibilities that you should at least include a few in your garden, no matter its size. You can grow them in their own special bed (try a herb spiral!), disperse them throughout the garden, or grow them in containers. Many of them are fantastic companion plants. Others are deserving of a spot in our mixed beds based on their beauty alone. And don't forget to experiment with them in the kitchen to. The possibilities are absolutely endless. Yes, you can create an unequalled tea collection, but you can also do so much more: everything from stews to sweets! What new herbs have you tried? And how have you used them in your kitchen?


Yummy gardening everyone!


Related Articles


Culinary Herbs - Growing, Harvesting and Preserving


Annual Culinary Herbs


Tender Perennial Culinary Herbs



Recipes That Feature These Herbs



Further Reading and Resources


  • Pursell, J.J. "The Herbal Apothecary" 2015 Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA

  • Keville, Kathi "Herbs An Illustrated Encyclopedia. A Complete Culinary, Cosmetic, Medicinal, and Ornamental Guide" 1994 Friedman Publishing Group, New York, New York, USA

  • Helmer, Jodi "Growing Your Own Tea Garden. The Guide to Growing and Harvesting Flavorful Teas in Your Backyard" 2019 Fox Chapel Publishers, Mount Joy, PA, USA

  • Reader's Digest "The Essential Book of Herbs. Gardening. Health. Cooking." 2021 Trusted Media Brands, New York, USA

  • Clarke, Graham & Toogood, Alan "The Complete Book of Plant Propagation" 1992, Ward Lock Limited, Wellington House, London, England

  • Richters (www.richters.com) for the absolute largerst selection of herb seeds, plugs and herb related products.


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