Nothing says summer quite like an afternoon in the garden. Connecting with nature, whether it’s through touch, sight, or smell, can be a comforting and relaxing.
Growing your own herbs is a simple way to add flavor to your kitchen. Fresh herbs can be grown in a variety of locations, whether you live in modest cottage or a NYC apartment. Rather than trek out to the grocery store, you can simply reach your hands out the window and pluck off some of nature’s most delicious ingredients.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite summer herbs, and how you can implement them into your daily routine.
It’s no surprise this herb is a summertime staple—with a warm and spicy flavor, basil is an ideal pairing for sweet or mild recipes. Italians celebrated the herb alongside fresh mozzarella and tomatoes to create a refreshing Caprese salad or summery pizza toppings. Basil is also the basis for your homemade pesto. Add to a food processor with pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil to create a zesty spread, and set it out alongside some fresh bread when entertaining guests.
As for sweet things, basil and strawberries are a match made in heaven. Combine the two to make flavored water perfect for these hot summer days. If you’re really feeling adventurous, basil and strawberry ice cream is a wonderful summertime dessert, especially following those backyard BBQ dinners.
Bay is a staple in Mediterranean and French kitchens and can add a luxurious depth to summer soups, stews, or crab and shrimp boils. You can also soak them in water and thread them through pieces of meat for herbal and flavorful kebabs.
The leaves best thrive in warm climates, such as a sunny deck or windowsill. Come the cooler months, consider bringing your bay plant inside so that it can continue to thrive. The leaves are sharp, so be sure to remove the leaves before serving. And most recipes only call for one or two leaves so the plant lasts a long time.
Despite their versatility, Chives rarely get the attention they deserve. Their mild onion flavor makes them a great option for dozens of your summertime faves, including sandwich spreads, sauces, and cheese-based dishes. They also add that “something special” to a mashed potato recipe and can help heighten the flavor of creamy dips and egg salads. For all my vegans friends, try chives with a cashew-based cream cheese atop your favorite morning bagel.
You probably thought I misspelled cilantro, didn’t you? Well, I didn’t….there really is an herb called culantro – the heat loving cousin of cilantro and perfect for your garden!
This spicy, flavor-packed herb is indigenous to Tropical America and the South Indies, and ideal for the summer months when cilantro starts to bolt. Don’t let its mystery deter you, though. This herb is rich in vitamins A, B-complex, and C, as well as the calcium, carotene, iron, and riboflavin.
I recommend adding culantro to Mexican and Spanish dishes or chutneys, salsas, stews, and marinades. For a backyard taco party, sauté culantro with meat or veggies and add to corn tortillas. Note that culantro’s flavor is a bit stronger than cilantro, so you’ll often need to add less, and might want to taste as you go.
A unique herb that loves the summer sun, dill has a similar pungent and aromatic flavor to that of caraway. The bright flavor pairs well with fatty-dishes, such as a butter sauce for a fish or in a cream-based dip. It’s perfect or those fierce summer days when you need to add a refreshing element to a more indulgent dinner.
Dill can also be used for medicinal purposes, including a stomach-soothing tea to treat gas or digestive issues. Mash two teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes, and enjoy when you’re feeling tummy troubles.
Mint comes in many varietals, but when it comes to your kitchen staple, spearmint is a top-notch option. The diverse herb can be used in everything from tabbouleh to fruit salads. You can also boil spearmint with sugar to create a refreshing simple syrup, ideal for sweetening your iced teas or mojitos.
Spearmint is also a wonderful way to add flavor to water. If you have trouble getting your eight cups of H20, pluck off a few seeds of your spearmint plant and add to cold water. Keep in the fridge for a cool and refreshing pick-me-up when you’re feeling that summertime dehydration.
Meaning “mountain joy,” oregano is famous for its role in Italian and Mexican recipes, and awesome for cutting the fat in more cheesy dishes. If that weren’t enough, the herb is also bursting with antioxidants, vitamin K, manganese, iron, and calcium, so it doesn’t hurt to find ways to slide more oregano into your diet.
Add oregano to your favorite summertime pizza recipe, sautéed mushrooms and onions, a homemade dressing, atop garlic bread, or in an Italian frittata. You can also make a riff on typical basil-based pesto by adding fresh oregano to a food processor alongside pistachios, garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pulse and use atop angel hair pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash.
The resonant and aromatic flavor of rosemary makes it a delightful pairing to your summertime cuisine. Add flavor to pork, chicken, or veggies by laying rosemary branches across a charcoal grill, allowing the resinous scent to soak into your food. It also makes for flavorful marinades when cooking savory meat dishes, or atop roasted fingerling potatoes for a comforting side.
For a summer evening snack, make your own rosemary oil by gently simmering a sprig or two in a good olive oil for about five minutes. Drizzle the oil atop stovetop popcorn, add salt, and shake the pot to combine. Eat alone, or enjoy cozied up with a glass of white wine, good friends, and your fave flick. Movie night never tasted so good.
These anise-flavored leaves age quickly, making them an ideal choice to keep fresh and around the house, as you won’t have to worry about it going bad in your fridge. Its strong flavor makes it an ideal pairing for mellow and comforting dishes, such as potato salads or butter sauces. And tarragon and poultry are practically culinary soulmates. Try the herb in any chicken dish you can imagine—chicken pot pie, chicken salad, chicken soup, and even duck and turkey dishes. If meat isn’t your thing, tarragon also works beautifully with egg dishes and seafood, especially bivalves such as scallops and clams.
Thyme is comforting and subtle, with a lingering flavor that adds depth to your favorite summertime recipes. Its versatility makes it ideal for a variety of savory dishes, and it works well paired with other French and Mediterranean herbs.
Try with your favorite grilled, roasted, or sautéed veggies, such as summer squash, carrots, or zucchini. Ratatouille, an Italian staple comprised of onions, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, is a perfect platform for thyme. Cook a large batch and save to top pasta, omelets, or enjoy all it own.
I would love to hear how you use fresh herbs!