Herbs are among the oldest known cultivated edible plants. They cover a wide range of plant types, including: annuals, biennials, perennials and shrubs. Most herbs are grown for their aromatic leaves, which are used to flavour cooked meals, fresh dishes or as a colourful garnish. Other herbs bear strongly flavoured seeds that can be used to spice-up food and drinks.
Most garden centres sell a wide range of herbs that are readily available throughout much of the year. However, herbs are simple to grow yourself and can be easily propagated from seed, cuttings and some from division.
Growing herbs together in one spot, where they can be quickly harvested for use in the kitchen is usually the best approach. Apart from a few shade tolerant species like mint, most species love full sun and a light, well drained soil. The vast majority can also be container grown, where they will enjoy good drainage and can be placed near to the house for easy access.
The majority of herbs are best picked and eaten as fresh as possible. Although it is possible to preserve many by drying, particularly the seeds that keep well in sealed containers ready for use at any time. Alternatively, the leaves can finely chopped and preserved by freezing in ice cubes. Several perennial herbs can also be pot-grown indoors on a sunny window ledge, to extend the season.