Categories of Herbs

There are three major categories of herb plants.  They are: annuals which are planted at the beginning of each growing season, perennials which are planted once and return each spring after the winter season and finally biennials which are a plant that usually requires two seasons to complete its lifecycle.

ANNUALS: The first categories are annuals like cilantro, basil and summer savory and they won’t survive a frost.  Most annuals are planted from seed indoors, early in spring, and then transplanted outdoors when the risk of frost has past.

PERENNIALS: The second category are perennials such as sage, winter savory, oregano, chives and mint can survive some colder temperatures and will return each spring.  As the years progress your plant will develop larger root systems and become more winter hardy.

BIENNIALS: The third category is biennial, herbs like parsley, angelica and caraway.  You should plant these herbs in late spring in your garden where you want them to propagate.  They will form leaves the first year and then the second year you will have flowers and seeds and will die at the end of the growing season.  I plant my biennials in staggered plantings so that each year I have mature plants to clip from.

CULINARY HERBS: Within the three categories of herbs you have groups of herbs with different uses.  The first example is probably the most widely used and that would be a culinary herb.  Because of their strong flavor you don’t need large quantities of them to create great tasting food. The major herbs in this category are chives, dill, thyme, basil, sage, savory and marjoram.

There are many sub-categories of herbs within the culinary classification.  Some of them are: Italian herbs including Oregano, mint basil, garlic chives, Italian parsley and thyme. Greek herbs including arugula, bay leaf, and purslane.  Chinese herbs like garlic chives, ginseng, angelica and red dates.  Classic French herbs including Chervil, sorrel, savory, Marseille basil, and sage. Mexican herbs such as Cilantro, epazote, and globe basil just to name a few.

AROMATIC HERBS: Another example is aromatic herbs, which are used in perfumes, candles, and toiletries to name a few.  Aromatic herbs include lavender, lemon verbena, mint and rosemary. Some aromatic herbs can be used to scent linens or clothing by creating a mixture referred to as potpourri.  There are many decorative containers that will hold the potpourri mixture.

MEDICINAL HERBS: These herbs have been used for over 5,000 years in China and the Far East.  Early Egyptians believed that some herbs would ward off evil spirits.  It was discovered that some herbs had the power to cure quite a large number of ills.  Garlic has been linked with lowering cholesterol.  It is important to research the herbs and make sure it will not interact with any medications you might be using. Growing medicinal herbs is no more difficult that culinary herbs.

Many herbs are used across many cultures.  Basil is an herb that is almost universally among cooks around the world.  Usually you will find that an herb like basil or thyme has numerous varieties found in different locations around the globe.  The variety of herbs used in ethnic dishes is usually determined by the variety that is grown in that region.

IN CONCLUSION: You can see that herbs are a very versatile plant.  They have many uses.  They can be used for cooking, tea, pest control, perfume and well as medicinal uses.  By experimenting with various types of herbs you will become familiar with those herbs and the impact they have on the end use.

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