“Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.” – Charlemagne

I like spice. I like heat. I like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. As my mother would say, “Ally, you over-seasoned.”

Sorry, Mom.

Herbs are a staple in Highfield Discovery Garden at Glenwood Gardens. We have an entire garden, Grandma’s Scent Garden, dedicated to them. Oregano, marjoram, several types of mints, rosemary, lavender – all hang out underfoot. So many people run right past them! I would encourage you, if you find yourself by the whimsical little tea house, to stop and bend down and smell the leaves.

Now it’s fun to smell them here at Glenwood Gardens, but it’s even better to grow them at home! Plus you get to eat them, too! Now what will you choose to plant? Might I recommend a few?


Three different basil varieties are in a planter.
Basil three ways.

Basil is awesome.

Now, you’re probably familiar with sweet basils, but let’s branch out a little. Try cinnamon basil for a hint of Mexican flare. Or lemon basil for those times you just need a little extra oomph in a dish. Or spicy licorice-y Thai basil for that wow factor. Trust me. Fresh basil will taste three times as good as the dried, store-bought kind.

Speaking of three times as much, you will need three times as much fresh herbs if your recipe calls for dried. Just a little friendly reminder. Basil also has several health benefits as well. They can help in blood sugar regulation and can help lower cholesterol, leading to improved heart health.


A wasp pollinates an oregano plant.
Oregano: Also fun for pollinators!

Oregano is a close relative of basil. Both are in the mint family, in fact. The most common types of oregano found in stores are Greek oreganos. But let’s look further afield. Why not Syrian oregano? Or travel down to Mexico for theirs? Mamma Mia, why not Italian? Or Cuban? All have their own unique flavors, shapes and sizes. So why not go globe-trotting at your next dinner party? Oregano is also antiviral and antibacterial, so consider adding a few leaves to your next salad or on your pizza.

Fennel & Dill

A dill plant.
Dill: A must-have for the home pickler.

Let me introduce you to fennel and dill. I use a lot of dill. Mostly because I make a lot of pickles. Like a lot. (Dad eats them, Mom). I’ve pickled okra, green tomatoes, peppers, beets and of course, cucumbers. If you have ever eaten a pickle on a sandwich, nine times out of 10 it was dill pickle.

Dill may have anti-cancer properties and can promote bone health. But fennel doesn’t get as much love. That’s because it tastes dead-on like black licorice. Which I also like! (Dad doesn’t.) Fennel is used a lot in making traditional candies and other sweet applications. It is also one of the few plants that contain selenium, which can prevent inflammation and can decrease tumor growth rates. So give this living licorice whip a try the next time your sweet tooth calls.


A rosemary plant.
Rosemary: Wild and wooly.

The last herb I wish to highlight is rosemary. Now rosemary is hard to grow from seed, so I would recommend getting yours from a greenhouse. But rosemary is relatively hardy and it’s a perennial, so you should only have to buy once to continue to reap the rewards.

I love rosemary on roast chicken. It’s one of the few times my mother agrees with my seasonings. Rosemary is also rich in antioxidants and helps improve mood and cognitive function to boot!

I’m under the firm belief that no garden is complete without a few herbs dotted here and there, even if it is to just rub the leaves every now and again. Basils, oregano, fennel and dill for my various pickles, and rosemary makes chicken taste like chicken. I love herbs, and yes I, over-season. But Mom …

You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it.

Allyson Ernst
Nature Interpreter, Glenwood Gardens