Culinary Herbs For Recipes

The multitude of culinary herbs that can be used in your recipes can be overwhelming. But here are four herbs to grow in your garden that will make your recipes taste fresher and more unique. These herbs are also know for quite a few medicinal purposes as well.


Garlic has been used for centuries for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Its medicinal purposes have been documented for centuries. Garlic has been a popular remedy for colds, coughs, and sore throats. Medical studies have shown that it lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol and hypertension, prevents some cancerous tumors, protects against bacterial and fungal infections, and is good for the blood and heart. It is useful as an expectorant in respiratory ailments, eliminates toxic metals, and supports the immune system.

Botanists believe that garlic probably originated in central Asia thousands of years ago. In North America, early colonists discovered that the First Nations people were using a native species of garlic to treat a variety of medical problems including snakebite and intestinal worms. 

Garlic For Recipes

In the kitchen, garlic can be used fresh, dried, or powdered. Fresh is best. To peel, place the garlic cloves on the work surface and whack with the flat edge of a knife. The garlic will crack out of the skin making it easier to peel. Crush with the flat edge of a knife and slice or chop as needed.

Garlic can be used to enhance the flavor of salad dressings, stews, casseroles, vegetables, soups, pasta, and vegetables.

Roasting or baking garlic mellows the taste. To eliminate garlic breath, chew the traditional and natural breath fresheners: parsley, fenugreek, or fennel.

Garlic Growing Tips

Harvesting fresh garlic plants from a garden

Garlic is a moderately hardy perennial. It grows from 2 to 3 feet tall and has flat, long, pointed green leaves extending from the base. Garlic has erect, hollow, green stalks that support pink or whitish flowering clusters or bulbils that appear in mid-summer.

Garlic does best in rich, well-drained, highly organic soils, prefers full sun, although it will grow in partial shade.

The leaves are organized into segments called cloves and may have anywhere from 4 and 15 cloves in a bulb. Avoid over-watering or the bulbs will rot.

To plant, separate cloves from the head and plant cloves with the pointed end up. Garlic can be planted in early spring or late fall. It is best to plant cloves or bulbils available from nurseries or garden catalogs. Grocery store bought garlic is often sprayed with a sprout and root inhibitor that confuses its natural growth cycle.

Fall plantings produce the best yields, as garlic needs a long growing period and a cool period below 50 degrees F for two months. If over-wintering plant cloves at least 3 inches deep and mulch with leaves or straw; otherwise plant bulbs 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Garlic is generally pest and disease free.

Harvest garlic when the leaves die back and begin to turn brown and collapse. Pull up the mature plants and dry in the sun for a week; then trim or braid the stalks and hang the garlic braids in the shade to dry further. To store, keep in a dry, dark place with good air circulation. Garlic will keep for up to 6 months if stored in temperatures no higher than 32 degrees F. Leaves, bulbs, and bulbils may all be eaten.

In the garden, garlic helps protect plants from fungus and pests. Garlic spray is used to discourage many insects and combats various blights found on vegetables and flowers. To make garlic spray, mince garlic and add water. Some people add a few drops of vegetable oil to the spray to make it cling to flowers and foliage. Garlic spray is a non-toxic alternative to using harmful chemicals in the garden.


Fresh marjoram herb in a bunch

Marjoram is the dried leaves from an herbal plant called the Origanium hortensis. The name marjoram is a Greek word that means “Joy of the Mountain”. The taste of marjoram is a bit sweeter than that of oregano. Many people believe that marjoram is, in part, a species of oregano.

Marjoram For Recipes

Marjoram is a user-friendly herb that is used quite traditionally in Italian, French, North African, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine. Marjoram compliments tomato sauces, salad dressings, breads, stuffings, and salads.

Marjoram is a relative to the mint family. You get the most flavors from marjoram if you use the fresh leaves rather than dried marjoram. It should be added into the dish as late as possible. Although marjoram is sweet and mild, it is also at the same time minty and has a hint of citrus. Marjoram blends very well with bay leaves, pepper, and juniper. While all vegetables can benefit from a hint of marjoram, it seems to work best on adding and enhancing the flavor of cabbage and legumes.

Marjoram For Medicinal Remedies

Aromatherapy: Marjoram is said to have a soothing and warming effect with a spicy and warm scent. Many times for aromatherapy oils it will be mixed with lavender, bergamot, and cedar wood.

The many uses of marjoram include a remedy for anxiety, arthritis, an antiseptic, an analgesic, bronchitis, bruises, colic, antispasmodic, constipation, diuretic, digestive problems, gas, insomnia, muscle aches and pain, PMS, Rheumatism, sinusitis, and sprains.

Some prefer it as a tea for easing such ailments as hay fever, indigestion, sinus congestion, asthma, stomach upset, headache, dizziness, coughs, colds, and disorders associated with the nervous system.

Marjoram can be made into an ointment or salve by crushing the dried herbs into a paste, adding just a tiny bit of water. This is a common way to treat sprains and rheumatism. Some will mix the marjoram into a paste and then into an oil to use for tooth pain or gum issues.

Marjoram should not be ingested internally in a medicinal or herbal form during pregnancy but can be eaten as an herb that is added to food.


Fresh bunches of oregano and jar of dried oregano

There are medicinal properties to oregano. Oregano makes a cup of savory tea that works well for gas, indigestion, bloating, coughs, urinary problems, bronchial problems, headaches, and swollen glands. Others swear that it can cure fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting.

In the capsule form the leaves are dried and then crushed and placed into the empty capsule shell. Further, even others use the dried leaves by crushing them and adding just enough water to create a paste like substance and use it for a cream to apply for arthritis, itchy skin, sore muscles, and swelling. For a relaxing and soothing bath use oregano leaves in the bath water. Make oregano oil to help rid toothaches.

Oregano For Recipes

Oregano is a perennial herb that is relative to the mint family. It is a very important culinary herb. For cooking purposes it is the leaves that are used and while some like nothing but a fresh oregano sprig, most will agree that the dried oregano is much more flavorful.

In Italian cooking you will notice a distinct relationship between the uses of oregano in combination with basil. The two always seem to create the perfect marriage especially in a tomato sauce. Oregano is also used on many vegetable dishes.

Oregano is commonly mistaken for marjoram as the plants look very similar. Together they are not only a great combination for flavoring food but also for preserving it too.


A bunch of tarragon herb just picked from the garden

Tarragon is a relative to the sunflower family and there are two different breeds of tarragon, Russian and French. However, when you go shopping and pick up some tarragon for your pantry or a favorite recipe it is almost guaranteed that you have just selected the dried leaves of the tarragon plant because that is what is most often used and sold for commercial purposes.

Tarragon has a somewhat bittersweet flavor to it, almost resembling anise with that hint of licorice flavor to it. Traditionally, tarragon is used to flavor such things as vinegar, relishes, pickles, mustard, and other various sauces.

Sometime as early as the 13th century tarragon became widely used for seasoning vegetables, inducing sleep, and as a breath freshener. Not until the 16th century did tarragon become more widely known. The tarragon that is sold in the U.S. today is not true tarragon but rather Russian tarragon which is not nearly the same. True tarragon will be called French tarragon and if you want to be sure that is what you are getting it is best to grow your own.

It is not recommended to use dried tarragon because all of the active oils have been dried out. It is best to use fresh tarragon, and used rather sparingly, because of its pungent taste. If you have grown the tarragon yourself and have harvested it then put it in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer. When it is time to use it there is no need to defrost it but remember that heat intensifies the flavor of tarragon.

Tarragon is used when preparing many sauces. In a pinch it has been said that a substitute could be chervil, a dash of fennel seed, or anise but the flavor will not be the same.

Many have claimed that tarragon works well to induce appetite. The root of tarragon was once used to cure toothaches. It is linked to medicinal uses for digestive aid and also for the prevention of heart disease. Further medicinal purposes include use for hyperactivity depression, and as an anti-bacterial aid for cuts and abrasions.

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