14 Best Annual Herbs

Discover scent-sational herbs that bring on the flavor in one growing season.

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Borage (Borago officinalis)

Craving a pop of color in your herb garden? Tuck in some borage. This blue-hued bloomer turns heads wherever its pretty flowers pop up. Both leaves and blossoms boast a cucumber flavor. Harvest young leaves, though; older ones are too fuzzy to chew. Plants self-sow freely, so if it’s happy in your garden, you’ll have it forever. Deer leave borage alone and pollinators can’t resist it.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

This pretty bloomer brings peppery flavor to the salad bowl or dinner plate. Harvest young nasturtium leaves or flowers (petals only) for eating. Some gardeners pickle flower buds and seeds to use as a substitute for capers. Grow nasturtium on lean soil. Too-rich soil or ample fertilizer causes plants to produce all leaves and no blooms. Keep an eye out for aphids—remove them with a spray of water.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Savor the flavor of pineapple in the green leaves and bright red blooms of pineapple sage. This is a tender perennial in zones 8 to 9, where it may die to the ground in cold snaps. In the rest of the country, treat this bloomer as an annual. Flowers appear in early to mid-fall, just in time to feed migrating hummingbirds, which flock to the red flowers. Young leaves have the strongest flavor. Use leaves and fresh or dried flowers.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Bright green, feathery leaves make dill an eye-catching plant in the garden. Stems grow 2 to 4 feet tall. Yellow flowers open wide and flat, giving rise to dill seeds as they fade. Gather fresh leaves for seasoning egg dishes, vegetables or pickles. Harvest seed heads when seeds start turning brown. In fall, scatter seeds throughout the garden for planting the following spring.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Nothing compares to basil leaves fresh from the garden. They make salads, sandwiches and Italian and Asian dishes sing. This aromatic herb is easy on the eyes, forming a bushy plant in shades of green, burgundy and purple. Plants yield plenty of leaves for fresh eating and for putting up for winter enjoyment in pesto. Basil is a true warm-weather herb, so don’t set plants out until all danger of frost has passed. Wait to sow seeds until night temperatures are reliably in the 50s.

Scented Geranium (Pelargonium)

The wonderful world of scented geraniums offers a host of flavors, including mint, chocolate, citrus, nutmeg and apple. Scented geranium leaves are packed with essential oils that give the plants their signature scents and tastes. Leaves are typically used to flavor cakes, jellies, beverages or sugar. These geraniums overwinter well indoors in a bright window. Grow them in pots in cold regions so they’re easy to shift indoors before frost. Flowers are delicately elegant, usually in shades of pink or white.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Include eye-catching calendula in your herb garden for the bright, edible blooms. Harvest petals only and add them to salads or sandwiches. They have a slightly bitter taste and make a nice pairing with a honey mustard dressing or fruit. In colder regions, calendula flowers appear from summer through fall; in warm-winter areas, plants bloom from winter through spring. Full sun and average soil coax a stellar performance from this annual. Plants self-sow.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

Plant stevia for a ready harvest of zero-calorie sweetness. Also known as sweetleaf, stevia is native to Brazil. Its roots may overwinter in zone 9, although plants usually decline after the second year of growth. Harvest fresh leaves for sweetening beverages, like iced tea or lemonade. Dry leaves for sweetening dishes. Use 1/8 teaspoon of dried stevia to replace 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

A pot of lemongrass offers a citrus pick-me-up with a simple brush of the leaves. The lemony leaves resemble a tuft of grass. Use leaves to brew a tasty tea that’s also revered for its stomach-settling properties. Both leaves and the base of each clump of leaves are also prime ingredients in Asian cuisine. Grow this easy herb in a pot to bring indoors for winter; make sure to water thoroughly, as plants in pots tend to dry out easily in summer. Keep a saucer under containers to keep soil moist.

Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides)

If you love Mexican cuisine, consider tucking some epazote into your garden. The leaves on this herb provide a quintessential flavor in bean dishes, along with some welcome anti-flatulent qualities. Epazote has a strong, unusual flavor: It’s similar to cilantro in that people either love it or hate it, so use it sparingly in dishes at first. Pregnant or nursing women shouldn’t consume epazote. Harvest leaves only; do not consume flowers or seeds.

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Matricaria chamomilla)

German chamomile flowers resemble miniature daisies. Leaves and flowers combine to make chamomile tea, famous for calming irritated nerves and tummies. The ferny leaves add a fine texture to the garden. Plants self-sow freely, and in some areas are considered to be a noxious weed. Cut plants back after flowering to limit self-sowing. Daisy-like blooms beckon pollinators by the dozen. Plants tend to be floppy. Give chamomile a leg up by interplanting it with other herbs like pineapple sage, stevia or basil.

Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum)

Italian flat-leaf parsley brings a bold, distinctly parsley flavor to the kitchen. Many cooks say that its flavor holds up better through the cooking process than curly parsley. Divided leaves are sometimes mistaken for cilantro. It grows best in cool seasons and pairs well with pansies and sweet alyssum—in planting beds or pots.

Curly Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Deep green, frost-tolerant leaves make curly parsley a go-to plant for fall and winter containers in mild regions. The flavorful green leaves pair well with pansies, viola and sweet alyssum. Parsley overwinters in zones 7 and warmer, but doesn’t produce beyond the first year. Leaves are packed with iron and good-for-you vitamins like A, C and E. Use parsley as a natural breath sweetener, or press it into service in the kitchen to flavor stocks, egg dishes, salads and potato creations.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

This herb has a split personality. The leaves are prized as cilantro, which lends a distinctive taste to fresh salsa and Caribbean dishes. The seeds are known as coriander, which boasts a spicy citrus flavor used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. Eat seeds whole or grind them. Let some seeds self-sow in the garden to ensure a future crop. Coriander is a cool-season herb, growing best in spring and fall or even winter in mild regions.

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