The Chefs' Essential Herb Garden

Earth Day got me thinking about herb gardens and that it's time to start planning!  Now I'm by no means a gardener.  But herbs are pretty easy to grow and I've had great success planting both in pots and in the ground.  Having a fresh arsenal to pick from is essential for home cooks and pros alike.    Here are my favorites along with suggested use:

Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme - Predominant in French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.  I can't live without them. 

Parsley - Probably the most universal herb; use in just about anything.

Chives - I love chives for their versatility both in dishes and as a garnish but also for the beautiful, edible flowers that they produce.  They're great in butter, goat cheese or cream cheese mixed with a little sea salt.  And of course they make a beautiful bouquet! 

Cilantro (Coriander) - Common in Asian and Latin cuisines.  People either love it or hate.  Depending on individual taste buds some people taste it for the beautiful herb that it is while others unfortunately taste it as soap!

Lavender - The smell of fresh lavender instantly transports me to the south of France.  Most people think of lavender as a flower for obvious reasons.  But it's actually part of the mint family and is completely edible.  Steep it in tea with lemon and mint, in cream (for ice cream or creme brulee) or infuse it into granulated sugar.  

Speaking of flowers, in addition to lavender and chives, basil, rosemary, and oregano also produce edible flowers.  Use them throughout the Summer as a unique addition to salads as well as an enhancement to any bouquet. 

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