By Anne Cain
May 23, 2012

Last weekend I finally got around to planting herbs in the pots on my deck.  As always, I get a little overwhelmed when I go to buy herbs as I have fantasies of an elaborate and gorgeous herb garden in my backyard. In reality, I have 6 pots.

It's just that the herbs at the garden shop are so tempting!  The aromas of the chocolate mint and the lemon balm, the cuteness of the delicate thyme leaves, the fresh sweetness of basil, and the beauty of those gray-green sage leaves.   They all seem to be calling to me, eager to go home with  me and live vibrantly in my pots.   How can I decide?

I go through this every year and end up coming to my senses and following my self-imposed guideline: Do I REALLY love it and will I use it in my recipes? If you have limited space and limited time, this is a good guideline to follow when you're planting herbs to use in the kitchen.  Think about the types of recipes you make most often and the herbs and seasonings that are usually called for.  Then go in that direction.  Of course, if you're wanting to branch out into some new cuisines, then you should plant at least a couple of herbs that you'll use as you explore new flavors and ingredients.  For example:

French recipes: thyme, tarragon, lavender
Italian recipes: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary
Mexican recipes: cilantro, basil, mint  (you might also want to plant some chile peppers!)
Middle Eastern recipes: mint, parsley, basil
Thai recipes: lemongrass, cilantro, basil

Since I love Mediterranean food, I've planted basil, oregano,  thyme and mint.  The rosemary I planted a couple of years ago has grown into a large bush and makes me very happy.

If you haven't grown herbs before, it's easy!  Most herbs require a good bit of sun and well-drained soil, but talk to the experts at the garden shop for specific information about the herbs you are planting.

What herbs are you this year?  Do you have any tips for beginners?   For more information on cooking with herbs:
11 Herbs Every Cook Should Use
7 Ways with Fresh Basil
Superfood: Mint