My youngest son is turning out to be quite the cook.  He has such an ability to take something simple or blah and turn it into something delicious using herbs and spices.  He has inspired me to learn more about them.  Here is a list of herbs common to most kitchens that we can grow in your own backyards or kitchen window sills.

Basil is an herb with a spicy flavor and is commonly used in Italian dishes (such as pesto) and Asian cuisine.  It is best used fresh and added to your recipes at the last minute as cooking quickly destroys any flavor.

Bay leaves are fragrant with a distinct flavor and are commonly used to flavor soups and stews. Fresh bay leaves are mild in comparison to dried leaves, which develop its flavor after several weeks.

Chives are small onions, however, it is the chive leaves that are cut up and used to give many soups, fish, and potato dishes a mild onion flavor.  Chives are easy to freeze-dry for future use without destroying its flavor.

Oregano is common to the Mediterranean region and sometimes called wild marjoram.  Here it is commonly used in Italian-American cuisine.  The oregano leaves work well with spicy foods and can flavor grilled or roasted vegetables, meats, and pizza.  Unlike basil, oregano’s flavor is best when using dried vs. fresh.

Parsley is a staple of many Middle Eastern and American cuisines.  Italian parsley can be chopped and added to many soups, sauces, and casseroles to add flavor, while curly leaf parsley has less flavor and is used as a garnish.  Fresh or frozen parsley is preferred as the dried version loses flavor during the drying process.

Sage is a small shrub that has a peppery flavor that is used to season meats and gravies.  Most commonly used during Thanksgiving to season our turkey and dressings.  Probably one of the least used herbs in our kitchens.

Tarragon is aromatic and has a strong flavor that can be overwhelming, so go easy on it.  Tarragon is big in French cooking and works well with eggs, fish, and meat dishes.  Either fresh or dried works fine in most dishes.

Thyme is a very popular herb in kitchens all over the world.  It has a strong flavor, but will not overpower or compete with other herbs and spices when flavoring meats, soups, and eggs. Fresh is preferred although thyme retains its flavor very well when dried.  Keep in mind that less is more when using dried vs. fresh. Thyme releases its flavor slowly, so add it early to your recipes.

Who wants bland when we have herbs that can add a little spice to our lives… and dishes.