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Herbs and Spices

Appendix 1 - Some Common Culinary Herbs 

Name  Propagation Culture Use Growth Habit Harvest
Anise
Pimpinella anisum
Seed; use fresh seed. 
Likes sun, space 15-20 cm apart. 
Green leaves and seeds in salads, meats, bakery goods: tastes somewhat like licorice. 
Annual, slow growing, flowers in flat clusters; finely-cut lobed leaves. 
Use leaves fresh; harvest seeds when ripe, remove from stems and store. 
Borage
Borago officinalis
Seed; sow direct in spring. 
Likes dry, sunny site; will self-sow. 
Leaves have mild cucumber flavour; used in salads, pickles, in eggs, and with fresh flower sprays in fruit drinks. Flowers also are edible. 
Annual, bushy plant, growing to one metre in height; blue flowers are ornamental. 
Pick blossoms as they open; leaves are used fresh.  Seeds are a source of gamma linolenic acid. 
Caraway
Carum carvi
Seed; sow in spring or fall. 
Full sun; light soil; seeds produced second year.  Prone to blossom blight. 
Seeds used to flavour bread, pastry, meat, soups, sauces, confections, cheese. 
Biennial, but annual strains exist.  Feathery foliage; creamy flowers resemble carrot. 
Dry seed heads; harvest seeds in autumn (second year if biennial). 
Catnip
Nepeta cataria
Seed; sow shallowly; root division, cuttings. 
Easy, not fussy as to soil, best in full sun.  More aromatic in sandy soil. 
Not really culinary, used in toys for cats or medicinally as tea.  Lemon catnip is of more culinary value. 
Perennial, height 30-160 cm.  Erect, large-toothed leaves and small whitish or pinkish flower spikes, attracts bees. 
Fresh or dried leaves; or flowering tops, from midsummer onwards. 
Chamomile, German
Matricaria recutita
See Appendix  2
       
Chervil
Anthriscus cerefolium
Seed; sow in fall and spring for succession of greens. 
Partial shade; rich organic soil, moist. 
Leaves usually used fresh in salads, soups, omelets or as garnish. 
Annual.  Leaves are parsley-like, ferny.  Goes to seed quickly. 
Leaves are harvested and best used fresh; can be frozen for later use. 
Chives
Allium schoenoprasum
Seed or division of clumps. 
Rich, moist soil, full sun, culture similar to onions. 
Leaves mainly used fresh or freeze-dried, in salads and seasonings. 
Perennial, from bulbs.  Long narrow leaves, edible flowers. 
Leaves and/or flowers used fresh or dried. 
Cilantro/Coriander
Coriandrum sativum
Seed; sometimes transplanted. 
Full sun, light soil, needs lots of space. 
Leaves in salads, meat dishes; seeds for spices in baking, dressings. 
Annual; upright, pinkish-white flowers, aromatic foliage. 
Cilantro leaves are picked fresh before flowering; coriander seed harvested in fall before shattering. 
Cress
Lepidium sativum
Seed; sow shallowly and repeatedly. 
Easy, likes moist, rich soil and cool weather. 
Leaves used fresh in salads, soups, sandwiches, eggs or as sprouts or garnish. 
Annual, fast growing to 30 cm, with dissected or curly foliage; flowers are small, white. 
Leaves or entire top harvested before bloom.  Becomes very peppery in hot weather. 
Dill
Anethum graveolens
Seed; repeat sowings for summer-long supply.  Select leaf varieties if seed production is not desired. 
Sow early; needs rich soil and plenty of space, full sun. 
Leaves used for salads; fresh leaves and seed heads for pickles; after drying use to season meats, fish, vegetables, pizza. 
Annual, to one m in height; feathery foliage; rampant grower.  
Leaves best just as flowers open; harvest seeds as soon as ripe, cut off whole plant and hang to dry. 
Fennel
Foeniculum vulgare
Seed; directly in soil. 
Sow early; likes hot, sandy, rich soil, needs lots of space. 
All parts of leaves, stems and seeds aromatic; used for fish seasonings and sauces. 
Annual, resembles dill. 
Flower stalks harvested just before bloom; leaves best used fresh; seeds dried as for dill. 
Fenugreek
Trigonella foenum-graecum
Seed. 
Requires well-drained, medium textured loam of moderate fertility, full sun and warm weather. 
Seeds used as a spice, such as in curries, pickles, stews and soups or as artificial maple flavoring. 
Annual with pea-like foliage, 30-60 cm; flowers pale yellow or white, pods long and narrow with 10-20 oblong seeds. 
Seed harvested in fall when mature. 
Garlic
Allium sativum
Sets; planted as onions. 
Well-drained soil, full sun, keep moist.  Plant in fall and mulch, or mid April. 
Chopped cloves for seasoning meats, vegetables, soups, salads; garlic salt from pulverized cloves. 
Perennial but harvested annually; hardneck types produce flower heads; flat, onion-like leaves; bulbs consist of cloves. 
Dig bulbs in late summer, dry well.
Giant Hyssop
Agastache foeniculum
Seed, best started indoors; also divisions and cuttings. 
Adaptable to many soils but dislikes wet locations; full sun. 
Leaves used in teas, to flavour peas, lamb, fruit salads; flowers also used. 
Perennial or annual to 1.5 m; stiffly erect with large toothed leaves; blue flower spikes attract bees. 
Harvest anytime during growing season.  Leaves and flowers may be used fresh or dried. 
Good King Henry
Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Seed or transplants. 
Easy, will grow almost anywhere but does best on rich, moist soil. 
Young shoots eaten like asparagus and leaves used as spinach. 
Perennial to about 75 cm; large arrow-shaped leaves; flowers small, greenish. 
Young shoots may be blanched before cutting.  They may need peeling.  Fresh young leaves picked just before use. 
Horseradish
Armoracia rusticana
Root division in fall or root cuttings in spring. 
Deep sandy loam, moist soil is best but will grow in most soils.  Full sun or light shade. 
Young roots ground and used in sauces or relishes.  Rarely, blanched leaves are used in salads. 
Long-lived perennial best grown as annual or biennial; erect plant with long-stalked, oblong leaves and a long taproot. 
Dig roots in late fall and store at 0o C.  Cleaning and grating of roots should be done outdoors; once grated, vinegar and/or cream should be added. 
Lavender
Lavandula angustifolia
Seed or cuttings. 
Sun and poor soil for most fragrance; avoid wet sites; may need winter protection. 
Rarely culinary; mostly for ornament or sachets; flowers used fresh or dried. 
Perennial; somewhat woody, gray-green leaves and blue or purple flower spikes. 
Cut and dry whole flower spikes when flowers begin to open; do not use excessive or prolonged heat when drying. 
Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis
Seed (very slow); root divisions or cuttings. 
Moist, well-drained soil, but tolerates light, dry soil.  Full sun or partial shade. 
Leaves used in salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, meats, egg dishes, vegetable dishes, vinegars, desserts and beverages; also medicinal uses. 
Somewhat tender perennial, often winterkilling in Saskatchewan.  Plants low, bushy, with oval, toothed leaves.  Small, tubular white flowers on overwintered plants. 
Harvest early in season or cut back plants to promote fresh growth which has best flavour.  Cut entire tops and dry by hanging in shade. 
Lemon Verbena
Lippia citriodora
Cuttings. 
Tender shrub, full sun outdoors, winter indoors. 
Leaves for fragrance and to give lemony taste to beverages. 
Narrow, shiny leaves, lemon scented; not hardy on the prairies. 
Strip leaves individually from plant; dry on screens. 
Lovage
Levisticum officinale
Seed (slow) or transplants; root division.  Fresh seed is important. 
Deep, fertile, moist, well-drained soil.  Full sun or light shade. Very hardy. 
Leaves used as celery substitute in soups, salads, casseroles, stir-fries.  Seeds sometimes used. 
Very large perennial to two m or more, resembling celery.  Small yellow-green flowers in heads like dill. 
Leaves harvested at any time, used fresh or dried.  Seed stalks can be cut when turning brown and dried. 
Mint
Mentha spicata
Mentha x piperita
Mentha x gracilis

Stolons; seed strains are of inferior quality. 
Full sun or semi-shade, rich moist soil.  Variable hardiness. 
Teas, mint sauce, candy.
Perennial, but peppermint requires winter protection; purple flowers, spreads rapidly by stolons; menthol odour. 
Pick leaves individually; use fresh or dried; pick just as flowering begins. 
Oregano
Origanum vulgare
Seed or division. 
Grows well in poor soil, full sun. 
Fresh or dried leaves as meat or vegetable seasoning; used in pizza. 
Perennial, although superior types such as greek oregano rarely winter on the prairies.  Soft, rounded leaves, in clumps up to 2 feet high. 
Cut stalks when plant starts to flower; hang to dry 2 weeks; remove leaves, crumble and store. 
Parsley
Petroselinum crispum
Seed; sow early inside. 
Medium rich soil; sun or part shade. 
Seasoning for soups, meats, salads; garnishes. 
Biennial but grown as an annual on the prairies.  Plain leaf Italian parsley is taller and considered more flavourful; curly leaf parsley is short and compact. 
Harvest anytime when plants are of sufficient size; use fresh or freeze; drying is the least preferred method of preservation. 
Rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis
Slow from seed; stem cuttings. 
Grow in greenhouse or outdoors in summer only; full sun; good drainage required. 
Seasoning for foods, especially poultry. 
Tender shrub grown in pots or greenhouse beds; upright to trailing, evergreen with narrow leaves and blue or pink flowers in season. 
Cut branches when of sufficient size; dry slowly; avoid excessive heat; freezing not recommended.
Sage
Salvia officinalis
Seed, stem cuttings or crown divisions. 
Full sun, well-drained soil. 
Seasoning for meat or in poultry stuffing. 
Grey, shrubby perennial; semi-hardy on the prairies; woody, sprawling habit, blue flowers, leaves woolly. 
Cut leaves or leafy tops when flowers begin; dry.  Avoid late fall harvest to lessen chance of winter injury. 
Summer Savory
Satureja hortensis
Seed. 
Full sun, medium rich soil. 
Seasoning for soups, sauces, egg or bean dishes. 
Annual, with upright but sprawling habit, small mauve flowers and pungent leaves. 
Cut stalks when starting to flower or cut tops when in bud; hang to dry.  Freezing not recommended.
Sweet Basil
Ocimum basilicum
Seed.  Genovese is considered one of the best. 
Grow in greenhouse year round or transplant outdoors in June; resents cold weather, needs sun. 
Seasoning for soups, salads, vegetables and meats. 
Annual, bushy plants with green or purple leaves and white or purple flowers late in season.  Many varieties exist, differing in flavour, size, colour. 
Cut stalks or individual leaves as plants become large enough; best before flowering.  Dry for two weeks. 
Sweet Marjoram
Origanum majorana
Seed, or cuttings. 
Start indoors and transplant out in spring. Full sun. 
Leaves used for seasoning meat dishes. 
Tender perennial, grown as an annual, low bushy habit to 30 cm; grayish-green leaves and tiny white flowers. 
Cut stalks when starting to flower; hang in dark area to dry. 
Tarragon (French)
Artemisia dracunculus sativus
Division of roots.  French tarragon cannot be grown from seed. 
Plant outdoors in well drained soil in full sun; requires a winter period to maintain vigour. 
Leaves used in sauces, sea foods to impart a slight licorice flavour. 
Perennial, to one m, upright but may be sprawling. 
Young leaves and stem tips are harvested and used fresh (preferably) or dried. 
Thyme
Thymus vulgaris
Seed or cuttings, or by division. 
Slow growing, start indoors early and transplant out in spring; light soil and full sun best. Winter mulch. 
Leaves and stem tips used as seasoning in soups, sauces, vegetable and meat dishes. 
Semi-tender perennial with shrubby habit, growing to 20 cm. 
Harvest tops anytime during summer; hang to dry. 

Appendix 2 - Some Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses 

Name  Propagation Culture Use Growth Habit Harvest
Burdock – Arctium lappa
Seed, sow 1.3 cm deep, thin to 15 cm. 
Full sun, moist, average to high organic soil; heavy soils should be avoided. 
Mild laxative, diuretic, antirheumatic, antibiotic, promotes sweating, skin problems, arthritis. 
Naturally a perennial, but grown as an annual crop; taprooted, very large plant with hairy leaves. 
Harvest roots at end of first growing season. Difficult to dig.  Leaves sometimes dried.  Seeds can be harvested in second year. 
Chamomile, German – Matricaria recutita
Seed, direct sow or transplant, irrigate to germinate.
Rich soil not required, should be well-drained; full sun; some irrigation desirable. 
Teas used for appetite, indigestion, insomnia; ointments for bites, wounds, eczema, mouthwash. 
Annual plant, 30 – 60 cm tall; branches readily; finely divided leaves and white daisy-like flowers. 
Flower heads are harvested as they open.  Hand harvesting may not be economical; mechanical harvesters are still being adapted. 
Echinacea/ Purple Coneflower – Echinacea angustifolia
Seed (should be certified as to identity and purity), direct sow after stratification or transplant. 
Light, well-drained soil important; full sun.  Very poor weed competitor in first year.  Minimal irrigation. 
Immune stimulant; infections, inflammation, colds, flu, kidney and urinary tract infections, sore throat.
Perennial, 30-45 cm tall, upright plants with narrow, hairy leaves; pale lavender flowers with orange-brown centres. 
Roots dug in September of third year.  Seed can be harvested in second and third years.  Prices are dropping.
Feverfew – Tanacetum parthenium
Seed, direct sow shallowly or transplant. 
Tolerates most soils; full sun preferred; drip irrigation may increase yields; overhead irrigation may reduce medicinal potency. 
Migraine headaches, arthritis, menstrual pain. 
 
Perennial, but may not overwinter in Saskatchewan; grow as annual. Bushy, chrysanthemum-like growth, 30-45 cm tall, white, daisy-like flowers. 
Traditionally only leaves harvested, but some companies desire flowering tops.  Short shelf-life; must be isolated from other herbs. 
Ginseng –
Panax quinquefolius

Seed, sown in fall or stratified and sown in spring. 
Needs shaded conditions from artificial shadecloth or grown in wooded areas; raised beds desirable, highly organic soil; good moisture and high humidity; may need fungicides for disease control; summer and winter mulching essential. 
Tonic, stimulant, regulates blood sugar and cholesterol, simulates immune system, used for diarrhea, asthma, coughs. 
Slow growing perennial, 30 - 60 cm tall, with large broad leaflets.  Small greenish-white flowers form red berries in fall. White roots are taprooted and take several years to develop size.
Usually harvested in the fall of the fourth or fifth year; larger roots giving better prices. Proper drying necessary to retain quality. Seed may also be marketed.   Prices have dropped considerably. Not currently recommended here. 
 
Goldenseal – Hydrastis canadensis
Seed, but must be kept moist from harvest until planted; young divisions or root buds often used. 

Requirements similar to ginseng; may tolerate slightly more sun; less disease-prone but requires good drainage and winter protection.

Questionable adaptability here. 
Tonic, digestive stimulant, for skin inflammation, eczema, mucous conditions, yeast infections, menstrual pain, mouth and gum problems. 
 
Slow growing perennial, to 45 cm; light green, palmate and toothed leaves, insignificant flowers followed by red berries; rhizomes are yellow. 
Rhizomes are harvested in fall or early spring; usually in year four if from root divisions, but one or two years later from seed planted crops. 
Milk Thistle – Silybum marianum
Seed, sown in fall or spring. 
Will grow on any well-drained soil; full sun; long season required to ripen seeds. Improved selections available from SHSA. 
Liver and gallbladder diseases, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, poisoning by alcohol, drugs, chemicals and Amanita mushrooms. 
 
Grown as an annual; large plants 1.2-1.8 m tall, upright, with large stiff, very spiny leaves which are dark green marked with white.  Thistle like purple flowers produce black seeds attached to white hairs. 

Seeds are harvested, but timing is difficult as not all mature at once. Flower heads are cut and allowed to dry, then cleaned to remove seeds. Pre-desiccation of plants is desired to reduce biomass. 

Milk Vetch, Chinese – Astragalus membranaceus
Seed sown in spring or fall; often transplanted. 
Well-drained soil essential to prevent root rot.  Prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun.  High fertility not required. 
Used in traditional Chinese medicine as an energy tonic, to increase immunity, to treat incontinence. 
Perennial legume with grooved stems and pinnate leaves, growing to 40 cm and similar width. Yellow, pea-like flowers and rhizomatous roots. 
Rhizomatous roots are harvested in fall of third year or later.  Roots are cut up to facilitate drying. 
Nettle, Stinging – Urtica dioica
Seed or root divisions. 
Moist, fertile soil, high in organic matter is best.  Sun or light shade.  Irrigation may be desirable. 
Internal use to treat anemia, hemorrhage, arthritis, skin problems; externally for burns, bites, arthritis, gout, sciatica. More recent use of roots for prostate problems. 
Tall bushy perennial plant up to two m.  Dark green, toothed leaves with stinging hairs (except when very young); greenish tassel-like flowers in summer; creeping roots. 
Cut entire plant to near ground before flowering starts.  More than one harvest per year possible on established plantings.  Foliage loses stinging properties once dried. Roots may also be harvested. 
St. John’s Wort – Hypericum perfoliatum
Seed direct or transplant from seed plugs. 
Adapted to dry, porous soils, but may grow better in moister, richer soils.  Full sun.  Some irrigation may be beneficial.  Noxious weed in some areas. Snowcover necessary. 
Internal use for treatment of depression, anxiety, shingles, sciatica, menopausal problems; externally for burns, bruises, injuries, pain. 
Bushy, small-leaved plant 60-90 cm in height, perennial.  Flowers are prolific, showy, yellow with 5 petals, in midsummer.  Rhizomatous roots will spread. 
Flowering tops are harvested at early to prime bloom.  In some areas more than one harvest per year may be possible.  Spoils easily if not dried properly. 
Skullcap – Scutellaria lateriflora; Scutellaria baicalensis, Scutellaria barbata.
Seeds or root divisions; occasionally by cuttings. 
Good fertile soil; often grown in shade, but sun tolerant if moisture is adequate.  Likes ample moisture and may need some fertilizer; hard to weed. S. baicalensis needs good drainage and requires less moisture. 
S. lateriflora for insomnia, irritability, neuralgia, nervousness; S. baicalensis for fever, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving digestion, dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhages. 
Perennial; S. lateriflora grows to 75 cm and is rhizomatous, spreading widely.  S. baicalensis is shorter to 40 cm.  Leaves are ovate-lanceolate, flowers are blue or purple and tubular, in racemes. 
Entire above-ground plant can be harvested; multiple harvests per year may be possible.  Needs quick drying to prevent overheating. 
Valerian – Valeriana officinalis
Seed or root division; often transplanted. 
Well-drained, rich moist soil; irrigation common.  Supplementary fertilizer may be desirable.  Full sun or light shade. Very prone to aster yellows disease and accompanying root-rots. 
Treatment of insomnia, anxiety, cramps, migraine, ulcers, minor injuries. 
Perennial, tall vigorous plant to 1.5 – 2 m; large pinnate leaves; showy, scented white flowers in summer; roots are short rhizomes. 
Only roots are harvested, usually in autumn of second year.  Difficult to clean; roots have unpleasant odour but which attracts cats. 
Willowherb/ Fireweed – Epilobium angustifolium
Seed; direct or transplanted plugs. 
Little cultural information available; often harvested from wild stands.  Adaptable to dry soil, may not require high nutrient levels. 
Cosmetic uses; treatment of sunburn. 
Tall, perennial plants to 2 m, narrow, with somewhat willow-like leaves and very show pink, light purple or white flowers in racemes. Roots are rhizomatous.  Often considered invasive. 
Harvest top growth in summer during early to full bloom by hand picking in wild or swathing cultivated crop.  Dry in field for 2 days then use dryers (large capacity required).  Markets limited at present. 
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium
Seed; direct sow or transplant. 
Well-drained soil; high fertility not required.  Drought tolerant but occasional irrigation may improve yield. 
Treatment of colds, flu, measles, diarrhea, rheumatism, arthritis, menstrual problems, hypertension, wounds, nosebleeds, ulcers. 
Perennial, 60-90 cm, strongly rhizomatous.  Foliage is soft and fern-like, flowers are small, in umbels; usually white, but red and pink forms exist. 
Flowers, leaves or entire top growth may be harvested in summer.  Limited markets. 

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