The Herb Awards 2013

What weather! I think we all have experienced some extremes this year – here it was a very long and cold, snowy winter, then we had unusually cold spring temperatures, followed by floods, then a scorching heatwave, and drought…

And yet the herbs have mostly done well.


The Herb Awards 2013

(Drum roll please!)


Ocimum basilicum otherwise known as Basil

It loves the heat, and if kept on the covered balcony and harvested regularly it will keep going until the end of August… maybe longer if I’m lucky. Here are the types I grew this year….

Ocimum basilicum “Chianti” (a dark opal basil, with purple leaves). This sort is not as heat resistant as the Genovese basil, and the leaves are slightly thicker and more fibrous. The aroma is excellent though.



Ocimum × citriodorum (Lemon Basil) has a light citrus flavour and is delicious in iced mineral water or in salads. It doesn’t grow as vigorously as the Genovese basil, nor as tall. But it stands up to heat and dry conditions very well.



Ocimum basilicum “Neapolitan” is a very large-leafed basil, with a fine aniseed-like aroma. The leaves are pale green, and slightly crinkled. It loves the heat! Its flavour is not as intense as that of Genovese, which makes it perfect for garnishes or salads. (I can see on this photo it’s been nibbled by something!)



Ocimum basilicum “Genovese” is the traditional large-leafed basil that is usually on sale here. The best for pesto, as its leaves are very aromatic and not at all fibrous. It can withstand quite a bit of heat and dry conditions too. Like all basil, it hates being rained on or being watered from above, so the ideal position would be a south-facing porch, window-sill or balcony. Another tip: don’t cover basil seed when you sow it, as this will stop or delay germination, but make sure it is kept moist and warm.




Sage, Mint (as always!), Chervil, Estragon (Tarragon), Thyme and Lemon Thyme, Garden Burnet (Sanguisorba minor – Pimpernell), Oregano, Savory, Lemon Balm, and Rocket; it seems these are all pretty robust and can be trusted even in the toughest of conditions. I have used most of these in salads and tomato sauces.



Lemon Verbena, Chives, and Borage  – I think the low night-time temperatures and damp in May were mostly to blame, but these all recovered in July. The chives went sort of “rusty” in the damp weather. Has anyone ever seen that before? I cut them right down and they also bounced back within a week or two.


The Booby Prize goes to:


The parsley hated being waterlogged and then baked in the spring, but I made the mistake of buying plug plants – useless!  Then the slugs and snails discovered a new plant I put in… A couple of other plants in pots with copper tape around them are also not happy. I have no idea why! Any tips are welcome!


What herbs have done well or poorly this summer in your garden?

And what on earth can I use Estragon for???

A lovely herby recipe coming up soon! 😉

34 thoughts on “The Herb Awards 2013

  1. Tarragon goes well with mushrooms, chop a few leaves and add to Risotto & Stroganoff,
    Also add to a cream & brandy(dash) sauce to pour over mushrooms as a starter (very rich).

  2. Your varieties of basil are are so pretty. I’ve heard tarragon goes well with strawberry, but haven’t tried that combination. Or how about pasta salad with lemon and olive oil and peas.

    • Thank you Susie, that pasta salad does sound nice and I will definitely try that… I am also a little skeptical of fruit and herbs together, as I have heard strawberry and mint are supposedly a good combination too. I should just try it and see for myself! 😀

  3. My herbs have not done well. Party, I was absent for some of the time but the weather seemed to have them flowering prematurely. I have no dill this year and the basil was not successful either 😦

    • Yes, the herbs in general needed more care this summer. I didn’t have any dill either as it was so dry when I sowed and I obviously didn’t water the right spot! I am currently planning a proper corner in the garden just for herbs, so I can keep an eye on them all and water more easily…. 😀

      • That’s a good idea, they are really worth the extra care and I am promising myself to be less negligent next year. My tarragon is a success as it has popped up better than ever this year and got no special care.

  4. I miss my herb garden! I browsed a local garden center this week and all of their potted herbs were absolutely gorgeous. Tarragon is good with tuna, which I know you don’t eat, but it is also lovely when used with Dijon mustard in a dressing or sauce.

  5. You are rich on herbs and this is quiet a ranking! Congratulations.
    I love Estragon since a friend has preparedut italian vegetable in a pan and at least put dried Estragon-leaves on. I tasted gorgeous. I should call her for the receipt (maybe she remembers, 10 years later :)).

  6. What attractive green edging round basil ‘Chianti’ Cathy. I have made a note of it so that I can try it next year. Here it has been a brilliant year for basil too – I think that my plants have never reached such heights before 🙂 Beautiful photo of bee on borage.

    • Thank you Anna. We have had lots of bees this year, and they love the borage which always takes a while to get established. But it flowers till the first frosts and fills gaps nicely late in summer.

  7. Here in Lazio my basil grows best in shade or dabbled shade, then it doesn’t mind the heat, mine was slow to start this year because of our poor spring but needs harvesting regularly to stop it flowering. Tarragon goes very well with all chicken dishes and it perfect to flavour vinegar.

    • Mine has only just started trying to flower, but I have managed to harvest enough to stop it so far! 😀
      I have heard of tarragon vinegar now that you mention it. Thanks Christina!

  8. Lovely idea, your herb award :). I enjoy your basil selection but am missing cinammon basil (my definite favourite). Dou you grow French or Russian tarragon? It goes well with fish and chicken dishes. Makes good vinegar too. Parsley is giddy and didn’t do too well in spring but now it’s picking up. I also grow different thymes, sages, lemon verbena, rosemary and chocolate mint, the latter is just delicious in desserts, salads, tea.

    • I haven’t tried cinnamon basil, but imagine it’s rather nice. I’m not sure which tarragon it is as I can’t locate the packet at the moment, but it’s quite mild. I will have to try chocolate mint too – sounds delicious! Thanks Annette!

  9. You have so many wonderful herbs, shame about the parsley – it might prefer being in the ground rather than a pot – it has a long tap root. Tarragon is brilliant with eggs – in omlettes, sandwiches or just to sprinkle over a poached egg… one of my favourite herbs (I know, another ‘favourite’ herb!)

    • That has given me an idea…. egg sandwiches with tarragon and mayonnaise. Thank you Sarah!
      I’m afraid parsley doesn’t stand a chance in the ground in my garden as the snails devastated a large plant I put in overnight…. there was absolutely nothing left! Perhaps a larger container for it then next year, and more copper tape!

  10. I honestly think the herbs are so beautiful in their pots I wouldn’t need to use a one of them! I’d just pinch them back and enjoy their beauty. 🙂 I have lots of mint that is growing like crazy, and basil…but that’s about all right now. You have inspired me to think about what else I can still grow…we have a long growing season.

    • Yes, they do look pretty! Rosemary is one of my favourites but I have to bring my plant indoors in winter. And bay laurel loves warmth too. I wonder if they would like your climate?

  11. I didn’t know that there are so many different types of basil. Mint yes, but basil?
    I’ve only heard of estragon used with meat. But I’ve read somewhere recently, that one can use estragon to spice up vinegar or to make liqueur.

  12. Hello from the west coast of Canada. I discovered your lovely website a few weeks ago when I was looking for a quick supper idea and found exactly what I wanted with your cheese and tomato tart recipe. Thank you, it is wonderful.

    This year I have been successful with sage, oregano, thyme, and flat leaf parsley. All grown in pots on the deck railing. They got a little bit bashed from early summer rains but have held up really well, especially the parsley. I find that the parsley likes to be “pruned” regularly and it gets very thirsty, more so than the other herbs.

    No luck with the basil or rosemary this year, I think they need bigger pots than the ones I used. Will try that next year.

    Anyway, congratulations on a very lovely website.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment Fay! My parsley seems to be improving now the weather’s cooled down – obviously not a heat-loving herb unlike the basil. Hope you have more luck with basil next year – it won’t like being rained on though! 😉 Thanks again, and have a lovely day. 😀

  13. Pingback: Summer Spaghetti | Words and Herbs

  14. What a creative post! Love it! Your herbs all look great. I’m intrigued by Basil ‘Chianti’. I’ve never heard of it and it is really pretty. Prettier than the purple ‘Opal’ variety I’ve tried. My favorite basil is Genovese but this year I tried Lime basil and it was fun. Have your heard of that one? It has a flatter leaf, similar to your Lemon basil. Too bad about parsley. I tried to get some going from seed and couldn’t get a one. I later read they are one of the hardest to get going by seed! However, I had 2 plants self seed from last year so I have a small bit of it! Let yours go to seed and maybe you’ll get a ss too!

    • We used the basil Chianti in pesto with walnuts yesterday – very fragrant! Lime basil sounds good – will have to look for some seed for next year. There’s a saying about parsley, that when sown it “goes nine times to the devil” before coming up! I shall try and get another plant established in the ground this week as it is dry and the snails are in hiding!

    • It was the first time I tried growing chervil too, and I did enjoy using it in cooking instead of parsley, which made such miserable progress. The chervil is still looking bushy. Wonder how it will fare over winter…

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