Herb of the Year

2021 - Parsley

Description: Frost-hardy Biennial with triangular 3-pinnate leaves and a stout taproot that grows 1-2' high. The leaves are curled at the edges. It is widely used its first year, but the leaves and stems become tough the second, and produce yellow-green flowers. Because of this it is more often grown as an annual.

P.c. 'Italian' is a related species, and is also known as French or Flat-leaf Parsley. It is a larger plant, growing 32-36" high and has smooth uncurled leaves.

Another interesting related species is P.c. var. tuberosum, also known as Hamburg parsley. This type has small flat leaves with celery-like flavor. It also has large roots which are eaten as a vegetable.

Learn more about its history and usage: Herb of the Year 2021: Parsley

2019 - Anise Hyssop

Description: A hardy, short lived perennial with soft, dull green ovate leaves that alternate on a square stem, characteristic of the mint family of which it is part. The leaves are about 4” long with toothed margins that have an intense aroma and flavor of Aniseed (licorice) and mint. It blooms mid-summer and has erect flower spikes with tubular flowers that can range from white to pale blue to lavender to blue purple. There are varieties that can have other colors. The flower spikes can last all summer, and are great at attracting pollinators such as bees, butterflies, beetles and other insects, as well as Hummingbirds. The pollinated flowers produce seeds called nutlets, which are eaten by Goldfinches. Deadheading the plants will encourage more flowers.

The plants themselves grow 24 - 48" tall and 1 - 3' wide from a small tap root with spreading rhizomes. It is hardy in zones 3 - 8, but cannot tolerate extended temperatures of -6° or below. It is easily grown from seed, or propagated by root division or cuttings. It self-sows readily, but the tiny plants are easy to pull up to control growth. The plants need rich, moist but well drained soil, and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. They are drought resistant once the plants have been established. They have no significant pest problems but may develop root rot in wet soil, or powdery mildew in humid climates. They are deer resistant, but rabbits will eat them.

Habitat: It is native to North and Central America, especially the Great Plains, prairies, fields, and dry forested areas in the upper mid-west into Canada; specifically northern Colorado to Wisconsin, and from Ontario west to British Columbia in Canada.

It is not related to hyssop (Hyssopus spp.) which is a European/Asian healing herb, or anise (Pimpinella anisum) a member of the carrot family.

Usage: Gardens- Anise hyssop is a beautiful plant and works well in the middle or back of perennial borders or flower gardens, as it can grow to be fairly tall. It combines well with other natives. It is also easily grown in containers.

Parts used- Leaves, flowers, fresh or dried. Harvest just past full bloom for optimal oil retention.

Culinary- Dried leaves can be made into a minty/licorice tasting tea or can be used to flavor jellies. Fresh leaves can be floated in soft drinks or fruit cups to add "piquancy". They can also be snipped into salads. The flowers are edible, and can be used as a garnish. Dried or fresh leaves can be added to meat dishes, especially pork, to add flavor. Florets can be used to make Anise hyssop cookies, and other baked goods.

Medicinal- The leaves have antibacterial properties, and have been used for cough, colds, or digestion problems by infusions.

Crafts- The blossoms retain fragrance and color when dried, and can be used in Potpourri, wreaths, and many other crafts.

2018 - Hops

Hops is a perennial plant, that grow bines, or twining stems. They produce flowers on both male and female plants but the female flowers are the only ones used in the brewing of beer. In addition to beer, hops has also been used for other purposes, including medicine, as a sleep aid in pillows, salad, and for paper fiber as well. The bines can grow vigorously, up to 10 inches a day!!! Because of this rapid growth they greatly benefit from trellising.

Read more about Hops here:

Our very own member's "Advice from the Herb Lady" Blog

Rutgers shows you how to grow hops at home

Michigan Fresh guide to growing hops

2017 - Coriander / Cilantro

Coriandrum sativum

Coriander and cilantro are the same plant. The seeds from this plant are referred to as coriander and the leaves are referred to as cilantro or Chinese parsley.

Coriander sativum is native to the eastern Mediterranean region.

Both the seeds and leaves have had culinary uses since medieval times. All parts of the plant are edible.

The name comes from the Greek word koris, meaning bedbug since the unripe coriander fruit has a disagreeable "buggy" smell.

Coriander seeds have a pleasant, spicy aroma when mature and dry and a flavor that is described as citrusy, nutty and spicy when crushed.

Coriander is used in cuisines world-wide, including in spice blends like curry powder, garam masala and berbere.

Coriander seeds are referred to as one of the bitter herbs in the Bible and eaten at the first Passover. In addition, manna was described as being the color of coriander seeds.

Healing properties were associated with coriander in early Roman and Chinese medicine and research continues today.

During World War II, the seeds were coated in white or pink sugar and thrown from carnival wagons. These confections or confetti were eventually replaced by balls of colored paper and is how confetti got its name.

Coriander seed is used in the making of gin as well as many other distilled spirits and herbal liquers.

The seeds may be used whole, crushed or ground in cooking.

Cilantro is popular in Mexican, Asian and Indian dishes.

The leave and tender stems of cilantro are used in curries, sauces, salsas, soups and salads. Cooking deepends the characteristic sharp flavor.

To harvest the leaves, cut stems near the ground level, above one-third of the plant at a time.

To harvest the seeds, let them ripen on the plants. Clip the brown, round seed heads and place inside a paper bag. The seed heads will dry and open, allowing the edible seed to fall out.

Some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro, according to studies by Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Or it could be that one’s positive or negative experiences with the flavor of the herb, influenced by cultural exposure, plays a role in whether one likes the flavor or not.


Growing Tips

Cilantro grows best in the cooler temperatures of the spring and fall. Or through the winter in zones 8-10. As temperatures heat up, the plant sends up a flower stalk and sets seed. (This process is called bolting.)

Grow in full sun and well-drained soil except in the South and South west where some shade is well tolerated.

Manage cilantro's naturally fast life cycle by sowing seeds successively over a few weeks and by planting varieties that are slow to bolt such as 'Slow Bolt', 'Leisure', 'Longstanding' and 'Santo'.

Rather than transplanting seedlings, directly sow seeds in the garden or a container. Grow plants 6-8" apart.

Let one or two plants go to seed to ensure that seedlings will emerge when the temperatures cool again. It is possible to have both a spring and a fall crop in many climates.

2016 - Chillie Peppers

Chile peppers have been cultivated for over 7000 years. While they originated in South and Central America, chillies quickly spread throughout the world following the travels of Christopher Columbus. Chilies were brought to Asia by Portuguese navigators during the 16th century. India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Birds were responsible, at least in part, for the spread of the seed throughout the Americas, being unaffected by the capsaicinoids, the compound that gives chillies their burning sensation. The chillie pepper is not at all related to black pepper Piper nigrum but is the genus Capsicum which belongs to the Nightshade family.

Historically, chile peppers have been used as money, tribute, spice, ornament, vegetable, medicine, as pest control and in spiritual ceremonies.

There are more than 10,000 varieties of chillie peppers in the world.

Pepper hotness is measured by the Scoville Heat Unit System, invented by Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912. It rates how much capsaicin or heat is present in a pepper.

The three primary spellings are chili, chile and chilli, all of which are recognized by dictionaries.

  • Chili is widely used in historically Anglophone regions of the United State and Canada. However, it is also commonly used as a short name for chili con carne (literally chili with meat). Most versions are seasoned with chili powder, which can refer to pure dried, ground chili peppers, or to a mixture containing other spices.
  • Chile is the most common Spanish spelling in Mexico and several other Latin American countries, as well as some parts of the United States and Canada, which refers specifically to this plant and its fruit. In the Southwest United States (particularly New Mexico), chile also denotes a thick, spicy, un-vinegared sauce made from this fruit, available in red and green varieties, and served over the local food, while chili denotes the meat dish. The plural is chile.
  • Chilli was the original Romanization of the Náhuatl language word for the fruit (chilli) and is the preferred British spelling according to the Oxford English Dictionary, although it also lists chile and chili as variants. Chilli (and its plural chillies) is the most common spelling in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa. The name of the plant is almost certainly unrelated to that of Chile, the country,

2015 - Savory

Summer savory is an annual, but otherwise is similar in use and flavor to the perennial Winter Savory. It is used more often than winter savory, which has a slightly more bitter flavor. This herb has lilac tubular flowers which bloom in the northern hemisphere from July to September. It grows to around 30 to 60 cm (0.98 to 1.97 ft) in height and has very slender, bronze-green leaves.


Winter savory is a perennial herb native to warm temperate regions of southern Europe and the Mediterranean. It is a perennial plant growing to 16 inches tall. The leaves are opposite, oval 1-cm long and 5 mm broad. The flowers are white. Easy to grow, it makes an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden. It requires six hours of sun a day in soil that drains well. Both it and summer savory have been grown and used, virtually side by side. Both have strong spicy flavor.

2014 - Artemisias

Plant Characteristics of Artemisias
Life span: Depending on the species, Artemisias are perennial, tender perennial, or rarely annual.

Plant form: Shrub

Size: Ranges from small 6 to 8 inch mounds to erect stems and branches reaching up to 10 feet in height. Most garden varieties are between 1 and 4 feet tall with a 3-foot spread.

Flowers: Arranged in panicles or umbels; although some are attractive, most are very small, mainly pale yellow to bright yellow, and relatively insignificant.

Foliage: Pinnate leaves range from almost filigree to sturdily broad and raggedly erose (irregularly toothed). The leaves of a number of species are silvery white or gray green, although many are darker greenand some are brown-purple. The leaves have fine hairs which cool and defend the plants from extreme heat and help them survive adverse conditions. As in other plants, white varieties are more heat and drought tolerant than their greener cousins.

Hardiness: Hardy as far north as Maine in the U.S. (Zone 5)

Exposure: Sun, semi-shade; although most prefer full sun.

Soil: Artemisias do not like clay or rich soil and cannot stand sodden roots. A well-drained, sunlit spot with a soil in the neutral pH range is ideal.

2013 - Elderberry

Common Name: Elderberry, Elder
Family: Adoxaceae
Latin Name: Sambucus nigra (European Elder), Sambucus canadensis (American Elder)
Growth: A multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, potentially 30 feet tall
Hardiness: Hardy from zones 3-9, depending on species. May survive in colder regions with protection
Light: Semi-shade to full sun
Soil: Prefers rich soil
Water: Moist, well-drained soil
Use: Culinary; medicinal; cosmetic; ornamental; economic [Caution – Use flowers or ripe berries (cooked) only – remove all stems because they are toxic. The leaves, stems, branches, seeds, unripe berries and roots all contain a toxic cyanide-producing glycoside.]
Propagation: By seed sown in spring

Elder can be described as a rhizomatous, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with a light gray to brown-colored bark. The dark green to deep purple-colored leaves have an unpleasant smell which is thought to act as an insect repellant. The flowers are creamcolored and appear in flat clusters. The individual florets open randomly in a flower structure called a cymose corymb. The black fruits (berries) also mature randomly. Only the nutrient-rich flowers or ripe berries (after cooking) should be consumed. While many chemical constituents have been identified, some of the common nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin A, flavonoids, beta-carotene, iron, and potassium.

While the information in this fact sheet pertains to primarily S. nigra and S. canadensis, it must be noted that there are numerous other species. Those of particular interest to gardeners include S. cerulea (Blue Elderberry), a smaller, slowergrowing ornamental; S. ebulus (European Dwarf Elderberry), a plant with very robust rhizomes from which arise usually unbranched and non-woody stems which reach 2 to 6 ft. in height and form large colonies; S. racemosa (Red Elderberry), a more cold tolerant species often selected as an ornamental because of its red berries and dense, erosion-preventing, root systems.

2012 - The Rose

Family: Rosaceae
Latin Name: Rosa spp.
Common Name: rose, Queen of flowers
Growth: Shrubs, 2 to 30 feet (61cm to 9 m)
Hardiness: Many routinely hardy to Zone 6
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained garden loam
Water: Moist but not constantly wet
Use: Culinary, crafts, landscape
Propagation: Cuttings or grafts

A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of erect shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers are large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows and reds. Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwest Africa. Species, cultivars and hybrids are all widely grown for their beauty and fragrance. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach 7 meters in height. Different species hybridize easily, and this has been used in the development of the wide range of garden roses. The name rose comes from French, itself from Latin rosa.

2011 - Horseradish

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbages. The plant is probably native to south eastern Europe and the Arab World (western Asia), but is popular around the world today. It grows up to five feet tall and is mainly cultivated for its large white, tapered root.

The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma. When cut or grated, however, enzymes from the damaged plant cells break down sinigrin (a glucosinolate) to produce mustard oil, which irritates the sinuses and eyes. Once grated, if not used immediately or mixed in vinegar, the root darkens, loses its pungency, and becomes unpleasantly bitter when exposed to air and heat.

Horseradish is perennial in hardiness zones 2-9 and can be grown as an annual in other zones, though not as successfully as in zones with both a long growing season and winter temperatures cold enough to ensure plant dormancy. After the first frost in the autumn kills the leaves, the root is dug and divided. The main root is harvested and one or more large offshoots of the main root are replanted to produce next year's crop. Horseradish left undisturbed in the garden spreads via underground shoots and can become invasive. Older roots left in the ground become woody, after which they are no longer culinarily useful, although older plants can be dug and re-divided to start new plants.

2010 - Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a perennial herb. It is the sole species of the genus Anethum, though classified by some botanists in a related genus as Peucedanum graveolens.

It grows 16-24 inches with slender stems and alternate, finely divided, softly delicate leaves 3.9-7.9 inches long. The ultimate leaf divisions are 0.039-0.079 inches broad, slightly broader than the similar leaves of fennel, which are threadlike, less than 0.039 inches broad, but harder in texture. The flowers are white to yellow, in small umbels 0.79-3.5 inches in diameter. The seeds are 0.16-0.20 inches long and 0.039 inches thick, and straight to slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface.

Successful cultivation requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; even partial shade will reduce the yield substantially. It also prefers rich, well drained soil. The seeds are viable for 3-10 years.

The seed is harvested by cutting the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. The seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag and left in a warm dry place for a week. The seeds then separate from the stems easily for storage in an airtight container.