Herbs P - Z

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 Updated 08/05/2017

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A page listing information and growing advice on a selection of herbs starting with the letters p to z.

The other herbs are listed on A - E and F - O. If you are looking to buy herb seeds in the UK, check out our shop.

Parsley

Latin name: Petrocelinum crispum.

Family: Umbelliferae.

Growing pattern: Hardy biennial but usually grown like an annual by re-sowing every spring.

History: Traditionally used as a food garnish. Probably one of the best known herbs used extensively for many sauces and medicines.

How to grow: Sow the seeds where the plants are to grow when the soil has warmed up thin the seedlings out to 20 cm apart and keep well watered if the weather is dry.

Soil condition/position: Sow the seeds in rich, well worked soil. Parsley prefers a sunny position. in a severe winter parsley will need some protection. Usually it will grow happily all year round on the window sill In a container.

Appearance: An attractive curly leaved plant, parsley can grow to 60 cm in height. There are several different varieties Hamburg, French and curly (the most familiar) being among the best known.

Uses: Parsley is very high in vitamin c. It is a very familiar herb, used to decorate savoury dishes. The leaves can be finely chopped for sauces and fish dishes, salads and cooked vegetables. Hot Parsley tea is a tonic and diuretic and is supposed to help rheumatism.

Pennyroyal

Latin name: Mentha pulegium.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Hardy biennial but usually grown like an annual by re-sowing every spring.

History: Pennyroyal was grown in pots and taken on voyages by sailors to purify stale drinking water.

How to grow: Pennyroyal can be grown from seed. Sow the seeds outside when the soil is warm. Rooted cuttings can be planted 15cm apart.

Soil condition/position: Pennyroyal creeps and likes moist, open places. It may need to be renewed every 3-4 years. It can be container grown and does well on window ledges.

Appearance: Pennyroyal grows to about 30cm and has clusters of mauve flowers.

Uses: This herb is said to repel ants. The dried leaves sewn into a sachet discourage moths and mosquitoes. It can be used in soups and stuffings but handle with care as it has a very strong taste. Must be avoided by pregnant women.

Peppermint

Latin name: Mentha piperita.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

History: First recorded by John Ray an English naturalist in 1696. Peppermint contains menthol which has long been used to treat sprains etc and to flavour peppermint sweets.

How to grow: This herb grows easily from seed.

Soil condition/position: Peppermint grows very quickly from runners and spreads rapidly. It needs to be kept under control, some people grow it in an old bottomless bucket sunk into the soil. It can also be pot grown provided it is kept well watered.

Appearance: It grows to a height of 60cm with red stems and pinky/lilac flowers. Its leaves are dark green.

Uses: Peppermint is used for flavouring sweets and in rubs for strains and sprains. A refreshing tea can be made from the leaves and a finely chopped leaf added to hot chocolate makes an interesting change.

Purslane

Latin name: Portulaca cleracea.

Family: Portulaceae.

Growing pattern: Half hardy annual.

How to grow: Broadcast the seeds thinly in mid April through to August or when all danger of frost is over. Rake the seeds in lightly and keep well watered. Thin the seedlings to 10cm apart and when they reach 5-7cm in height cut them back close to the ground. The seeds germinate very quickly.

Soil condition/position: Purslane can be grown in a container. It likes a sunny position in sandy soil.

Rose (Wild Dog)

Latin name: Rose canina.

Family: Rosaceae.

Growing pattern: Perennial - will keep on growing for many years.

History: Historically rosehips have been used in Europe for preserves and syrups. The petals of the flowers have long been used to make perfume or dried for pot-pourri.

How to grow: Can be grown from rooted cuttings in spring or autumn.

Soil condition/position: Grow roses at the back of flower beds up against a trellis or a wall.

Appearance: Pink or white flowers in summer. Hips follow in autumn and are red and shiny.

Uses: Rose petals can be used to make wine and can be candied fro food decoration. When dried they are good for pot-pourri. Dry rosehips for later use. Hips can also be used for wine or rosehip jelly which can be used with meat like cranberry jelly.

Rosemary

Latin name: Rosmarinus officinalis.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Perennial evergreen shrub.

History: Rosemary was carried by the ancient Greeks and Romans at weddings and funerals. They used to twine it in their hair believing it to quicken the memory. Rosemary has always grown wild around the Mediterranean coasts. One legend claims that the flower took its blue colour from the Virgin Mary‘s cloak when she threw it over a Rosemary bush.

How to grow: Rosemary seeds are very slow to germinate so they are best started off in a pot. Transplant them to a permanent position when the plants are well grown. Alternatively, beg a few cuttings from someone who has a Rosemary bush. This is best done in late summer. Ask for 6 inch side shoots and put them in a pot of sandy soil to get them rooting.

Soil condition/position: Rosemary loves hot sun and poor, slightly limed soil which is well drained.

Appearance: A Rosemary bush can grow up to 4 or 5 feet tall. The narrow leaves are a blue/grey colour and the plant has dusty blue flowers.

Uses: The leaves are good for cooking lamb and fish (especially Halibut) they can also be used to flavour biscuits, eggs, cheese, jams, wine cups and jellies. An infusion of Rosemary is said to darken the hair if used as a rinse.

If you have a question about Rosemary, have a look at our reader's question page on Rosemary.

Russian Tarragon

Latin name: Artemesia dracunculoides

Family: Compositae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in spring. Plant the seedlings out 60 cm apart. Cut the plants down in the autumn and protect from frost.

Soil condition/position: Tarragon likes a sunny position and can be grown in containers. It needs dividing every 4 years.

Appearance: The flavour and texture improves with the age of the plant which grows to 90cm. Two plants are usually enough in the garden. They prefer a good soil. The herb will only set seed in a temperate climate so it is best to take cuttings. It has shiny, narrow leaves and tiny greenish white flowers which only open in a very warm climate. It spreads by underground runners.

Uses: Tarragon can be put in green salads. Tarragon vinegar can be made by steeping the fresh herb in wine vinegar. It can be used when cooking roast meat, poultry and fish. It can also be added to butter sauces to go with marrow and artichokes.

Sage

Latin name: Salvia officinalis.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Evergreen shrub.

History: Historically Sage was used medicinally for coughs, colds and fevers and as a general tonic. A very traditional recipe is sage and onion stuffing.

How to grow: Sow sage seeds in early spring under glass or in late spring in the open ground. thin or plant out at a distance of 40 - 45 cm apart. cuttings can also be taken from an established plant. Do this in late spring.

Soil condition/position: Sage loves a well drained sunny position. if the plants become leggy the top leaves can be pinched out to encourage them to become bushy. Sage tends to grow quite slowly.

Appearance: Rough oval shaped blue/green leaves. Sage has spikes of purple flowers.

Uses: Sage goes well with almost all meat dishes especially slightly fatty meats like pork or goose. it is very tasty chopped finely and added to tomato dishes and it goes well with cheese. An infusion of sage is said to be good as a hair tonic.

If you have a question about Sage, have a look at our reader's question page on Sage.

Salad Burnet

Latin name: Poterium sanguisorba.

Family: Rosacea.

Growing pattern: Hardy perennial.

History: Native to the Mediterranean where it was historically used to flavour wines and as a tonic tea. In England it was often planted in the Tudor knot garden. The herb was taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers and it naturalised there.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in Spring or in early Autumn. Remove the flower heads to encourage growth and pick the leaves when young. Burnet will self-sow.

Soil condition/position: Sow in good soil. Burnet will remain green during a mild winter but it is better to re-sow every year to obtain tender leaves. It can be container grown.

Appearance: Burnet consists of a flat rosette of spiky-toothed leaves from which a flowering stem grows. The leaves have a fresh cucumber taste. Burnet will grow to a height of 30cm.

Uses: Burnet can be added to sauces and salads. Use it to make burnet vinegar. Add it to cheese and use it as a garnish instead of parsley. Cosmetically an infusion of burnet leaves is good for the skin.

Soapwort

Latin name: Saponaria officinalis.

Family: Perennial.

Growing pattern: Hardy perennial.

How to grow: By seed.

Appearance: Soapwort is a sprawling plant with pink flowers. It grows to a height of 60 cm.

Uses: The flowers produce a soapy substance that can be used to wash delicate clothes. It can also be used as a shampoo and face cleanser.

Sorrel

Latin name: Rumex scutatus.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

Appearance: Sorrel grows to 22cm in height and has small, arrow shaped leaves.

Uses: The leaves are used in salads and chopped into soups.

Southernwood

Latin name: Artemisia abrotanum.

Family: Compositae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

History: Traditionally Southernwood was used as a stimulant and antiseptic. It was an old remedy for baldness.

How to grow: Southernwood is best propagated by root division in the autumn. Take cuttings of about 15cm and put them 9cm deep in sand. Layering also works. It is suitable for container growing.

Soil condition/position: A sunny, shelter spot is best. Well drained good garden soil is suitable for Southernwood.

Appearance: This is a woody shrub with hair-like grey/green leaves which smell of lemon. Its tiny yellow flowers are rarely seen in temperate climates.

Uses: Tea made from Southernwood needs to be sweetened with honey and the leaves can be bitter. Dried leaves put into a muslin bag will keep away moths. the leaves are also very pretty for flower arrangements.

Summer Savory

Latin name: Satureja hortensis.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Annual

History: The ancient Greeks and Romans used Summer Savory in highly spiced sauces for meat, fish and poultry.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in late spring, covering them with only a light sprinkling of soil. Thin the seedlings to 30cm apart and leave to grow. Summer Savory does not like being moved.

Soil condition/position: Harvest this herb when it reaches 15cm and keep cutting it all summer. Cut the tips of the plant. If it does flower you will then need to cut the whole plant down and dry for winter use.

Appearance: Summer Savory will grow to 45cm in height. It has long narrow leaves and blue and white flowers.

Uses: It is very good for cooking with meat, fish and eggs. Traditionally it has always been used with beans and in vegetable soups. Put a few sprigs into wine vinegar before making French dressings.

Sweet Cicely

Latin name: Myrrhis odorata.

Family: Umbelliferae.

Growing pattern: Biennial.

History: At one time the seeds of Sweet cicely were pounded down and used as furniture polish. All parts of this herb were used for medicine. The roots were boiled until tender and given to the elderly as an aid to digestion.

How to grow: The seeds of Sweet Cicely need to be exposed to the frost for good germination. Space the seedlings 45cm apart and transplant them if necessary when 1 year old. The herb will reseed itself.

Soil condition/position: Partial shade in moist soil.

Appearance: Sweet Cicely is a thick rooted plant. Its small leaves have a liquorice-like flavour. The seeds have a spicy taste. It grows to a height of 90cmand the whole plant with its lacey leaves and tiny white flowers is highly scented.

Uses: Sweet Cicely can be cooked with tart fruits to cut down the acidity. This works well with rhubarb, red currants and gooseberries. It can also be added to omelettes. The ripe seeds can be chewed as an aid to digestion and a tea made from the chopped leaves is said to soothe the stomach.

Tansy

Latin name: Tanacetum vulgare.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

Appearance: Tansy grows to 90cm and has highly aromatic fern-like leaves.

Uses: Tansy has some use as an insect repellant. Sometimes it is used as a food flavouring i.e. in Apple Tansy.

Thyme

Latin name: Thymus vulgaris.

Family: Labiatae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

History: Thyme has always been associated with strength and happiness. In the Middle Ages it was a symbol of courage and sprigs of it were embroidered onto the clothes of crusaders. It has always been valued for its antiseptic qualities which come from the thymol in it.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in spring where they are to flower. Thin the seedlings to 30cm apart. Thyme may need to be renewed every 3-4 years as it becomes woody and may lose its flavour. it can also be propagated by cuttings in spring or by root division in spring or autumn.

Soil condition/position: Thyme likes rockeries and sunny positions on well drained soil. If it is grown in a container on a window sill it can be used all year round.

Appearance: Dark green leaves with pink flowers growing to 15cm in height.

Uses: Thyme is used in stuffing especially for poultry. It does have a very strong flavour so add it to meat, fish, soups and stews with caution. It can be used ,finely chopped on potato puree. Hot thyme tea promotes sleep and thyme ointment can help spots.

If you have a question about Thyme, have a look at our reader's question page on Thyme.

Valerian

Latin name: Valerian officinalis.

Family: Valerianaceae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

History: Valere is the Latin verb to be healthy. The root of Valerian which has an unpleasant smell has historically been used as a medicine.

How to grow: The seed of Valerian are slow to germinate. Sow them in spring under glass and plant out in summer to 60cm apart. Harvest the roots at the end of the second season then dry the rhizomes.

Soil condition/position: This herb is native to marshy soil. It likes a sunny, damp but well drained place. Cut off the flowering heads as they appear. Valerian can be grown in a container but it needs to be kept watered.

Appearance: Valerian has pink flowers from June to August. It can reach a height of 75cm.

Uses: Valerian has traditionally been used as a tranquillizer and is supposed to promote sleep. Valerian tea can be drunk before retiring for a few days but not over a long period of time. An ointment made from the leaves or roots is said to heal skin complaints.

Watercress

Latin name: Nasturtium officinale.

Family: Cruciferae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

History: Historically a medicinal plant used to ward off scurvy. We now know of course that it is very high in vitamin C.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in boxes in early summer or autumn. Plant out seedlings 15cm apart. It can also be grown by cuttings in early autumn or spring. Constant cutting will promote growth and prevent flowering.

Soil condition/position: Rich sandy soil 7.5cm deep in water 10cm deep. It can be grown in an ordinary garden i.e. not in running water, but this may not be very successful.

Appearance: Small shiny rounded leaves on a fleshy stem. Grow to a height of about 30cm. Tiny white flowers in the summer develop into long curved seed pods. The plant has a peppery flavour.

Uses: Watercress is widely used as a salad vegetable. Infusions of young shoots are supposed to be good for arthritis, digestive problems and congested lungs. This remedy should not be taken for more than one week.

If you have a question about Watercress, have a look at our reader's question page on Watercress.

Welsh Onion

Latin name: Allium fistulosum.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

How to grow: Welsh Onion is grown successfully from seed.

Soil condition/position: This plant can be grown and harvested throughout the winter with no protection.

Appearance: Welsh Onion grows to 30cm and has a taste somewhere between a chive and an onion.

Wild Marjoram

Latin name: Origanum vulgare.

Family: Labiatae.

How to grow: Sow seeds in spring or propagate by root division in spring or autumn. This herb is too tall for container growing and it has a very strong taste. Use it sparingly, dried added to pizza and spaghetti dishes.

Soil condition/position: Rich sandy soil 7.5cm deep in water 10cm deep. It can be grown in an ordinary garden i.e. not in running water, but this may not be very successful.

Appearance: Small shiny rounded leaves on a fleshy stem. Grow to a height of about 30cm. Tiny white flowers in the summer develop into long curved seed pods. The plant has a peppery flavour.

Sweet Marjoram: Sow under glass in sandy soil in early spring. Plant out in early summer in light ,rich soil in a sunny sheltered position. If grown in a container it can be taken indoors for the winter. This is a good herb for meat dishes especially meatloaf and also goes well with marrow and potatoes. Another tasty use for it is to add it to the rice stuffing for green peppers.

Winter Savory

Latin name: Satureja montana.

Family: Labiatae

Growing pattern: Annual.

How to grow: Sow the seeds in April to May. Thin the seedlings out to a distance of 20cm apart.

Soil condition/position: Harvest this herb when it reaches 15cm and keep cutting it all summer. Cut the tips of the plant. If it does flower you will then need to cut the whole plant down and dry for winter use.

Appearance: Winter Savory grows to a height of 15cm.

Uses: The Uses: for this herb are similar to those of Summer Savory. Winter Savory however has a less delicate flavour.

Wormwood

Latin name: Artemisia absinthium.

Family: Valerianaceae.

Growing pattern: Perennial.

How to grow: Wormwood germinates easily from seed.

Appearance: Wormwood is a tall (to 90cm) plant with grey/green leaves and a very pungent smell.

Yarrow

Latin name: Achillea millefolium.

Family: Compositae.

Growing pattern: Hardy Perennial.

History: Traditionally used as an antiseptic. Its leaves were put on cuts to assist quick healing.

How to grow: Yarrow can be grown by seed.

Soil condition/position: Any soil in any position. Yarrow can easily be transplanted.

Appearance: Bushy clumps which grow to 60cm high. Yarrow has dark green feathery leaves and has a nice smell when bruised. It has clusters of white flowers and the leaves have a slightly bitter taste but are nice chopped in cheese dishes.

Uses: Yarrow can help neighbouring plants to resist disease. An infusion of Yarrow flowers is good for skin cleansing and added to baths it can act as a relaxant. Yarrow can be used as a diuretic and is good for cramp.




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