The 10 Best Summer Herbs (And How To Use Them)

Add some flavour to the season with these aromatic summer herbs.

Nothing says summer quite like an afternoon in the garden. Connecting with nature, whether it’s through touch, sight, or smell, can be a comforting and mindful activity to help heal an anxious mind.

Growing your own herbs is a simple way to add flavour to your kitchen. Rather than trek out to the grocery store, you can simply reach your hands out the window and pluck off some of nature’s most delicious ingredients

Below you’ll find some of our favourite summer herbs, and how you can implement them into your daily routine. Add them to your home and feel the good vibes flourish.

1. Basil

It’s no surprise this herb is a summertime staple—with a warm and spicy flavour, basil is an ideal pairing for sweet or mild recipes. Italians celebrated the herb alongside fresh mozzarella and tomatoes to create a refreshing Caprese salads or summery pizza toppings. Basil is also the basis for your homemade pesto. Add to a food processor with pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil to create your this zesty spread, and set it out alongside some fresh bread when entertaining guests. 

As for sweet things, basil and strawberries are a match made in heaven. Combine the two to make flavoured water perfect for your hot Vinyasa classes. If you’re really feeling adventurous, basil and strawberry ice cream is a wonderful summertime dessert, especially following those backyard BBQ dinners.

2. Bay

Bay is a staple in Mediterranean and French kitchens, and can add a luxurious depth to summer soups, stews, or crab and shrimp boils. You can also soak them in water and thread them through pieces of meat for herbal and flavourful kebabs.

The leaves best thrive in warm climates, such as a sunny deck or windowsill. Come the cooler months, consider bringing your bay plant inside so that it can continue to thrive. The leaves are sharp, so be sure to remove the leaves before serving. (But don’t worry about any added stress, as most recipes only call for one or two leaves.)

3. Chives

Despite their versatility, Chives rarely get the attention they deserve. Their mild onion flavor makes them a great option for dozens of your summertime faves, including sandwich spreads, sauces, and cheese-based dishes. They also add that “something special” to a mashed potato recipe, and can help heighten the flavour of creamy dips and egg salads. For all you vegans out there, try chives with a cashew-based cream cheese atop your favourite morning bagel.

4. Culantro

The heat-loving cousin of cilantro, cilantro rarely gets the glory. This spicy, flavour-packed herb is indigenous to Tropical America and the South Indies, and ideal for the summer months when cilantro starts to bolt. Don’t let its mystery deter you, though. This bad boy is rich in vitamins A, B-complex, and C, as well as the calcium, carotene, iron, and riboflavin.

We recommend adding cilantro to Mexican and Spanish dishes or chutneys, salsas, stews, and marinades. For a backyard taco party, sauté cilantro with meat or veggies and add to corn tortillas. (A margarita might help cut the spice.) Note that cilantro’s flavour is a bit stronger than cilantro, so you’ll often need to add less, and might want to taste as you go. 

5. Dill

A unique herb that loves the summer sun, dill has a similar pungent and aromatic flavour to that of caraway. The bright flavour pairs well with fatty-dishes, such as a butter sauce for a fish or in a cream-based dip. It’s perfect or those fierce summer days when you need to add a refreshing element to a more indulgent dinner.  

Dill can also be used for medicinal purposes, including a stomach-soothing tea to treat gas or digestive issues. Mash two teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes, and enjoy when you’re feeling tummy troubles. 

6. Mint

Mint comes in many varietals, but when it comes to your kitchen staple, spearmint is a top-notch option. The diverse herb can be used in everything from tabbouleh to fruit salads. You can also boil spearmint with sugar to create a refreshing simple syrup, ideal for sweetening your iced teas or mojitos. 

Spearmint is also a wonderful way to add flavour to water. If you have trouble getting your eight cups of H20, pluck off a few seeds of your spearmint plant and add to cold water. Keep in the fridge for a cool and refreshing pick-me-up when you’re feeling that summertime dehydration. 

7. Oregano

Meaning “mountain joy,” oregano is famous for its role in Italian and Mexican recipes, and awesome for cutting the fat in more cheesy dishes. If that weren’t enough, the herb is also  bursting with antioxidants, vitamin K, manganese, iron, and calcium, so it doesn’t hurt to find ways to slide more oregano into your diet.

Add oregano to your favourite summertime pizza recipe, sautéed mushrooms and onions, a homemade dressing, atop garlic bread, or in an Italian frittata. You can also make a riff on typical basil-based pesto by adding fresh oregano to a food processor alongside pistachios, garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pulse and use atop angel hair pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash. 

8. Rosemary

The resonant and aromatic flavour of rosemary makes it a delightful pairing to your summertime cuisine. Add flavour to pork, chicken, or veggies by laying rosemary branches across a charcoal grill, allowing the resinous scent to soak into your food. It also makes for flavourful marinades when cooking savoury meat dishes, or atop roasted fingerling potatoes for a comforting side.

For a summer evening snack, make your own rosemary oil by gently simmering a sprig or two in a good olive oil for about five minutes. Drizzle the oil atop stovetop popcorn, add salt, and shake the pot to combine. Eat alone, or enjoy cozied up with a glass of white wine, good friends, and your fave flick. Movie night never tasted so good. 

9. Tarragon

These anise-flavoured leaves age quickly, making them an ideal choice to keep fresh and around the house, as you won’t have to worry about it going bad in your fridge. We suggest opting for French tarragon, which has a more nuanced flavor than its Russian counterpart. (No offense, Russian tarragon.) 

Its strong flavour makes it an ideal pairing for mellow and comforting dishes, such as potato salads or butter sauces. And tarragon and poultry are practically culinary soulmates. Try the herb in any chicken dish you can imagine—chicken pot pie, chicken salad, chicken soup, and even duck and turkey dishes. If meat isn’t your thing, tarragon also works beautifully with egg dishes and seafood, especially bivalves such as scallops and clams.

10. Thyme

Thyme is comforting and subtle, with a lingering flavour that adds depth to your favourite summertime recipes. Its versatility makes it ideal for a variety of savoury dishes, and it works well paired with other French and Mediterranean herbs.

Try with your favourite grilled, roasted, or sautéed veggies, such as summer squash, carrots, or zucchini. Ratatouille, an Italian staple comprised of onions, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, is a perfect platform for thyme. Cook a large batch and save to top pasta, omelets, or enjoy all it own.

What are your favourite summertime herbs?