Nothing beats fresh herbs when you are cooking. We get so used to using the dried variety that we forget the sheer power of using them when they've just been cut from a living plant. Get out your green fingers and prepare to upgrade your meals!
Very basically the herbs you can grow at home come in two forms. The truly herbaceous plants grow all year round and can grow into bushes. The annual herbs can go to seed and need to be treated differently.
All year round herbs
Rosemary is a glorious herb when fresh. It chops easily, melts into a meal and really adds sparkle. The dried variety is woody and nasty in comparison. Fortunately rosemary will grow all year round quite healthily so you will always have some ready. The problem with rosemary is that it will take over. Always plant it in a very large pot and then bury that pot, this will stop the roots spreading and taking everything over. Do the same for mint that can spread like wildfire.
Bay, curry leaf, thyme and oregano all grow well but slowly. Take the time to cultivate them before pruning and they will reward you with gorgeous all year round flavour. Be wary though that thyme leafs renew and older leafs that get little light can become woody.
The important thing with annuals is to ensure that you stagger the planting of them so that there is always another batch ready to go. Green houses can prolong the season for these but remember that many plants judge the time of year on day length rather than temperature so this won't always work.
Coriander will make every meal sing and can be used as a salad leaf too. This herb is amazing and you'll think it will never run out... until it does. Once the first flowers appear you are living on borrowed time but hopefully your next batch will be ready to use. Remember to dry and store the seeds to use as spices.
Tarragon is a little delicate but worth the effort. Generally it does well in a large pot. Basil is a different story. Slugs adore basil and will demolish even the largest of crops before you even realise they are there. Be mindful of this herb, protect it and ensure that no mollusc gets to it. Your patrols will be well worth it when you try fresh basil in soup, salads and pasta. Nothing will prepare you for the freshness that it brings.
Plant or seed
The cheapest option is to grow from seed but this does take a very long time, especially for the woodier plants. Supermarket potted herbs can grow great guns if properly looked after but the real winners are those from the garden centre. For the best results buy well established plants but even the straggliest runt of the litter can flourish at home in good soil!