Sunny days are here to stay. So, what goes on the plate? Here’s a rundown of the best herbs for adding delicious flavor to your favorite summer dishes.
While most herbs pair perfectly all year long, summer food has a certain distinction that lends itself to a particular set of aromatic plants. Today, we’re taking a look at five herbs you can grow at home or pick up fresh from the local farmer’s market. Grab your Made In gear, and let’s get growing!
Our Top 5 Herbs for Summer Food
- Flavor Profile: floral, clove-like, warm, spicy
- Growing Notes: warm weather, moist soil, indoor/outdoor
- Perfect Pairings: pesto, tomato sauce, pizza, caprese
Although there are different varieties—some spicier and aromatic, and others sweeter and milder—basil is a wonderful summertime herb. Its subtly sweet yet spicy composition is the perfect pick-me-up for all kinds of Mediterranean dishes as well as sauces like pesto or marinara.
Basil is also surprisingly versatile, so sprinkle it in a summery squash soup (for chilly nights) or use it as a base ingredient in a cold, refreshing salad with mozzarella, sliced tomato and other Italian essentials.
Suggested Recipe: Roasted Corn Tomato Salad w/ Lemon-Basil Yogurt Dressing from Making Thyme for Health
- Flavor Profile: warm, anise-like, slightly bitter
- Growing Notes: outside, full sun, moist but drained soil
- Perfect Pairings: creamy dips, seafood, salads, vegetables
Dill weed is known for its long, wiry leaves that actually look more like feathers. Unlike the dried variety, fresh dill also packs a pungent scent—the perfect choice for wowing a crowd at your next outdoor barbecue.
While dill is synonymous with Greek and other Mediterranean cooking (see: Tzatziki sauce, the stuff of gods!), it’s also a magnificent herb for other dishes deriving from the summer farmer’s market. From refreshing cucumber salad to glazed baby carrots, the possibilities are endless.
Suggested Recipe: Garbanzo Summer Salad w/ Creamy Dill Dressing from Vanilla and Bean
- Flavor Profile: sweet, cooling, sharp, eucalyptus-like
- Growing Notes: inside/outside, moist soil, slight shade
- Perfect Pairings: fruit salads, iced teas, mojitos
You’ve probably cracked a piece of peppermint or spearmint gum before, so you get the drift. But really, it’s not the same! If you pluck a mint leaf straight from the plant, smell its distinct scent and give it a chew, you’re in for a really refreshing treat. While mint is associated with flavoring in candy, ice cream—even toothpaste (!), it’s not often picked for the purpose of serving lunch or dinner.
During the summer, mint can play a pivotal role in cooling down recipes. Use it for an invigorating burst of flavor in fruit salads, BBQ lamb kebobs or fresh-brewed iced tea.
Suggested Recipe: Spicy Chicken Legs and Cauliflower Couscous with Cherries, Pistachios and Mint from Delish
- Flavor Profile: spicy, musty, like a strong cilantro
- Growing Notes: indoors (very warm conditions), tropical locales best
- Perfect Pairings: Mexican tortillas, BBQ meats, chutneys
We had to throw a curveball at you! While cilantro’s peak season ends when summer begins, culantro—its spicier cousin—remains ripe for the picking! Grown mostly in the West Indies and other tropical locales, culantro can also be grown stateside during the summer.
For your next patio-side taco night, try adding fresh culantro to chicken, beef and other fixings.
Suggested Recipe: Culantro and Mango Salsa from Food52
- Flavor Profile: woodsy, pungent, earthy, lemony
- Growing Notes: plenty of sunlight, early spring through summer
- Perfect Pairings: meat, fish, poultry, veggies
Parsley, sage, rosemary and…
Yes, you guessed it. Thyme! Just like Simon and Garfunkel, we saved the best for last. Thyme is a unique herb that adds wonderful depth to a dish, exuding subtlety and pungency at the same time. Versatile enough to use on meats, chicken, fish and vegetables, thyme is also a go-to herb for chefs looking to infuse easy flavor into their summery dishes.
Although a sprinkle of chopped thyme goes great with any hot dish, let’s switch things up for the season. Give this refreshing lemonade drink a try.
Suggested Recipe: Summer Thyme Lemonade from Imbibe Magazine
Happy herbal harvesting from your Made In buddies!