It’s easy to buy them as little pot plants, and just plonk on the kitchen windowsill for snipping – but when it comes to herbs, there’s nothing quite like the joy of growing your own from seed, and it doesn’t take much money or even much space, to create a productive little herb garden.

Human beings have been making use of herbs for thousands of years, not just for adding flavour to foods, but also for making medicines and disinfectants and creating perfumes and essences.  In fact, in some cultures herb plants were so highly regarded that they were used as a form of currency, in exchange for other valuable products.

Teachings about the near-magical properties of certain herbs go back as far as to  Ancient Egypt, and learned writings from the famous Greek doctor Hippocrates, said to be the founder of modern medicine.

Other keen users of herbs were the Ancient Chinese and Ancient Indians, and throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, monks frequently grew and used herbs in their monastery gardens to use as medicines.

Explorers during the 15th and 16th centuries brought back native varieties from the Americas to Europe, where healers such as Nicholas Culpeper published a book that empowered ordinary people with recipes for making their own healing remedies from herbs, rather than paying expensive doctor fees.

His 1653 guidebook, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal has become the standard text for anyone interested in the subject, has been re-printed over and over again, and remains a classic to this day.

Growing your own herbs is a bonus if you enjoy cooking, as being able to cut them as needed ensures maximum flavour and nutritional value.  Among our most popular culinary herbs are sage, parsley, chives, rosemary, mint and thyme, which all come from Ancient Greece and Rome; aloe, caraway and cardamom from India; garlic, coriander and dill from Mesapotamia (now Iraq);  and caraway and liquorice from China.

For more info and inspiration check out the website of The Herb Society, 

the educational charity that aims to encourage the use of herbs for cooking, health and healing.