Many cookbooks emphasize the advantages of using fresh spices and herbs in recipes, and many cooks honor that advice by maintaining gardens of the herbs they use most often. Many herbs can be grown quite easily in a home garden, containers on a patio or deck, or even in pots indoors, and it’s not unusual to see an herb garden of a dozen or so varieties. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage are popular in many Mediterranean dishes and can be planted together in a single large container so the cook can easily snip sprigs of all four. These four herbs will sprawl in their container and produce a visually appealing presentation, and frequent snipping of sprigs will ensure their lively growth.
Another favorite herb is basil, which pairs well with tomato-based dishes and salads. The leaves can be used whole, especially when cooking tomato sauces, but some cooks recommend chopping larger leaves. Chives, a member of the onion family, are generally chopped coarsely and used as garnishes on hot foods and soups and in salads; the purple flowertops are also edible. Other popular herbs that can easily be grown in a home garden are dill, tarragon, and cilantro.