Herbs - 2010 Ohio Vegetable Production Guide

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Herbs are various kinds of non-woody plants whose fresh or dried parts are used to season foods, provide fragrances, supply natural dyes, or make industrial or pharmaceutical products. Herbs are different from spices. Herbs grow in temperate regions and spices come from tropical regions. Generally herbs are fresh or dried leaves while spices are seeds, roots, fruits, flowers, and bark. Herbs usually have a mild flavor while spices tend to have a stronger, pungent flavor. However, the terms herb and spice are artificial categories. This section focuses on selected fresh culinary herbs that are important to vegetable growers.

Fresh herbs certainly make excellent cash crops. “There is definitely a place for small-scale commercial herb growers; in fact, most buyers were looking for more qualified organic growers who could produce and deliver a quality product” (Oliver, 1997). However, growers should be very cautious before beginning herb production. Markets and buyers need to be established before any seeds are purchased.

Some of the most popular culinary herbs include basil, chives, dill, French tarragon, mints, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme according to a marketing survey conducted with members of the Culinary Federation of Greater Cincinnati Area. However, growers should do their own marketing study to determine which herbs are suited for their areas.

Most herbs will grow well under the same sunlight, fertility, soil and growing conditions, and cultural techniques similar to many vegetable crops grown in Ohio. Growers should pay special attention to drainage and moisture requirements
of certain herbs, since many are very sensitive to soil moisture conditions.

Sage, rosemary, and thyme require a well drained, slightly moist soil, whereas parsley, chervil, and mint grow best on soils which retain moisture. The use of plastic mulches, trickle irrigation, and raised beds may provide the necessary
moisture and drainage requirements for the herb crop. The following is a more detailed description of some of the popular herbs.

Robert J. Precheur
Mark Bennett
Brad Bergefurd
Luis Cañas
David Francis
Gary Gao
Casey Hoy
Jim Jasinski
Mark Koenig
Matt Kleinhenz
Hal Kneen
Ohio State University Extension