Fresh herbs win hands down over dried when it comes to amazing flavour. Here are my favourites:

PARSLEY adds depth and zing to salads, soups, stews, sauces and is an essential ingredient of your basic stock (along with thyme). I like the curly leaf variety, others prefer the flat leaf Italian type. I do find flat leaf is better for making dishes in which parsley is more of an ingredient than a garnish – for instance, wholegrain salads like tabbouleh. A tip for speeding germination: pour boiling water on the seeds after you’ve sown then in a row, before you lightly rake over the soil to cover. Parsley is a biennial, which means it lives for two years, flowering and producing seed the second year. 

CHIVES are another kitchen staple, adding a light oniony flavour to salads, soups and other dishes. Plant around roses to help deter aphids and disease. Start from seed or purchase in a pot. Once established, the clumps of small bulbs can be divided. The flowers are attractive and edible but clip them off before they go to seed or you will be overrun by chives. 

BASIL brings out the best in tomatoes and is used for pesto. Grow from seed or purchase a pot or several. It’s an annual and has to be started anew every year. It needs full sun. Genovese is the classic variety, and the best. When it starts producing flowers, pinch them out. This will keep the plant growing fresh leaves. 

DILL, also an annual, also a sun-lover, is unparalleled with fish, in potato salad and pickles. Grow from seed.

MINT adds flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes, and is a must for summer drinks. Mint sauce complements lamb. Add a sprig of mint when you cook fresh peas. This a perennial, so it will survive winter outside, but it is invasive, so keep under control in a large pot sunk into the ground. 

CILANTRO (also known as CORIANDER) gives an authentic flavour to a wide variety of Asian, Middle Eastern and South American dishes. Cilantro and lime are good partners. An annual, its seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days. This is a herb that should be repeat sown - in small quantities every few weeks because it is very prone to bolting (flowering and going to seed and not producing any more leaves). 

OREGANO is an important herb in Mediterranean cooking. Grow in full sun. Greek oregano is the variety to look for. 

SAGE is great in pork and poultry dishes. It’s a perennial that comes into its own in winter when it’s a question of digging around in the snow to pluck off a few pungent grey leaves.

ROSEMARY is a perennial that won’t survive outside. You need just one plant, in the ground for the summer, then in fall pot it and keep in a sunny window all winter. Spike meat roasts with rosemary.

THYME is basic for enriching soups and stews. You only need one plant; it is a perennial. It also comes in many varieties, but the basic culinary type will be the most useful.