As the herald of summer across the country, Memorial Day is traditionally the time when many of us dust off our barbecues and indulge in the joy of outdoor cooking. For those who live in the north, it’s also the earliest date when it’s safe to plant tender annuals in the garden, including the flavorful herbs that perfectly complement a summer barbecue.

Growing Your BBQ Herbs

Having herbs growing nearby can inspire you to experiment with their flavors on your grill. Take rosemary, for instance, a hardy herb that can be grown in a pot in the north. In areas where rosemary thrives (around zone 6b or 7, depending on the variety), keeping a plant within reach can add a new depth to your cooking. The woody stems of rosemary can be cleverly used as skewers for your grilled meat.

Selecting the Right Rosemary

Opt for upright rosemary with thick, glossy leaves, like Rosemarinus Officinalis ‘Gorizia.’ It’s best to avoid the prostrate rosemary varieties, as their thin stems can become messy during cooking.

While other upright rosemary plants with shorter, less leathery leaves are excellent for seasoning, they may not hold up well under the weight of meat on the barbecue or as skewers. You can use these types of rosemary in aluminum foil packets filled with vegetables. These packets can be steamed right on the grill next to your meats.

The Versatility of Thyme

Thyme is another excellent barbecue herb. It’s a hardy perennial in most parts of the country, above zone 4. Like rosemary, look for thyme plants that have upright stems that won’t droop and collect dirt. Both Mothers of Thyme and French Thyme (Thymus Vulgare varieties) are upright plants that are easy to harvest and cook with. Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) is another fantastic variety for grilling.

These types of thyme can add a fantastic flavor to vegetable packets or be placed inside pockets of the meat. Using lemon thyme with chicken and pork is a great idea. Make a slit in the meat before grilling, and the flavor will permeate the meat as it cooks.

Exploring Other Herbs

There are other herbs you may consider for your grilling adventures, such as French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus) or, in the Deep South, Mexican tarragon (Tagetes Lucinda), mints, and oregano.

So, as you stoke the fires of your barbecue this summer, consider planting some of these herbs close to your grill. Adding herbs to your grilled meats will infuse them with mouth-watering flavors, transforming your summer cookouts into memorable gastronomic experiences. Here’s to a flavorful summer ahead!

A Closer Look at Tarragon

French tarragon, scientifically known as Artemesia dracunculus, is an herb known for its subtly sweet, licorice-like flavor. It’s often used in traditional French cooking and goes particularly well with chicken, fish, and eggs. However, it can also add a unique flavor to grilled meats.

For those residing in the Deep South, Mexican tarragon, or Tagetes Lucinda, is a fitting substitute. It’s hardier in hot climates and can better tolerate the intense summer heat. Its anise-like flavor is reminiscent of French tarragon and it adds a unique touch to your grilled creations.

Mint: A Refreshing Addition

Mint is another herb to consider for your barbecue seasoning arsenal. Known for its refreshing taste, mint is an exceptional accompaniment to grilled lamb. In addition to its culinary uses, mint is an easy-to-grow perennial that adds a lovely aroma to your garden, making it an all-around good choice.

The Classic Oregano

Last, but certainly not least, is oregano. A classic in Italian and Greek cuisine, oregano pairs excellently with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil — making it perfect for a variety of marinades. Its strong, earthy flavor holds up well under the high heat of the grill.

Making the Most of Your Grilled Dishes

Having a selection of fresh herbs near your grill allows you to experiment with different flavors, transforming your ordinary barbecue into a gourmet cookout. So, this summer, plant your herbs close to your grill. As you fire up the barbecue, throw in some herbs to bring out the great flavors in your meats. Enjoy the wonderful blend of flavors and make your summer grilling adventures the best yet. Happy barbecuing!