Learn to identify, grow, harvest and cook with a wide range of culinary herbs. A course for the home gardener or commercial grower.

Course Code: VHT242
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to grow and cook with herbs

A course for any cook whether professional, amateur or for the family.

  • Learn to identify different types of culinary herbs, as well as grow, and use them
  • Start studying any time, from anywhere, and at your own pace
  • Explore opportunities to use this knowledge to develop business or career opportunities. 


Herbs are essentially plants which are grown because of the beneficial characteristics of the oils or other chemical components to be found in their tissues.
Culinary herbs are edible, and used in food preparation to add to or enhance the flavour of food. When used fresh, straight from the garden, culinary herbs have a special quality that cannot be replicated in dried or day old herbs purchased in a shop. This is why many people choose to grow their culinary herbs where they can be picked and used immediately.





Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature of Culinary Herbs
    • Herbs and Horticulture
    • Accurately Identifying Herbs
    • Plant Classification, binomial system
    • Finding the group a herb fits into -Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons, Plant Families
    • Pronouncing Plant Name
    • Resources - information contacts (ie. nurseries, seed, clubs etc.
  2. Culture
    • Overview
    • Soils
    • pH Requirements
    • Improving soild
    • Potting mixes
    • Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers
    • Water Management for Herbs
    • Diagnosing Plant Health Problems
    • Pests, Disease and Environmental Problems
    • Planting, staking, and establishing herb plants, etc.
  3. Growing Herbs
    • Propagation of herbs
    • Seed Propagation
    • Cutting Propagation
    • Potting Media
    • Division, Separation, Layering
    • Rejuvenation of Perennials
    • Designing a Culinary Herb Garden
    • Creating a Kitchen Garden
    • Planning a Fragrant Herb Garden
    • Companion Planting in Your Design
  4. Cooking With Herbs
    • General Guidelines for Using Herbs in Cooking
    • Harvesting Herbs; roots, leaves, seed, fruits
    • Handling after Harvest
    • Drying Herbs
    • Hints for Using a Range of Selected Herbs in Cooking
    • Herbs For Garnish
    • Herbal Teas: What & how to use different herbs
    • Herb Vinegars, oils, butters, cheeses, salts, sugars, honey,, etc
    • Herb Confectionery, Cakes, etc.
    • Selected Herb Recipes
    • Using Herbs with Fruit
  5. Most Commonly Grown Varieties
    • Review of many Common Culinary herbs, including their culture and culinary use
    • Over 20 herbs reviewed in detail, incl. Alliums
    • Many additional herbs summarized
  6. Other Important Groups
    • Lamiaceae (mint family) herbs
    • Lemon Scented Herbs and their uses
    • Hyssop
    • Mints
    • Bergamot
    • The Basils
    • Origanum species
    • Rosemary
    • Salvias
    • Thymes
    • Lavenders
  7. The Lesser Grown Varieties
    • Agastache
    • Agrimony
    • Visnaga
    • Apium
    • Arctium lappa
    • Bundium
    • Capparis; and many more
    • Using Australian Native Plants as Flavourings
  8. Special Assignment
    • A PBL Project on a selected genus of culinary herbs


  • Describe the plant naming system, the major family groups that herbs fall into and the resources available to the culinary herb grower.
  • Describe how to manage the cultural requirements of culinary herbs.
  • Describe the various methods of propagation, both sexual and asexual, the treatments generally used for seed storage and the handling of cutting material
    • Select equipment and materials required for propagation.
  • Explain the way in which herbs are used in cooking and which herbs best suit various dishes.
  • Discuss the most common herb varieties used in cooking
  • Compare a range of culinary herbs in a single plant family
  • Discuss a range of lesser grown culinary herb varieties
  • Explain the uses of a range of culinary herbs within a specific group of herb plants.

What You Will Do

  • Obtain soil from two different areas (two different types of soils). Using the tests in the accompanying notes.... ◦name each of these soils ◦test the drainage of each soil....take notes).
  • Obtain (or make up) a potting mix which you consider appropriate for growing culinary herbs in.
  • Obtain one or two pots and plant a small herb garden for growing indoors. You may use more than one type of herb per pot if you wish.
  • Place the plant(s) inside & grow them there for a month or two, taking notice of how they perform. (Place a small sample of your potting mix in a plastic bag, to refer to in future if need be).
  • Lots more practical and research tasks like these.

Tips for Growing Your Culinary Herbs

Herbs are very versatile plants and can be grown almost anywhere. A separate herb garden is not necessary, as herbs can be grown in such places as among other plants, as a border around a garden bed, in pots or tubs, in hanging baskets, indoors as pot plants, and even in hydroponics.

Herbs can be grown readily either from seeds or cuttings, or else purchased in pots. They can be readily purchased in 10 centimetre or larger pots, however most herbs grow so fast that tube stock is generally the most economical means of buying them. Larger pots are usually better for the slower-growing woody herbs such as rosemary, lavender, and bay trees.
Most herbs are rapid growers and as such need very fertile conditions if they are to perform at their best. They will respond very well to regular feeding during the growing season, though fertilisers will be wasted if applied when they are dormant. The addition of organic matter in the form of compost and mulch, before and after planting will prove very beneficial. Water is also of great importance to herbs, especially to those grown in pots. In hot weather the soil needs to be kept moist, but not wet. At the height of the growing season, herbs may require watering every day. In general most herbs are relatively pest and disease free, although some plants are prone to specific pests or diseases.



Choosing Herbs
Aside from adding additional roughage to the diet, herbs are primarily used for their essential oils. These give herbs their pungent aroma, characteristic taste and medicinal qualities. Therefore the best herbs to choose are those that are most fragrant when crushed or rubbed, and at the peak of health. Leaves should not be dried out, even though you may intend to dry them later. The stems should also look healthy, without any sign of wilt, discolouration or rot, since these can be signs that the herbs are not fresh or healthy.
Chopping Herbs
Slice with a razor-sharp knife to avoid bruising the leaves. A blunt knife will bruise the herb, leading to faster discolouration.
Culinary Uses of Herbs
Culinary herbs make two important contributions to food preparation:
1. They replace salt and sugar as food flavourings. Salt and sugar are widely known to be consumed by most people in quantities which are detrimental to health, so any move to replace them with an increased use of herbs is a positively healthy move.
2. Herbs greatly expand the variety of tastes which can be experienced. They have been used since man’s earliest times to add to the flavour of food. With the tremendous variety of herbs now readily available, today’s cook can use them to provide interest in the form of colour and texture as well as flavour.
When cooking; herbs can be used freshly picked, dried or frozen.

The treatment of herbs before cooking can, however, influence their flavour and appearance:

    Some Hints on Cooking with Herbs


      Culinary Uses are Extensive
      Herbs have been used for all sorts of culinary purposes; and many that most people have not even considered. Take lavender, as an example.   Dried or fresh lavender flowers can be using in cooking and baking, e.g. to flavour ice cream, biscuits and cakes. Only a few lavenders are suitable for culinary use, e.g. L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’.
      Many types of lavender, can contain levels of camphor, which is toxic to humans. Those with higher levels of camphor are less pleasant to smell or taste; and more likely to cause a toxic reaction. Any oils containing over 11% camphor are quite toxic and are probably best avoided altogether.


      Sweet Things
      Toffees, coconut ice and other home-made confections can be flavoured by placing a layer of chopped herbs on the bottom of the container into which the candy mixture is poured. Lavender can also be used to flavour drinks (e.g. lemonade, cordial, liqueurs), ice cream, gelati, chocolate mousse and a wide range of other desserts. Use pure lavender oil conservatively and avoid anything with discernible camphor levels. Excessive use of even high quality lavender oil can be overpowering.


      Lavender Lemonade
      Fresh or dried lavender flowers can be used in the following recipe to make lavender lemonade:
        1. Place sugar in a medium sized pan and add 2 ½ cups of water. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
        2. Add the lavender flowers, remove from the heat and let stand for at least 20 minutes.
        3. Strain and discard the lavender flowers. Pour the infusion into a jug. Add the lemon juice and an additional 2 ½ cups of water. Stir well.
        Makes 6 cups.


        Lavender Ice Cream
        The following recipe uses fresh lavender flowers to make lavender ice cream, however dried lavender flowers can also be used:
          • 8 egg yolks (at room temperature)
          • 1 cup crème fraîche
          1. Place the sugar and lavender in a food processor and process until the lavender is powdered.
          2. Combine the lavender sugar with milk in a large mixing bowl until the sugar dissolves.
          3. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and crème fraîche and mix well.
          4. Add the lavender sugar-milk mixture to the egg-crème fraîche mixture and mix well.
          5. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream or sorbet machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

          Lavender Cream
          In the following recipe lavender flowers are cooked in a custard cream. Serve topped with berries.
            1. Place a bowl on top of a pan with very hot water, to create a double boiler. Combine the cream, milk, honey, sugar, salt and lavender in the bowl. Cook over the hot water for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
            2. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl. Pour approximately ½ cup of the lavender cream mixture over the egg yolks and mix well.
            3. Pour the yolk and cream mixture into the double boiler and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens.
            4. Remove from the heat. Strain the lavender cream and discard the lavender.
            5. Cool the lavender cream to room temperature, then chill.
            6. Take the lavender cream out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Fold the stiffly whipped cream into the lavender cream. Serve immediately.
            Serves 8.


            Lavender Marmalade
            Dried lavender flowers can be used in marmalade, as in the following recipe:
              1. Cut the lemon and oranges into quarters, remove and reserve the seeds. Thinly slice the oranges and the lemon and place into a large pot. Pour 12 cups of water over the sliced fruit and let it soften overnight.
              2. Place the seeds in a cup and add water to only just cover the seeds. Let the seeds soak overnight to form a pectin gel.
              3. The next day, sieve the gel from the soaking seeds and add to the lemon and oranges. Bring to the boil, then lower the temperature and simmer strongly for one hour.
              4. Add sugar and lavender flowers. Cook at a rapid boil for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring.
              5. Lower to a gentle boil and continue cooking for up to 30 minutes.
              6. Meanwhile sterilise marmalade jars in an oven at 95°C for 20 minutes. Sterilise lids in boiling water.
              7. Check the consistency of the marmalade by placing half a teaspoon of marmalade on a cold saucer. The marmalade should thicken and crinkle when tipped.
              8. Remove the marmalade from the heat, let it stand for 5 minutes and pour into the hot jars. Screw on the lids.
              Makes 12 jars (250ml each).


              Enrol and start exploring the wonders of culinary herbs today. 

              This course will expand the culinary skills and knowledge of cooks, chefs and when cooking for the family

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              Member of the International Herb Association since 1988

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              Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

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              ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

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              Recognised since 1999 by IARC

              Course Contributors

              The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

              Dr. Lynette Morgan (Crops)

              Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs.

              Bob James (Horticulturist)

              Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
              He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

              Maggi Brown

              Maggi is the classic UK "plantswoman". She can identify thousands of plants, and maintains her own homes and gardens in the Cotswolds (England), and near Beziers (in Southern France). Maggi is regarded as a leading organics expert across the UK, having w

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