Have you cooked with Fines Herbes before? Fortunately these fresh culinary herbs are easy (and rewarding) to grow in your garden.
Introduction to Fines Herbes
Fines Herbes is a traditional French blend of fresh herbs used to subtly season mild dishes. A mix of Fines Herbes contains equal amounts of finely-chopped Parsley, Chives, Tarragon, and Chervil. These delicate herbs are added to dishes such as omelettes, fish, poultry, and garden salads.
A Fines Herbes Garden
Growing your own Fines Herbes garden is a fantastic way to supply your kitchen with fresh culinary herbs. Traditional Fines Herbes are used when fresh, as the blend tends to lose the character of its flavor when dried. The freshness of the herbs is so important that Fines Herbes are generally added to cooked dishes right at the end of cooking to preserve their freshness in the finished dish.
Fines Herbes is a mix of minced Parsley, Chives, Tarragon, and Chervil. While fresh Parsley is ubiquitous in supermarkets, fresh Chives and Tarragon can be more difficult to find. Fresh Chervil can be nearly impossible to find for purchase due to the incredibly delicate foliage. Starting your own Fines Herbes garden helps ensure the freshest and most reliable supply for your kitchen. Fortunately, these culinary herbs are all easy to grow!
Individual Herb Plants in the Fines Herbes Blend
The traditional French Fines Herbes seasoning blend contains Parsley, Chives, Tarragon, and Chervil. Let’s look at each of these herbal plants separately:
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb in the umbellifer family (Apiaceae). Most gardeners grow parsley as an annual, planting seeds or new seedling plants each spring. Flat-leaf parsley is generally considered to have a stronger flavor and may be used in preference to the more mild curly parsley, depending on the culinary application.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are perennial herbs in the onion subfamily (Allioideae, within Amaryllidaceae – Amaryllis Family). The plants grow in small tufts and produce hollow, grass-like foliage with a subtle onion-like taste. Chives are also grown for their flowers, which are available in shades of pink, purple, and white.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a perennial herb in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Most culinary applications, including Fines Herbes, call specifically for French Tarragon. True French Tarragon is propagated by root division, as it rarely flowers and is sterile. For this reason, a new Fines Herbes garden requires finding a French Tarragon starter plant rather than growing your own Tarragon from seed.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a biennial herb in the umbellifer family (Apiaceae). Like its relative Parsley, Chervil is generally grown as a hardy annual, with new seeds planted each spring. Sometimes called French Parsley, Chervil looks a bit like carrot greens and has a flavor reminiscent of (yet unique from) Tarragon.
Starting Your Fines Herbes Garden
Choose high-quality seeds and starter plants for your new Fines Herbes garden. Parsley, Chives, and Chervil can be grown from seeds or can be purchased at the nursery as small seedling plants. French Tarragon, on the other hand, must be purchased as a baby plant to get true culinary French Tarragon.
All four Fines Herbes are relatively adaptable and easy to grow. Use a quality organic potting mix for a container herb garden or natural loamy garden soil for an in-ground garden. The herbs can be grown in full sun to partial shade, and generally prefer moist, free-draining soil. Your Fines Herbes garden may benefit from afternoon shade in hotter climates.
Parsley and Chives are the shortest herbs in the mix, and tend to grow about 8 to 12 inches tall. Chervil generally grows 12 to 16 inches tall. Tarragon can grow to be several feet tall, and is can be quite a bit taller than the others when left to its own devices. For this reason, some gardeners like to put Tarragon at the back of the garden as a lovely green backdrop for the shorter plants. Similarly, Chives often get a spot right up front so their striking spring flowers are in full view.
Chives and Tarragon are perennial in many climates and generally will grow back up from their roots every year. Parsley and chervil are biennial, living only 2 years per plant. Since the flavor is considered better in year 1 before the plant goes to seed, it is common to plant fresh seeds annually for Parsley and Chervil. These herbs may, however, self-seed and create an enduring patch over the years.
Recipe for Fines Herbes
- 1 Tbsp fresh Parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh Chives
- 1 Tbsp fresh Tarragon
- 1 Tbsp fresh Chervil
1. Collect fresh herbs from your Fines Herbes garden.
2. Gently rinse the fresh herbs and allow excess moisture to dry.
3. Finely chop each of the four fresh herbs.
4. Combine the finely-chopped herbs in a small bowl (in equal amounts).
5. Add the herb mixture to your dish near the end of cooking.
Photos by Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Dufordis a gardening blogger and video creator based in British Columbia, Canada. She is continuing the task of creating a productive landscape around her childhood home for her own children to enjoy and learn from. Mary Jane writes about her experiences on her gardening blog, Home for the Harvest. She also vlogs about her garden and about natural living on her YouTube channel. Connect with Mary Jane on PinterestandTwitter, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.