A fennel flower

10 easy to grow herbs: Best herbs for cooking and bees

What do bees like to eat?

These 10 common herbs are among some of the best plants in providing bees with valuable nectar and pollen throughout the year.

They also happen to be some of the best herbs for cooking with. These popular herbs are easy to grow, saving you money on your shopping bill.

So sit back, relax and let us guide you on how to grow these bee-friendly plants that will make your food taste delicious.

We've even thrown in some great recipe tips for your fresh garden herbs. Yummy.

1. Wild marjoram plant

This aromatic herb produces pinkish-white drifts of nectar-rich flowers. Growing wild marjoram attracts bumblebees, honeybees, leafcutter and furrow bees.

Flowering season: Summer and early autumn.

Cooking with marjoram: Sprinkle on a home-made pizza. Add to tomato sauces for pasta. Combine with other herbs in a stuffing. Use to add flavour to beans, chickpeas and lentils in stews and salads.

Types of herbs: Look for Origanum vulgare, the marjoram that grows wild in the UK. Pot marjoram and sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) are also available.

2. Mint

Does mint attract bees? You bet. And it's easy to grow. Pop in a pot to prevent it invading other plants. Got a pond? Try growing water mint (Mentha aquatica) – bees and hoverflies love it.

Flowering season: Summer and early autumn.

Cooking with mint: Freshen up any dessert using a variety of mint flavours including strawberry, chocolate and ginger. Mint water ice is very easy to make and delicious on hot summer days.

Types of herbs: Try spearmint (Mentha spicata) for a traditional taste, peppermint (Mentha xpiperita), for a slightly stronger flavour, and apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) for something different.

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3. Fennel

Fennel's bright yellow flowerheads are rich in nectar and pollen – food for mining bees, yellow-faced bees, bumblebees and honeybees. The herb tastes of aniseed and also produces aromatic seeds. Fennel can really grow. Plant it in a sunny spot at the back of a border.

Flowering season: Mid to late summer.

Cooking with fennel: Parcel and bake a whole fish on a bed of feathery fennel fronds and slices of lemon. Or make your own coleslaw: chop bulb fennel, red cabbage, onions and carrots. Then sprinkle with homegrown fennel seeds and mix with garlic mayonnaise.

Types of herb: Foeniculum vulgare. Bronze-leaved varieties are edible too.

4. Borage

Bees love borage, aka ‘starflower’. Its shallow, bright blue blooms attract bees with short tongues, like the buff-tailed bumblebee. You can eat the flowers as well as the leaves – but leave some for the bees!

Flowering season: Spring, summer and early autumn

Cooking with borage: The beautiful blue flowers add ‘wow’ to summer dishes and cocktails. They have a sweet, honey-like taste. Borage leaves taste a bit like cucumber. Try them in salads or use as a garnish.

Types of herbs: Look for the annual Borago officinalis. It self-seeds, so you shouldn’t need to buy plants every year.

5. Chives

Chives are easy to grow in pots or a window box. Snip with scissors at the base of the plants to encourage more leaves to grow. The edible purple flowers feed bumblebees, honeybees, mason bees and leafcutter bees. Share with the bees and add colour to your salads.

Flowering season: Spring and summer.

Cooking with chives: Great with soft white cheeses. Try with goat’s cheese, tomatoes, salad leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle freshly snipped chives on an omelette. Or add to a potato salad for a delicious, mild oniony flavour.

Types of herbs: Allium schoenoprasum – and Allium tuberosum, which has a delicate garlic flavour.

6. Rosemary

Pluck fresh needles from this drought-tolerant herb all year round. Its flared blue-purple flowers attract mason bees, flower bees, bumblebees and honeybees. Short of space? Pot creeping rosemary in a sunny spot.

Flowering season: Starts in spring. Can continue throughout the year – even in winter.

Cooking with rosemary: Rosemary keeps its flavour well when cooked so it’s a perfect companion to slow-roasted dishes. It will easily liven up a tomato sauce for pasta too, along with anchovies.

Types of herbs: Look for Rosmarinus officinalis or creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis prostratus).

7. Sage

Leafcutter bees and long-tongued garden bumblebees love its purple spiked flowers. Edible sage plants are a world apart from the dried herb. Keep in a sheltered spot and you'll have fresh sage pretty much all year round.

Flowering season: Late spring, summer.

Cooking with sage: Sage is delicious in butternut squash risotto and makes a lovely garnish for this dish. Quickly fry whole sage leaves for a few seconds in a little olive oil until they turn crisp, and add as a finishing touch.

Types of herbs: Try common sage (Salvia officinalis) for cooking. There are ornamental (non-edible) varieties too.

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8. Hyssop

Hyssop thrives in sunshine and tolerates drought. Its strong-flavoured leaves taste like a cross between mint and sage. The deep flowers suit longer-tongued bees, including garden bumblebees and wool carder bees.

Flowering season: Summer and early autumn.

Cooking with hyssop: Hyssop is strong, so use sparingly. Young leaves go well with oily fish such as mackerel or sardines, with new potatoes and a salad of watercress and rocket.

Types of herbs: Hyssopus officinalis.

9. Lemon balm

The smell of the leaves crushed between your fingers is delicious. Easy to grow, and like mint, benefits from being in its own pot because it will spring up everywhere. Honeybees and bumblebees, particularly common carder bees, flock to the tiny creamy-white flowers.

Flowering season: Summer.

Cooking with lemon balm: Lemon balm complements fish. Use the leaves to make lemon balm pesto – whizz them together with pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of fresh chives.

Types of herbs: Melissa officinalis – named in honour of honey bees. Melissa means bee in Greek, which in turn comes from Meli (honey).

10. Thyme

Grow a herb ‘carpet’ – plant thyme in paving cracks and enjoy the aroma when you walk on it. It works just as well in a pot. Fantastic for honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees and leafcutter bees.

Flowering season: Summer.

Cooking with thyme: Delicious in a risotto with courgettes, lemon, garlic and parmesan. Or try something a little different – add fresh thyme leaves to Bramley apples, stew with a little sugar and use in a crumble.

Types of herbs: Thymus vulgaris (common thyme). "Thymus polytrichus subsp. britannicus" attracts lots of bumblebees. There are many varieties of thyme – some taste better than others.