WHAT ARE HERBS?
Herbs are plants used for culinary, cosmetic, medicinal,
decorative or fragrance-emitting purposes. Different parts of
various herbs are used such as the leaves, seeds, stems and roots.
WHERE ARE HERBS PRODUCED IN BC?
Herbs are grown commercially in the Lower Mainland and on
HOW MANY HERBS DO WE PRODUCE?
Herbs are a minor contributor to agriculture in BC. Fresh market
herbs, however, are considered valuable crops when compared to other
vegetable commodities. It is estimated that the fresh herb market is
valued in excess of $1 million.
HOW ARE HERBS PRODUCED?
Some herbs are perennials and thus grow year after year. Other
herbs are annuals or biennials and have to be started from seed each
year. Herb growers prepare the ground for the herbs and must ensure
the plants receive the conditions they prefer to grow well. Many
herbs, such as thyme, sage, oregano and marjoram, are native to
Mediterranean areas and prefer dry, hot conditions. Other herbs,
such as mint, prefer lots of moisture. Leaves are harvested just
before the plant blooms because that is when they are the most
aromatic. Seeds are harvested when they mature.
WHAT DOES A HERB LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
such as basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme, are used as condiments in
cooking. Herbs such as mint, lemon balm or anise hyssop can be
steeped and used as teas. The leaves of many herbs is the part that
is used. These can be bought fresh or dried. With some herbs, such
as dill, coriander and anise, the seeds are dried and used as
flavouring. Most of the commercial herb production in BC is for
fresh market purposes. Potted plants are also significant
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HERBS LEAVE THE FARM?
of the commercial herb production in BC is for the fresh market but
some herbs are dried. This can be done in a commercial dehydrator
which uses a forced air furnace and a ventilation system to rapidly
dry herbs. Drying can also be done in darkened open air sheds with
ample air circulation.
Marketing is often done, in part, by the grower as there is no
established distribution system. Restaurants, specialty or health
food stores, or mail-order can be contacted as possible sales
outlets. There are also some brokers or traders who will wholesale
herbs and herbal products to stores or restaurants.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE HERB PRODUCER FACE?
Most of the concerns with the fresh market crop are market
oriented. Year-round supply, consistent quality and limited shelf
life are the major concerns. Some growers are assessing greenhouse
production for year-round supply; some import product for
distribution under their own label. Consistent quality is maintained
on some farms by strict quality control in the field and the
packinghouse. Shelf life is being extended with innovative packaging
(e.g. plastic tubs, inert gases in the containers).
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING HERBS?
- Herb growers
- Spice miller
- Restaurant owners
- Store clerks
Interesting Fact About Herbs:
Herbs have a rich history dating to ancient civilizations. In
earlier times, herbs were the main source of medicines. Even
today, many of our drugs and medicines are derived from herbal
- Contacts and other resources:
- BC Herb Growers
- BCMAL -
Specialty Crop Information
- InfoBasket: Your Portal to Agri-Food Information on the Internet
- Saskatchewan Herb and