EARLY summer is a fantastic time for herbs. My small herb patch includes a vigorous lemon balm, lovage, rosemary, three chive plants, sage, lavender, and a fennel that seems a bit scared of its neighbour, a rather wild chocolate mint.

I’ve already dried one bunch of lemon balm ready to crumble into a jar for use as a tea during the winter months, and I’m thinking about drying some sage next.

The message to include a more diverse range of foods in our diets has never been stronger. Adding different types of herbs to meals is a simple and easy way to improve diversity and enjoy a host of powerful plant nutrients too.

Chive flowers are loved by bees and are edible for humans too. The flavour of chives pairs well with egg or cheese: try adding the leaves to an omelette and the flowers to a side salad. As part of the allium family, chives are a source of quercetin, a flavonoid that works alongside vitamin C to ease symptoms of hayfever. All the allium family are a source of sulphur compounds which are linked to healthy detoxification, and a lower risk of certain cancers.

Lemon balm is one of my favourite herbs. Its gentle refreshing flavour makes it ideal to use as a tea, or to flavour plain cold water. Feeling anxious? Pick and chew a couple of leaves straight from the plant: lemon balm has a soothing and calming effect on the nervous system.

Like other members of the mint family, lemon balm grows back quickly after a midsummer pruning. My chocolate mint is spreading rapidly but gets picked regularly to be used in salads and teas. Chewing a leaf or two is a quick way to ease trapped wind thanks to its anti-spasmodic properties. Don’t do this if you suffer from heartburn or reflux though, as mint can worsen these conditions.

Rosemary has a wealth of active compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant effects. Preliminary animal studies are investigating blood-sugar balancing effects too, with the potential for it to be used to help Type 2 Diabetes.

Basil, parsley, nasturtium, thyme – the list goes on. See how you can liven up your summer with these delicious, health-full herbs.

Sally Duffin is a registered nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at nutritioninyork.co.uk or join the Facebook group Nutrition in York.