Unusual Herbs to Grow

Expand your herb gardening repertoire with these oddball herbs.

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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Photo by Sara Cozolino

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy Kitazawa Seed Company

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of lovelygreens.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kitazawa Seed Company

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum)

Curry plant smells just like curry, although it's not used in cooking. (The curry used in flavoring Indian cuisine is made from a number of different herbs.) One curry plant will fill your house with its distinctive smell. This plant has soft, silver leaves and does best in full sun to partial shade. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Hardy in USDA Zones (8)9 to 11.

Toothache Plant (Spilanthes oleracea)

Toothache plant is aptly named because when you chew the leaves, your mouth goes numb. Valued for its peppery taste, the leaves can be harvested and used in small quantities in salads. What's even more intriguing about this plant is its oddly shaped flowers that resemble miniature eyeballs. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. It's typically grown as an annual.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

Stevia has leaves that are several times sweeter than sugar cane. The leaves can be dried and crushed into a powder and used in place of regular sugar; just don't overdo it. Plant size is 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. It prefers full sun and a moist, well-draining soil. Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue offers attractive lacy, blue-green foliage and yellow flowers, but this plant can cause dermatitis. Mature size is 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Plant it in full sun and a well-draining soil. Drought tolerant. Note: in some areas, this plant can be invasive. Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 11.

Red Perilla

Perilla, also called Shiso, is an herb from the mint family. Red perilla has an anise-like flavor, while green perilla tastes more like cinnamon. In Japan, green perilla is used in sushi, soups, and tempura, or added to rice. In Korea, a larger variety is marinated and used as a wrap for barbecue or eaten raw in salads. Plant the seeds in spring and allow about 70 days to harvest.

Dill

Dill is a popular herb in the kitchen, flavoring everything from pickles to fish. One of the benefits of growing dill is that both the leaves and seeds of dill weed plants are edible.The best way how to grow dill is directly from seeds.

Chinese Mustard

Oriental mustard greens, also called Chinese mustard, are very popular in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking and pickling. They grow best in temperate, cool climates and can be grown as fall and winter crops. Mustard has a mild flavor that will increase in pungency in maturity.

Fennel

There are two types of fennel: 'Florence' and the herb. Florence fennel is grown for its aniseed-flavored root. The herb is grown to add tang to salads. The plant looks great, too—it has wispy foliage that can grow to 5-feet tall, depending on the variety. Though it is grown as an annual in cooler northern climate, fennel self-seeds easily, so warm climates can expect to see the plants pop up in their gardens the following growing season.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage tastes like cucumber, and eating borage is said to give you courage. It does best in full sun. Plant size reaches 2 to 3 feet tall; the flowers are blue and star-shaped. Note: This plant reseeds. Typically grown as an annual.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

Lovage is a flavorful herbaceous perennial herb. To the untrained eye, lovage looks a lot like flat-leaf parsley, but the flavor is nearly identical to that of celery. It also has yellow, umbellate flowers. It grows 4 feet tall and about half as wide. Plant it in full sun to partial shade and a moist, well-draining soil. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.

Winter Savory (Satureja montana)

Winter savory resembles thyme in appearance, yet it tastes like a cross between sage and rosemary. It produces small pink flowers. Winter savory grows 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. Winter savory does well in either full sun or partial shade.

Lemongrass plant

Widely used in Asian and Latin American cuisine, lemongrass offers a light, citrusy flavor that tastes like lemon but without any bitter or acidic aftertaste. It's perfect for teas and fish.

Thai Basil

Thai basil is a compact plant with narrow, deeply veined, anise-scented leaves that are widely used in Thai cooking. Smaller than sweet basil, squeeze it into your containers if you're looking for something different.

Chinese Flowering Leek

Chinese flowering leek is a perennial used for its flower buds, stems, and long, flattened leaves. It's used by Asian chefs to add a subtle garlic and onion flavor to foods. The flowers usually take two years to appear, and need low temperatures in the winter and long growing days in the summer. Use this herb in stir fry dishes or salads.

Tarragon

Tarragon is a perennial herb cultivated for its aromatic, licorice flavored leaves. Tarragon, as a seasoning, is most often used in salads, seasoning mixes and vinegars. It has a strong flavor, with French tarragon being the most highly regarded.