6 Unusual Garden Herbs
Think outside the seed packet with these unique herb options.
No other group of plants offers such a diversity of uses as herbs. Whether for cooking, healing or landscaping, herbs have been grown and cultivated all over the world as far back as African tribal times and beyond.
Perhaps what’s most unique about these plants is the amazing number of unusual varieties that are so exotic they seem rare to even the most seasoned expert.
Among the culinary types, here are few exotics to consider:
- ‘Imperial Star’ Globe Artichoke, Cynara scolymys: This edible—both a vegetable and an herb—produces purple rosette buds in mid-summer. Like all artichokes, it’s best eaten by peeling back the cooked leaves from around the bud and scraping the fleshy material off the outer skin. Use it as a steamed appetizer or add it to pizzas, pasta and sandwiches.
Growing: Give it full to part sun. Grows to 3 feet. Keep mulched during summer. Treat as an annual.
- Curry Plant, Helichryseum italicum: Though it smells like curry powder, this plant has nothing to do with the curry spice, nor is it used in curry dishes. Instead, the sage-like aroma of its young shoots and leaves makes for a tasty ingredient in Mediterranean fish, meat and vegetable dishes.
Growing: Prefers full sun and dry, rocky soil. A woody evergreen perennial, it produces clusters of yellow flowers in mid summer.
- ‘Siam Queen’ Basil, Ocimum basilicum: This licorice-flavored herb is best used in Asian dishes, such as stir fries, because the taste is less peppery and more subtle than the basils common to Italian cuisine. The anise aroma released when rubbing the leaves between your fingers isn’t this herb’s only feature; it also produces beautiful purple blooms.
Growing: Give this annual full sun. Grows to 18 inches. Pinch back stems for a fuller plant.
- Vietnamese Coriander, Persicaria odorata: A great substitute for cilantro, this culinary herb offers a spicy, peppery taste to dishes, especially pork and stir fries. It’s also good in sauces and salsa.
Growing: Prefers full sun. With green pointed leaves it can grow to 3 feet and is a prolific spreader; luckily it can be potted and grown indoors. This herb loves moist conditions.
- Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus: 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. Perfect for teas and fish.
Growing: This herbaceous plant grows well indoors or out, given full to partial sun. Its natural chemicals also deter mosquitoes. The plant grows quickly and can be easily divided for more plants.
- ‘Mojito Mint', Mentha x villosa: No doubt you’ve heard of the mojito? Well, here’s the mint that made it famous. Yet, this herb isn’t just for cocktails. It makes a great seasoning for lamb and other meats as well as confections because it’s mild, and not pungent and sugary sweet like other mints.
Growing: Give this herb full to partial sun and, knowing how mints spread, grow it indoors to enjoy its refreshing taste all the time.