These are the unusual herbs that you should be growing but you may have never have heard of before.
Herbs that are unusual can be ones that are often overlooked by traditional recipes or spa treatments. By taking common herbs and finding a more rare variety you can really extend the benefits of growing your own herbs.
- Curry Plant are amongst the most pungent smelling herbs you can grow. We love them and the scent on the breeze is really warming in the Summer months. Not to be confused with a curry leaf tree, as you will find that you cannot cook so easily with these leaves. The silver leaves of your curry plant will taste bitter and are ideal added to Mediterranean dishes as opposed to curries.
- Tree Onion Allium Cepa Proliferum grows their sets on the top of their stalks. So when they are ready the top sets become too heavy for the stalk to maintain and then topple over, allowing the new sets to take root and start the process all over again. They are winter hardy and will self propagate quite nicely, young plants can be easily mistaken for grass so a bit of caution come weeding time is needed.
- Borage Borago Officinalis is a complete hidden gem of a herb! We love borage as it gives great ground cover, an unusual feathery foliage and bright blue star like flowers. Bees and butterflies love the flowers and it refills every few minutes with nectar, so it will be full of pollinators all Summer long. Borage also benefits from having a long tap root, meaning that it can draw nitrogen and other beneficial minerals from below the normal surface layer for root growth. This makes borage a perfect green manure. Plant borage carefully as it is an annual that will happily self seed for each new growing season. Borage flowers are lovely in a summer salad or cocktail with a light cucumber like taste.
- Sweet Bergamot Monarda Didyma is easy to grow and loves loamy soil in full sunlight. It will produce gorgeous purple flowers in Summer and attract bees and pollinators to your garden. Sweet bergamot is unusual in that it can form part of a fully hardy border and is a perennial with a long flowering period. We love to make our own herbal teas so the leaves and flowers of sweet bergamot are very useful. It will grow in height to between 50cm and 1m and it will also clump to fill any space in a border.
- Hyssop Hyssopus Officinalis is a real favorite in our garden and it is a hardy perennial that will clump to fill many border spaces. It attracts bees and pollinators as it has a long flowering period and will provide late Summer food. Hyssop will grow to be around 80cm in height and as an evergreen it adds a permanence to your garden borders. The leaves can be used to make herbal tea or lovely subtle lavender flavor ice cubes for Summer cocktails. It is an unusual herb in that it is so easy to grow and keep alive. It really has no preference when it comes to sunshine hours and will thrive in cooler climates as easily as direct, harsh sunlight.
- Lemon Verbena Aloysia citrodora is from the verbena family and will grow happily in the UK and most zones in the US. It will need careful overwintering as it is a tender perennial and will benefit from being grown in pots. This will mean you can keep the roots frost free and move into a more sheltered spot before any heavy rainfalls. Lemon verbena will grow to around 3 foot in a pot and can be used in herbal teas and infusions. The aroma of lemon verbena make it one of the most unusual herbs as you do not need to brush past or disturb it to release the scent. It has the strongest citrus aroma of any herb we grow and we love how versatile it is. You can even use it in stews and casseroles as part of a bouquet garni to add an intensity of flavor.
- Tangerine Sage or Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans is exactly what you would think. A lovely strong taste and aroma of sage coupled with the unmistakable citrus kick of pineapple. We love to use this to perk up some sage and onion stuffing and find the flowers are really gorgeous and striking in the garden too. It is a perennial as long as you treat it with care over winter and bring it inside or into a greenhouse.
- Pineapple Mint Mentha suaveolens is a woolly mint and has some fantastic uses. Very easy to grow from plugs or plants and this plant will survive pretty much everything apart from heavy rain and rotten leaves clumping around the base. So make sure to protect your younger mint plants. However the properties of a mint plant can make it so successful in your garden that it becomes invasive. So even though this is an unusual herb in that it has woolly leaves it is also one with a distinct flavor profile. It has the initial kick of mint, followed by the citrus like pineapple flavor. This makes it a great herb to make an infusion for freezing as ice cubes in Summer drinks. It has a lot to offer with potential health benefits during cold and flu season as well and an herbal tea with a handful of leaves is very soothing.
- Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium is one of those herbs that will survive in so many conditions. You will find it growing wild around cracks in concrete or where other plants may not thrive. This does not mean that it is always happy to be transplanted but it is unusual in it’s ability to survive. Feverfew is used in traditional medicines for headaches and migraines and can be a really attractive plant to grow. From the daisy family it is often mistaken for chamomile, whereas it will grow to much taller plant. One other benefit of growing this unusual herb is its aroma. The strong pungent citrus scent of feverfew is akin to a natural citronella. This then in turn deters nasty bugs from the garden. Perfect to grow in pots and position close to an outdoor eating area. Good in borders too, but be aware that bees don’t like the scent either.
- Saffron Crocus Crocus sativus is an unusual herb to grow. By harvesting the three stigma each flower produces and drying them you have saffron. The number of these that you would need for a successful harvest is vast, however for home use it is quite achievable. They are naturalizing as well, meaning that buying a few dozen bulbs will eventually grow to fill an area. A solid investment as they are beautiful to look at as well as producing the worlds most expensive herb.
- Horseradish Armoracia rusticana is a lovely perennial plant which will naturalize a little too well if planted in the ground. It grows from thongs, which are tuber like roots. Buying these is another good investment as you can grow a lifetimes supply by harvesting half of the root stock each autumn. Homegrown horseradish is much more pungent than shop bought and you will have a lifetimes supply very quickly as a little goes a long way.
- Echinacea Echinacea purpurea are also known as coneflowers. We love ours and the bees find them great as well. Some varieties stand at around 1m high and others around 50cm. This means that you can fill a border with them very easily. Echinacea is a perennial that will clump and this is also very helpful in any border. Traditionally used in herbal medicines as a cure for coughs and colds. Echinacea extract is still popular to this day. It is an unusual herb to grow as a herb, rather more common to grow it as a perennial flower.
- Sorrel Rumex acetosa is a perennial herb that prefers partial sunlight to full and will reward you with pungent lemon flavor cross with spinach leaves. Perfect chopped up in Summer salads, or in stews as a last minute addition. We even pop some in with roast potatoes for the final ten minutes to create a crunchy texture. Sorrel is high in many different vitamins and minerals and should be considered for any garden where chickens may live. Ours go crazy for it and will even try to steal it from a tender age.
What About Some Unusual Spices To Grow In The UK
We intermix our spices and herbs to be honest. Make sure to grow them in mainly edible patches.
What Makes Herbs Unusual
We find that growing the same herbs each year can become a bit too safe. Even mixing up thyme with lemon thyme can really add interest to your cooking. The examples we have given above are often overlooked, but can be easily grown in the UK and most parts of the US. Some will need a little bit of care over winter, but in general there are lots of varieties to choose from. So get on to a good online nursery like Suttons or Sarah Raven for a much wider choice. Go completely wild with your choices!