I have a lot of plants in my garden that are “bee magnets”, but few will be carpeted in the buzzy little critters like my African Blue Basil. And then there’s pesto!
The rise in popularity of and interest in growing heirloom fruits and veggies has extended to the herb garden. However, there are some that remain well-kept secrets that really shouldn’t be.
No self-respecting Greek will return home from Greece without a large stash of dried Greek Oregano in their luggage. Try explaining that one to a customs officer.
Any plant that can multitask is a plant I want in my garden. Sweet Fennel lives up to this expectation very well as most of the plant is edible, as well as attractive. Oh yeah, pollinators like bees and butterflies love it, too!
Garden Sage is an all-in-one plant offering both looks as well as functionality. Spires of tubular, lavender colored flowers sit above a sea of grey-green and fragrant leaves in masse each spring. And of course, those leaves become a tasty addition for your kitchen spice rack.
You know, a recipe typically calls for 1 to 2 bay leaves. Then you do another dish, and another. Those leaves start to add up. They aren’t cheap. Growing your own is.
The scent of lavender is incomparable. Good thing that lavenders tend to be profuse bloomers!
Purple pesto, anyone? Deep purple color, sprays of pink flowers, amazing basil taste. It’s kind of nice when nature wraps up all the best features into a single plant. This basil makes a stunning addition to any salad and turned my basil jelly a lovely garnet hue.
As the name implies, Cinnamon Basil has a slight cinnamon-y taste to it. I wouldn’t start making cinnamon rolls with it, but there are certain savory dishes that it is a perfect compliment to. Many Greek and Middle Eastern meat-based recipes actually use cinnamon for flavor, and so Cinnamon Basil would also be an excellent addition. Give your pesto a bit of a twist by using this basil along with your Sweet Basil. I’ve even used it in my Basil Jelly recipe. Throw it in salads, or season vegetables with it.
Salvias (sages) are a wide-ranging group of plants native to a variety of habitats around the world. What they seem to have in common are brightly colored, tubular shaped flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies just love. This particular Sage is no exception, and has the added bonus of sweet smelling leaves that give off a pineapple scent (hence the name). The leaves and flowers are both edible, and are usually used fresh.
There are a few herbs that are routinely featured in Greek cuisine, and rosemary is one of them. Often paired with garlic (of course!), it adds a distinct flavor to stews and meats. I prefer to use it fresh, but if you have home-dried rosemary it works just as well. I have not been as impressed with commercial dried rosemary, so if you have the space to grow your own it is well worth the effort.