African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)

20181215_085059awerfI 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!

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Cretan Oregano (Oreganum onites)

20180517_160108One of the characteristic seasonings of many Greek dishes is oregano.  Not just any oregano, mind you, but one of the richly flavored varieties that grow wild in the rugged mountainous areas of Greece.

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Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum)

20190528_172210No 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.

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Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

20190530_190306Any 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!

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Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)

20180413_180142ijklmGarden 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.

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Laurus nobilis (Grecian Laurel or Sweet Bay)

20180802_105840You 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.

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Purple Basil (Ocimum basilicum var.)

20171027_084830Purple 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.

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Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’)

20171027_084310As 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.

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Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

20181126_195709Salvias (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.

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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

20171002_174445There 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.

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