Sunday, March 31, 2013

Exotic Herbs in the Garden

Happy Easter!  I am getting out the garden plans and making my plant lists while I have sometime off visiting the family.  As a result I started thinking about what I wanted and what I could get that was new.  that was when I remembered that a lecture attendee asked me at a recent program to list three herbs that most people have not tried in the garden which I would recommend growing.

I came up with this list: Lemon Verbena, Pineapple Sage and Garlic Chives.

Lemon verbena is my favorite herbs so I always recommend it, but pineapple sage is god for flower gardeners as well as herb enthusiasts.  And Garlic chives allows those who fear the strong flavor of garlic to enjoy its more gentle tastes.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
Perhaps no other herb can appease the true lemon lover like lemon verbena can This deciduous woody shrub to bushy, tender perennial grows 3 to 5 feet in cooler climates; 10 to 15 feet tall in frost- free regions of the South.
Growing conditions: Prefers rich and moderately moist, well-drained soil in full sun. The roots can be hardy down to 20 degrees if heavily mulched and grown in a protected area. Zone 8, so here in Illinois you need to  treat it as an annual or plant it in a container.
Culinary tips: Use fresh or dried leaves in teas and beverages; salads and fruit dishes; salad dressings and marinades; and baked goods and desserts. Lemon verbena brightens the flavor of fish and chicken


Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
This herbaceous subshrub grows from 3 to 5 feet tall and features brilliant green, slightly hairy pineapple scented leaves and red, trumpet-shaped flower spikes from summer until frost.
Growing conditions: Plants thrive in full sun and rich, well-drained soil, but appreciate some shade in hot summer areas. Pineapple sage prefers more moisture and nitrogen than most other species of sage. Zone 9, but can be grown a zone or two lower if you cut back the plant in late full and cover the soil with a thick layer of winter mulch. Or you can grow it like I do in a pot and bring it in each winter along with my Lemon Verbena.
Culinary tips: Use fresh or dried leaves with foods that are enhanced by the light tropical flavor of pineapple, such as fruit salads, jams and jellies-or to heighten the flavor of cheeses and desserts.


Garlic Chives (Alliun tuberosum)
This flat leafed member of the onion family blooms with white flowers in the fall. This hardy perennial plant will grow in expanding clumps or sprout from seed.
Growing Conditions: Can sprout in almost any soil from rocky to humus and prefers full sun. In colder climates, Zone 5 and above, the leaves will die back in winter and regrow in the spring.
Culinary Tips: Both the leaves and the flowers can be eaten.  Toss the flowers into salads or use them to craft and herbal vinegar.  Chop the leaves into stir-fry, over potatoes, or whisk into salad dressings.

So enjoy a few exotics in your garden this year and see what joy you can turn up!

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