You're already growing sweet basil, dill, and mint. Your parsley and cilantro are always abundant in your garden. Yet, for some strange reason, you want to kick it up a notch. You've mastered the basics and you want to grow some herbs with exotic flavor and international intrigue. I've chosen six herbs that will rock your world. These are temperate-climate herbs that are suitable to grow in North America, although transplanting times and growing seasons vary by region. Are you ready to grow an even more fragrant garden? Are you excited to introduce new flavors to your cooking? Let's get started.
Chocolate mint: There is chocolate, and there is chocolate mint. If you have ever been fortunate enough to smell a patch of chocolate mint, you know the distinction that I am making. Chocolate mint smells like a peppermint patty, or an after dinner chocolate mint wafer. It smells like mint with an edge of chocolate. The smell is more chocolatey than the taste. However, chocolate mint is an excellent addition to iced tea, mixed drinks, and desserts. An aggressive perennial that spreads quickly, it is best to plant chocolate mint in a container so that it does not invade your yard and garden.
Lemon basil: The smell of lemon basil is unbelievable. Both citrusy and with the spicy edge of basil, it is one of the most fragrant herbs that you could plant in your garden. This pungent plant with small green leaves prefers well-drained, rich soil. One whiff of lemon basil growing in the sun of your garden, and you'll be hooked on growing it for life.
Epazote: Epazote is hard to find in American supermarkets, but it is a dominant herb in Mexican cooking. Though it is delicious, it is an invasive plant that should be planted in containers away from other plants. It grows with minimal maintenance in hot, dry climates. At once peppery and minty, epazote will add a delicious and authentically Mexican flavor to beans and stews. Medicinally, it is said to reduce flatulence.
Hyssop: Hyssop grows wild in the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is a common flavor in Middle Eastern cooking. It's an attractive-looking plant with purple blooms and fragrant leaves that is known to attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It can tolerate dry conditions, preferring well-drained soils. An excellent dip for homemade bread is olive oil with hyssop, sesame seeds, and sea salt.
Caraway: The caraway seed is technically a fruit. It is a tasty and fragrant addition to homemade rye breads and homemade sauerkraut. It is hardy in zones 5 and up. While caraway seeds are easy to come by in the supermarket herb and spice aisle, you'll enjoy it fresh even more. If you are part of the growing movement of people who are fermenting sauerkraut at home, kick up your kraut with fresh caraway from your garden.
Chervil: Chervil is often compared to parsley, but it is more delicate than parsely and has a slight anise-like flavor. Not often found in American supermarkets, chervil is common in French cooking. If you want to introduce the subtle and authentic flavor of chervil to your cooking, growing this annual is easy. Chervil likes sun and warm weather; it can be damaged by frost. Although it is an annual, it will actually reseed itself. I have personally planted chervil thickly in a square foot garden bed in the rocky soil of western Colorado, and it grew profusely.
Herbs are so fragrant and fun to grow in pots. Enjoy the diversity of fragrant herbs this spring and summer in your garden.