Add a unique twist to your next braai with this selection of unusual and aromatic herbs
This hardy, perennial evergreen grows up to 3m high and can be shaped to create a shady corner in a herb garden. In summer it bears showy white flowers followed by bluish black berries resembling blueberries.
Plant it in full sun in well-drained soil; it doesn’t like to be over watered. It takes well to trimming and shaping which is best done in early spring.
Use myrtle branches as flavourful skewers (soak them in water first). Use the leaves (as you would bay leaves) to flavour roasted and grilled meats and vegetables. The leaves have a spicy citrus, almost bitter, flavour. They are also good for flavouring vinegar. Crush the fresh berries and cook with honey, orange and lemon juice for a delicious sauce for grilled fish. The berries can be dried and ground, adding a peppery bite to spice rubs, roasted vegetables, herbal salts and more.
LIQUORICE SWEET FLAG
A hardy perennial, liquorice sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Licorice’) has a strong liquorice flavour when crushed. It’s used in both Japanese and Thai cooking.
It likes a moist environment and grows in dappled shade or full sun. It does well on the edge of a pond, but can also grow in other areas, as long as it has constant moisture. It’s a low-growing grass, reaching up to 30cm high. The rhizomes of two- to three-year-old plants can be divided to form new plants.
The leaves can be used to flavour rice, grains and couscous for summer salads. Add whole leaves to the cooking water and remove them after cooking. Wrap rhizomes from two-year-old plants in foil and cook them over a fire. Soak them first for an hour or so to remove bitterness.
LEMON WINTER SAVORY
This hardy perennial with its strong lemon flavour is a delightful addition to the herb garden. It’s a spreading evergreen, creating a moisture-preserving and insect-repelling groundcover.
It likes full sun and well-drained soil. In summer it produces pale pink flowers which bees love. Trim winter savory in spring to encourage new growth.
Like other savorys it pairs particularly well with both dried and fresh beans. It adds a delicious flavour to grilled fish and chops. Add it towards the end of cooking to retain its lemon flavour. It keeps its flavour well when dried.
This is an unusual variety of thyme with spicy, orange-scented, grey-green leaves.
It retains its strong flavour well when dried. In summer it bears delicate, pale pinkish-white flowers.
Like all thymes, it does well in full sun and well-drained, light soil. It’s hardy, unfussy and can be grown in containers. It benefits from being trimmed after flowering and should be divided every three years.
This savoury herb is strong so use it sparingly. It pairs well with vegetables and meat, particularly pork and lamb. Blend it with sea salt, parsley, dried myrtle berries and lemon savory for a delicious citrus rub for fish.
Part of the mint family, this delicious liquorice-scented plant bears spikes of violet flowers in summer, attracting bees and butterflies to the garden.
It likes moist soil and full sun to semi-shade. It will die back during winter in areas with frost but springs back up as soon as the weather warms up. It will grow well in a large container.
This is a great herb for flavouring fresh summery desserts, especially fruit salads. Use the flowers in salads or freeze them as decorative (and tasty) ice cubes. The leaves are delicious with a whole fish wrapped in foil and baked.