Today’s blog topic should inspire you to add some unusual plants to your herb and general garden which I am sure you will make great use of as natural medicines as well as well as to create some culinary dishes and drinks which will wow even the most seasoned diner.

Here is a list of six herbs which I would recommend adding to your garden which are lesser known but absolutely incredible:

Lessertia(previously Sutherlandia) frutescens – Cancer bush:

This indigenous herb is an attractive small wooded shrublet growing about 0,5-1m high and is not only used as a herb but is also a popular general garden subject because of its very attractive bright flowers and unusual seed pods. The leaves of this plant have a silvery appearance, the flowers are bright orange-to red pea like flowers and the pod is a bladder like, inflated pod. It is known as the cancer bush for obvious reasons as people say it can cure and treat cancers. This is yet to be proven fully but if definitely has many medicinal uses, one including being used as an immune booster in treatment of AIDS. The leaves are bitter so please don’t think that using it as a medicine is going to be a pleasant experience but it will be an effective one. One cup of leaves steeped in a litre of water makes a really good wash for wounds. A weak infusion (or tea) made of 2 leaves I cup of boiling water is very useful for many medicinal uses. These include fever, influenza, rheumatism, bladder problems and stomach ailments. Leaves, flowers and pods can be added to a bath to bring down fever and ease the aches of flues.

Stevia rebaudiana – Sugarleaf / candyleaf:

This is an exotic small seasonal (tender perennial often dies down) plant which grows about 30-60cm high. This plant produces small white flowers but these are usually trimmed in order to improve the taste of the leaves. This is a commercially important plant as the leaves are used to manufacture sweetener products known as Stevia. The chemical compounds which produce its sweetness are said to be 200-300 times sweeter than those of sugar but are diabetic and diet friendly. The leaves of this plant can be harvested, dried, ground into powder and then be used in teas, foods etc for sweetness. It is said to not really flavour bitter tasting foods and drinks so tends to not work so well in coffee for example. This herb is also used topically to treat skin burns, wounds and athletes foot. The plant prefers warm, moist and sunny conditions but a sandy soil.

Persicaria odorata – Vietnamese coriander:

This groundcover growing about 30cm high and with an indefinite width is mainly used as a culinary herb but does have some medicinal uses. This herb prefers a well-drained, composted soil, and a sunny spot. The leaves are lovely, glossy and green with an unusual brown-reddish pattern in each. The leaves can be used fresh or dried in food and is mainly used for Asian and Vietnamese cooking. The taste is described as a lovely coriander taste with a citrus note and a hot, peppery aftertaste. Unlike normal coriander, this herb can withstand cooking a little better and doesn’t need to be added right at the end of cooking. This is a great herb to add to salads, eggs, curries, stir fries, soups, pastas, meat dishes, fish, seafood, poultry and pork. Medicinally this herb is used crushed to stop bleeding of minor wounds and as a tea to aid and improve digestion.

Aloysia citrodora – Lemon verbena:

Lemon verbena is a large woody shrub growing up to about 2m high max. White sprays of flowers are produced late spring to early summer. This shrub likes a sunny (aids flavour and essential oil content) spot but must be grown in a very well-drained soil which has been composted. Aloysia does well when pruned back once in a while. The leaves have an extreme lemon scent and flavour and are therefore used for many drinks for example juices, ice teas, cocktails etc as well as culinary purposes. When using, mince until fine (food processor) as the leaves are very leathery and tough when leaf is being eaten. Used for sorbets, ice creams, puddings, flavoured sugar (for cookies), salad dressings, marinades etc. Medicinally a lemon verbena tea is used for its calming and sedative action as well as being affective in aiding digestion as well as acidity problems. Also used to treat depression, as well as feverish colds.

Levisticum officinale – Lovage:

This Mediterranean herb looks almost identical to celery and has a similar taste but is meatier tasting making it a great herb for vegetarians to make use of. Great for soups, stews and stocks. Young leaves can be chopped up and used in salads. Use sparingly. Medicinally it is used to help digestion, aids slimming as it reduces water retention and is also a salt substitute. It is one of the few herbs which can grow in some shade and can grow about 2m high. This herb is great for growing nearby many veggies as it a plant tonic and aids growth. This herb should not be used if you are pregnant or have any kidney problems. All other parts of the plant besides leaves are also used for culinary and medicinal uses. Lovage prefers growing in a rich well drained soil.

Salvia elegans – Pineapple sage:

As per the plants name, the leaves and bright red tubular flowers of this plant have a pineapple taste and scent that is absolutely gorgeous. This herb has many medicinal uses. It is said to have anti-depressant and anxiety properties and is said to stimulate the liver, aid digestion and relieve heartburn. A tea can be used as a mouthwash for sore throats, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers and gum disease. The flowers are used in fruit salads, fruit or wine cocktails and herbal teas. It goes very well with citrus and pineapple. Lovely pineapple sage syrup can be made which is great with pancakes, waffles, fruit salads and ice cream. It is also useful in cooking fatty meats like pork. Pineapple sage can be used dry or fresh but is sweeter dry. This plant is a large shrub, which prefers full sun and a well-drained soil and will grow about 2m high.

In conclusion try your hand at growing and using these amazing and unusual herbs. I am sure you will be pleased with the medicinal and culinary results that are produced.

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