Less Common Perennial or Self Seeding Herbs that Grow Well in the Comox Valley
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…does everyone have these in their gardens? They are such wonderful herbs to have at the ready for cooking or just for their beauty and, as long as they are in an area with the right growing conditions, they take very little care to do well in our climate (Rosemary does need frost protection). Lavender, oregano, mint, and chives are also great staples that grow well here.
Listed below are a few unusual herbs that may be of interest to folks looking for some new plants with nice culinary properties to try out:
Chervil: Chervil is most commonly propagated by seed (Westcoast Seeds sells seed). It is a delicate parsley-like plant that tastes like a cross between tarragon and parsley. It will self seed freely so be careful to pick before it flowers if you don’t want it to spread (or plant where you want it to regrow—it will do so freely!).
Cilantro: Cilantro can be readily found in the garden centres but, unfortunately, is short lived once the hot weather hits. Plant it in a spot where it gets spring sun and, as the season moves along, shade as surrounding veggies grow taller and it will last longer. If you let it go to seed annually you will likely have lots of cilantro for years to come. It can be grown under a cloche for a fall/winter crop.
Garlic Chives: These are a wonderful addition to a perennial herb or flower garden and will grow in light shade. They have beautiful white flowers that are also edible. Garlic chives produce flat leaves which have a garlic flavor.
Lemon Balm: With a beautiful lemony scent, lemon balm is a perennial that can be grown from seed (it sounds difficult, however) but it is readily available as a seedling from most garden centres. Leaves are used fresh for their lemony taste and aroma. It is said to deter insects that attack the cabbage family crops and it will attract honeybees so will also aid with pollination. Freeze leaves in ice cubes for a special cocktail treat.
Lemon Verbena: Many love this herb for its use as a garnish or to make lemon flavored tea. This perennial plant is frost tender at 0C so must be brought inside during freezing weather (it can be grown in a container). Plants are purchased or started from a stem cutting.
Lovage: This perennial plant can grow up to six feet tall with a 32” spread. It likes sun and well-drained soil and can be started from seed, root division or purchased as a seedling. This herb’s flavor is similar to that of parsley and celery and all parts of the plant are useable—leaves, roots, stems, and seeds (which are a common ingredient in flavoured oils and vinegars). Lovage can be grown in the ground or in a container.
Salad Burnet: This easy growing herb is a perennial with a cucumber-like flavour and grows in a loose rosette. It appears early in the season and holds up well in heat—watch that it doesn’t get out of control as it can spread by rhizomes and also self seed. Young seedlings are easy to control. Full sun or light shade. Start seed indoors or direct seed later in the season.
Sorrel: Sorrel is a perennial leafy green grown for its tart lemony flavour. It does best in the cool season, usually bolting once the weather heats up. Start from seed, cuttings, root division or transplant in either spring or fall. It will need dividing every three to four years.
Tarragon: Arguably the best flavoured tarragon is French tarragon, which must be purchased from a garden store (the flowers are sterile so it can’t be grown from seed). The plant is perennial and it has a peppery, sweet, licorice-like flavour. Full sun is fine as long as it doesn’t get intense heat, otherwise provide some dappled or early morning sun only.
Winter Savory: Winter savory is an evergreen perennial that has a peppery flavour and can provide a harvest year-round. It can be grown from seed or propagated via cuttings or root division. The plant will grow to be a foot tall and wide and makes an excellent border plant. Plant in full sun in well drained soil. Use in salads, dried bean dishes and stuffings.
Such good value we get for our efforts when we plant perennials or self seeders. And if they also enhance our kitchen endeavours and provide beauty in the garden, what’s not to love!