Unusual herbs or rare herbs aren’t always talked about but many have amazing properties that improve your health, wellbeing and your food.
Herbs are the most critical part of both the botany and culinary world. These short and delicate stems are the best source of antioxidants and other health-promoting benefits.
The natural herbs are diverse in nature, offering the best aromas and flavors for different purposes. It is enclosed with several medicinal properties for treating both chronic and acute conditions.
Their healing powers have been cherished for long, and their importance is critical even in today’s time. Here’s a guide on some of the rarer or unusual herbs to grow in your herb garden:
Unusual Herbs from Around the World
When it comes to unique herbs around the world, here are some unusual herb to grow:
Buddha’s hand has a lumpy appearance that resembles a knobbly lemon with fingers. It smells absolutely heavenly, and it’s commonly used as an offering at the altar. As for its culinary applications, you can use the Buddha’s hand in salads, candies, jams, or beverages. Alternatively, you can infuse it in cocktails or zesting. Thanks to its lemony flavor, it’s also a perfect addition to perfumes.
The flower does exactly as per its name. Due to the presence of spilanthol, Electric Daisy causes an electric or tingling sensation on chewing the flower buds. It’s also called the toothache plant, as the sensation can be felt on both gums and teeth.
Its numbing potential has made it a popular option for handling oral pain. Additionally, it’s included in the avante-garde cuisines too.
Also known as English lavender, Hidcote lavender is a popular plant variety known for its deep purple flowers and strong fragrance. It’s compact with dense gray-green leaves. It’s often used for culinary purposes, aromatherapy, and as a decorative plant. Additionally, it is a staple in the lavender oil, and it’s also called health’s jack of all trades.
Berggarten sage is a broad-leaved sage variety with a milder flavor than common sage. The evergreen perennial is used in culinary dishes, especially those requiring longer cooking times. The herb is strongly aromatic with a unique and pungent taste. It comes with gray-green leaves that are round-shaped and have both ornamental and culinary properties.
Tricolor sage is prized for its variegated leaves with shades of green, purple, and white. It’s mainly used as an ornamental herb due to its striking appearance. The herb is used in both British and American cooking, especially as an accompaniment to turkeys and chicken during festivals.
Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum)
Blue tansy, which is popular for its striking blue color essential oil, is known for showing anti-inflammatory and skin-calming benefits. It has shown promising effects on skin conditions like acne, eczema, and skin damage due to sun exposure. The complex, sweet, and floral aroma is likely to calm nerves and maintain a serene atmosphere at home.
Chocolate mint is a culinary herb that has a brown/purple leaf with a chocolate fragrance. It can be chopped up and used in different ice creams, desserts, and beverages. It also makes delicious mint tea to soothe your mind.
Kaffir lime is an aromatic herb that makes a great addition to different foods like curries, soups, and also stir-fry veggies. They are commonly present in Southeast Asian cuisines, especially Thai dishes like Tom Yum soups and coconut curry.
Their leaves are hourglass in shape and are double-lobed, which means the leaves of the plant grow on both sides of the stems, mirroring each other. The leaf looks shiny on the top and pale on the back.
French tarragon is a culinary herb with a distinct anise-like flavor. It’s used in French cuisine, particularly in sauces like béarnaise, and is known for its delicate leaves.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It’s believed to promote stress relief, vitality, and overall well-being.
Milk thistle is used for its potential liver-supporting properties. Its seeds contain compounds that are believed to have antioxidant effects.
Tribulus terrestris is a plant believed to have various health benefits, including supporting male reproductive health and energy levels.
Ginkgo Biloba (Ginkgo biloba)
Ginkgo biloba is a well-known herbal supplement thought to support cognitive function and improve blood circulation. Its unique fan-shaped leaves are distinctive.
Fenugreek is both a culinary herb and a medicinal plant. It’s used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and is believed to have various health benefits.
Calendula, also known as marigold, is used in skincare products for its soothing properties. It’s often applied topically to promote skin health.
Valerian is known for its calming and relaxing effects. It’s used as a natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety.
Mugwort is used in traditional medicine and rituals. It’s known for its potential to induce vivid dreams and aid in digestion.
Epazote is used in Mexican cuisine for its distinct flavor and ability to reduce gas in bean dishes. It’s a large and leafy aromatic herb packed with organic compounds and can promote healthy digestion/weight loss.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb believed to enhance resilience to stress and improve cognitive function.
The passionflower is a climbing vine with exotic flowers and curled purple petals. It’s used for its calming effects and potential to alleviate anxiety and sleep disorders.
Damiana is believed to have aphrodisiac and mood-enhancing effects. It’s a wild shrub used traditionally for managing symptoms of conditions like diabetes and anxiety. The plant has yellow flowers and fragrant leaves.
Mullein is known for its soothing properties and is often used in herbal teas to support respiratory health. It’s a medicinal plant that can be found in meadows and roadside areas.
Hyssop has been used for its potential respiratory and digestive benefits. It’s also mentioned in historical texts for its symbolism. The herb is filled with antioxidants that can help fight harmful substances and free radicals within the human body.
Perilla leaves are commonly used in Asian cuisine (especially Korean) for their unique flavor and potential health benefits. It’s an annual plant with antioxidant, anti-allergic, and anti-anxiety potential.
Black turmeric is a lesser-known relative of the common yellow turmeric and is used in traditional medicine. It can help with several diseases, including stomach issues, toothaches, rashes, and osteoarthritis.
Thyme is a culinary herb with aromatic leaves used in various cuisines for flavoring dishes. It’s also a popular herb that has been used in Europe for treating dry coughs and bronchitis. It can be identified by its purple flowers and linear to elliptic paired leaves.
Guduchi is an Ayurvedic herb believed to support the immune system and overall well-being. It’s a herbaceous plant with typical greenish-yellow flowers, fleshy stems, and coiled branches.
Nettle leaf is used for its potential diuretic effects and source of nutrients. It’s a plant that’s a rich source of antioxidants, calcium, and other minerals. All this can help with diseases like osteoporosis and kidney conditions.
Unconventional Uses of Unusual Herbs
Unusual herbs can used for different purposes:
Chefs and home cooks have been using unusual herbs in cuisines to boost the taste of the dish. The aroma and flavors of these herbs can certainly transform the dish for good. For example, as we mentioned earlier, Kaffir lime has been commonly used in Thai curries for its citrusy taste. It works really well with other unusual herbs like lemongrass for culinary uses. Its leaves can also be added to salads for a refreshing taste and crunch.
Different unusual herbs are being used nowadays for aromatherapy and wellness. Due to their incredible fragrance, people are seeing some impressive therapeutic effects on their health. Herbs have the potential to stimulate relaxation and mood enhancement while keeping stress and tension at bay.
Due to its healing properties, many herbs are used as a critical component in traditional medicine and rituals. In fact, some of these also have historical and cultural significance for many years.
For example, Buddha’s hand herb, which resembles a hand praying, has been offered to the Buddhist temples. They are also displayed by Chinese people at homes/temples for good luck. The herb is considered ideal for bringing happiness and good fortune to people’s lives.
Cultivating and Growing Unusual Herbs
To cultivate and grow any unusual herb, start by choosing the plant variety that you want to grow. It’s recommended to do your research and verify whether the chosen herb meets the suitability of the local climate or not. If it does not, you can look for an alternative.
Additionally, you must source the seeds/plants of the unusual herb from a specialized nursery. Check for the reviews of nursery and see whether they provide high-quality seeds or not. If you cannot find seeds/plants in the nursery, check for online websites for the same.
After choosing the plant variety, it’s time to check the growing conditions. A healthy herb is grown as per the ideal soil type, sunlight, and humidity levels. Usually, these parameters vary as per the herb you have chosen. However, drainage is an important factor, and you should maintain it perfectly. Note that the herbs do not prefer wet feet, so keep the water optimal. Also, provide at least 6 hours of sun to the herbs daily.
It’s important to follow the right processing techniques for the herbs, or you may not get the desired outcome after their cultivation. So, do your research as per the herb you are growing and follow it as needed.
Preserving and Storing Unusual Herbs
Drying and Preserving Techniques
Herbs can be dried and preserved through multiple techniques, as mentioned below:
Food dehydrator: adding washed herbs to dehydrator tray and dry at 95 to 115 F for 1 to 4 hours
Microwave: placing herbs in a single towel and then cover it with a second paper towel for microwaving till it gets dried
Oven-drying: removing leaves and spreading them in the baking pan for drying
Indoor air-drying: drying herbs by it in a well-ventilated area
Airtight container storage: Air dry the herbs and store them in an airtight container
Freezing: Spread herbs in a tray and put them in a freezer till they get frozen, then transfer them to an airtight container.
Creating Infusions and Extracts from Unusual Herbs
To create infusions through your herbs, choose high-quality and fresh herbs. Clean and chop the herb leaves so they release oil, and pour boiling water on the same. You can also make cold infusions by seeping the herbs overnight and then straining them for use.
To make extracts, select an alcohol with 40-50% alcoholic content. Chop the herb and pour alcohol on the same. Keep a herb-to-alcohol ratio of 1:2 for fresh herbs. Store the extract in a container for 4-6 weeks in a dry and cool place. Don’t forget to shake the container every day. After the said time, strain the liquid and store it for use.
Herb infusions and extracts can be used for different purposes like:
Food: flavoring agents, coloring agents and preservatives
Wellness: nutritional boost, digestive boost, and therapeutic effect
Skincare: toning, UV protection, natural healing, hydration and skin healing
Besides their interesting outlook, unusual herbs have the potential to add novelty and excitement to culinary and wellness experiences so this means not only can it enhance the taste of your food but keeps you healthy and happy.
If you want to explore the uniqueness of these less common herbs, plant them in your home today but before that, make sure to learn about their cultivation, application, and culinary benefits to get the best results.