Let it grow: Consider something weird this season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

In my herb gardens, I have plants that some of you might consider to be weird herbs.

At least I think they&8217;re weird because they are not the usual: parsley, sage rosemary, thyme, basil or cilantro. The following list of herbs can&8217;t always be found at your local grocer, but make great conversation pieces in your garden.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a favorite of mine because of the sweet flavor it adds to your salads or drinks. It is marginally hardy in our area and the flowers should be kept pinched off to keep it bushy.

Stevia sweetener products are available at your local health food stores, but they are called &8220;dietary supplements&8221; instead of sugar substitutes because of some ridiculous law enforced by the FDA.

FYI: Stevia products represented 45 percent of the entire Japanese sweetener market in 1994.

Another good herb to grow is lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). It has a lemony scent and flavor and is used in a lot of Southeast Asian cuisines.

I use it to flavor baked chicken and poached fish. It&8217;s also great on grilled fish and chicken. Just remember to remove the lemongrass before serving. Much like the texture of a cooked bay leaf, lemongrass may be a little tough to digest.

Some insect repellents contain lemongrass oils because of its mosquito-repelling properties.

Ever heard of the mosquito plant (Pelargonium citrosa)?

This is a scented geranium that some people believe repels mosquitoes. Otherwise known as the citronella geranium, this plant has citrus-scented leaves and pretty pink blooms. This plant is not the one that is grown for citronella oil.

Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) is a clumping relative to the lemongrass and is the plant grown for citronella oil. Also a native of Southeast Asia, the citronella grass is rubbed on the skin to repel insects, worn in amulets and used in soaps.

Lastly, at least for this week: patchouli (pogostemon cablin). Patchouli is grown for its pleasant scent. It is used to make essential oils for aromatherapy as well as perfumes. Patchouli is not hardy in our region but can be kept indoors during the winter.

Grow something weird this spring