Two easy to grow, not-so-common herbs
By Marilyn McKinley
OSU master gardener volunteer
I like to grow not-so-common herbs. They are interesting, easy to grow, not fussy, and not often bothered by disease or insects.
Borage is one of my favorites. Borage is an old-fashioned plant, native to the Middle East. Ancient history tells that it was believed that in battle it enhanced bravery and courage. Before pharmaceuticals became available it was used to treat many ailments from jaundice to kidney problems.
Blooming in June and July, borage is a bee magnet in my yard. It is often referred to as the star plant. Borage has fuzzy leaves with bright blue, sometimes, pink, and white little star shaped flowers, which are edible. The taste is similar to a cucumber. The flowers make a lovely garnish, can be sugared as well. The plant grows to 12 to 18 inches, is rather bushy and may require light staking.
Borage is easy to grow. It readily reseeds, so once you have it you may always have it. That is fine with me because my borage plants are so frequently visited by bumble and honey bees. It can be used as a cover crop. Using borage as “green manure” allows nutrients brought up by the deep taproot to be dispersed into upper areas of the soil as the plant composts. A high return of nitrogen to the soil is the result when tilled back in. Good soil, rich in nutrients and well-aerated soil is the reward. Planting borage as a cover crop will give a spectacular sea of blue to decorate the landscape.
To plant borage in an herb or flower garden you need well-drained, organic matter, and a medium pH range. Pests and disease are rarely an issue.
Lovage is an old English herb that resembles celery. It has a thick, fleshy root, 5 to 6 inches long, shaped like a carrot and edible, with a strong aromatic smell and taste. The stems are 5 to 6 feet tall, with celery-colored leaves. In June and July, lovage will produce yellow flowers similar to dill and fennel.
This is another easy-to-grow herb, which makes a nice backdrop for an herb or perennial garden. It likes well-drained soil and a sunny location. Lovage has a reputation as a good companion plant with potatoes, other tubers and root crops.
Although this plant is not often infected with pests, the leaf miner is the most common suspect. Lovage is another plant that you will likely have for a long time. It is not aggressive, but readily reseeds. Similar, but not the same, are the root of celery and lovage.
As with many herbs, placing lovage in vinegar and letting it “steep” produces a light dressing for salads and vegetables.
For photos and information on these and other herbs, go to: http://go.osu.edu/herbgallery.