While many restaurants now boast about their vegetable plots, not all of them can say they’re growing akatade, wood sorrel and salad burnet. In his garden at Loyal Nine in Cambridge, Massachusetts, chef Marc Sheehan grows all of the above, in addition to 10 varieties of tomatoes, three types of cucumbers, two types of turnips and a myriad of other herbs and vegetables. Here he describes seven unexpected herbs you should be growing this summer.
Also known as water pepper or smartweed, it provides small bursts of heat to dishes without your having to use a chile. The flavor has a slight cinnamony burn that works beautifully with anything from raw fish to braised meat. As it is small and largely unrecognizable, the sprout is a nice surprise hidden in garnishes on dishes. From $4; kitazawaseed.com.
2. Bee balm
This herb is often grown as a companion plant to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, and has a flavor very similar to mint but with a noticeable bitterness. We use bee balm leaves to infuse into stocks, sauces or vinaigrettes. The flowers are also a great garnish. From $5; edenbrothers.com.
3. Wood sorrel
We are always looking for ways to balance dishes and hit on certain levels of acidity in an effort to make our food lighter and more vibrant, and often the brief, vegetal, acidic bite of wood sorrel, (aka oxalis) is all we need. From $3; prairiemoon.com.
4. Salad burnet
Burnet is delicious as well as beautiful, with a slight cucumber flavor that’s very refreshing in salads or on roasted meats. It grows extremely well and continues to produce even after trimmed. From $1; rareseeds.com.
5. Anise hyssop
It has a flavor that’s like a cross between mint, fennel and basil. The leaves and flowers are potent, visually beautiful and hearty. They make a vibrant green oil and are delicious either infused into stocks and sauces or served unadulterated in salads or as garnishes. From $3; territorialseed.com.
6. Apple mint
We use it to dry for tea as well as to season crab salads. The flowers are also a great addition to grilled garlic scapes. The flavor is vaguely reminiscent of both apples and mint. From $5; pantrygardenherbs.com.
7. Lemon verbena
We use verbena, which has a sharp citrusy aroma and flavor, for all kinds of things: to make vinegar, to infuse into ice creams and sorbets, to season Jonah crabmeat, to infuse into corn stocks, to add into grilled corn garnishes, to steam open periwinkles with hard cider, to dry for tea or to baste roast chicken. The flowers also provide a great garnish and punch. From $5; outsidepride.com.