Sage (Salvia officinalis) is probably best known as the herb for stuffing. In addition to stuffing, sage is great in pasta sauce, sausages, breads, and with vegetable such as carrots.
Sage is also attracts bees to its beautiful blue flowers. In addition to the typical sage as pictured above, sage also comes in other varieties and colors including Golden – with leaves splashed with golden yellow, Purple – leaves of purple and green, and Tricolor – leaves of white, green, and purple. The relative, Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans, is a tender perennial which I grow in a pot and bring inside over winter. As the name suggests, the leaves have a pineapple scent and flavor. Other than Pineapple Sage, the sages mentioned are drought tolerant.
Golden, Tricolor, and Purple Sage all have the same scent and flavor as typical culinary sage. Planting them can add more diversity to the landscape. The leaves can be used as a garnish or to add color to appetizers.
Herbs make a wonderful addition to lemonade and other summery drinks. Add a few sprigs up to 1/2 c. or more fresh herbs to 8 cups of lemonade, herb teas, and juices – especially citrus or berry drinks. Mint is a refreshing choice for a hot summer day. Lemon flavored herbs, lavender, basil, monarda, and thyme are also great choices. Leaving the herbs in for a minimum of a few hours will increase the flavor. When serving, either leave the herbs in or add fresh ones as a garnish. Cucumbers or lemon slices can also be added for flavor and appearance.
For another idea, here is a recipe for a Virgin Mojito. I wonder what it would taste like with a bit of apple juice or pineapple juice? You could use any variety of mint – maybe lemon mint?
Lovage is a tall (6′ or so), shade tolerant, perennial herb in the parsley family. The taste of lovage is a strong celery flavor that goes well in soups and stews. I also like it in chicken and tuna dishes and anywhere else you may want to add a celery-like flavor. Lovage can also be used fresh – it is great in salads including green salads, tuna salads, and potato salad. Use less lovage than you would celery. Lovage is easily frozen for later use.
Though plants may not be easy to find, lovage can be started from seed or found in online catalogs if not locally. Choose a spot with sun to part shade and plenty of room since the plants will reach 3′ or so in width. Adding compost to the soil when planting will improve the soil and add nutrients. Adding a cup or so of compost around the plant in the spring should be all the additional fertilizer needed. Last year was the first year my current lovage bloomed. Lady bugs appeared to feed and provide pest control for the rest of my garden.
Sources for herb plants and seeds:
Some herbs growing in your yard you may think of as weeds. Many of these plants are high in essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins and the growing and harvesting are free. Be sure these plants are correctly identified and not growing in a contaminated location (near roads or where there is pesticide or other chemical exposure). Ask permission before harvesting on private property. You can sometimes purchase seeds if they are not already growing on your property. I planted Miner’s Lettuce at my current home when I moved in 5 years ago and then found it already growing on the property.
Plants mentioned in this article include purslane, dandelion, stinging nettle, and plantain. Some other highlights:
- Many varieties of wild plants offer great nutritional benefits.
- Purslane might be the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fats, as well as being loaded with vitamins A, C, and E.
- Even a high-quality, nutritious wild plant or herb can cause an unexpected reaction in some people. Try them one at a time and in SMALL amounts to see how your body is going to react.
- It’s a good idea to compile a library of books and field guides about wild edibles, as well as familiarizing yourself with toxic look-alikes to avoid. There is even a wild edible iPhone application to help you on your quest.
Read more: The Hidden Food In Your Yard