Looking for some unique flavours from the garden? Let’s take a clue from top chefs’ custom crops on new herbs to grow. After all, these are the people who often start the next big thing in cuisine. Not one of these plants is a newly released variety. It’s likely these are herbs you’ve never heard of.
This comes from the recommendations of Robert Laing, head grower at Farm.One in Manhattan, who custom-grow herbs for New York City chefs and culinary artisans. So, whether you’re growing your own, or supplying area restaurants, these are the latest in taste sensations to grow.
Once commonly found in Tuscan recipes, Nepitella (Calamintha nepeta), commonly called Lesser Calamint, is a culinary herb worth getting to know. A savory herb traditionally used in many Italian recipes, that is virtually unknown in the United States. Today, you’ll find it most often used in mushroom and green vegetable dishes, but could work well in seasoning meats, sauces, soups, and more. This member of the mint family has a very unique taste – said to be like a basil, licorice, mint, oregano, and thyme blend. Use it fresh or dried.
Don’t confuse it with the rest of its perennial garden Nepeta cousins, though it is lovely in flower, and does so from June/July to September. It’s an easy to grow plant, from seeds and cuttings that loves full sun, and average to rich soil with good drainage. Best with consistent moisture.
Perennial in zones 5-10, it grows 12-18″ high. The plant is right at home in containers and hydroponic gardens. To know you’re growing the right plant, or want organic seeds, search for “nepitella seeds.” The plant is also a medicinal herb, and popular in perennial gardens – where naturally, the hybridizers have been busy making it more floriferous. Doing so was likely accomplished by crossing the herb with those Nepeta cousins, which might not be edible. No information supporting such a use was found, which was disappointing… a number of Nepeta plants already live in my yard.
The taste of ancient Mexico, pápaloquelite (Porophyllum ruderale), identified as Papalo north of the border, was the forerunner of cilantro. This herb was used all over the continent until workers from China imported cilantro seeds in the 1500s. Recipes calling for cilantro today work well flavored with papalo. And here’s something every frustrated cilantro grower will love – this plant won’t bolt to seed in the heat of summer! In different South American cultures this herb is known as yerba porosa, Bolivian coriander, quillquina, tepegua, or killi.
The flavor is similar to cilantro mixed with arugula. Be sure to grow the broadleaf form with foliage like this image. The others are stronger, and somewhat soapy flavored. This annual herb matures to 3-5 feet tall, but with regular harvesting will stay smaller. It does best in full sun to part shade, and average garden soil with good drainage is fine. Don’t over water – allow the soil to get dry between watering.
Replenishes stem tips readily. The holes in the leaves in that image, by the way, are the aromatic oil glands – not insect damage. Does well in deep containers and hydroponics too. Hard to find seeds are available from Johnny’s and Terroir. Great in-depth article on this plant HERE.
3) Sheep Sorrel
Weeds take a starring role in fine cuisine! Common Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), also known as Sour Dock made Laing’s list of hot new herbs to grow. It’s not the easiest seed to find, probably because it grows wild all over the world, but there are many kinds of dock and sorrel, so it’s best to find a source for actual Rumex acetosella seed. Unless you realize it’s already growing nearby.
The pleasantly sour, unique tasting leaves work in any recipe that calls for garden sorrel. Use it as a garnish, or to add some tang to fresh salads. Sheep sorrel also has value for home remedies. This is one ingredient in Essiac, a herbal tea reported to have cancer-fighting properties. The American Indians used all parts of the plant for both food and medicine.
The plant bears small, slender, somewhat arrow-shaped leaves. It grows about 4″ high with 12″ tall bloom stems. Loves loose soil and quickly turns red during drought, so provide good drainage with water retention in full sun to part shade. Does well in hydroponics, and with the right media, is happy in deep containers too. One of which might be your best growing method, because this easy to grow perennial’s tap root survives even forest fires. Self-sows readily too, so remove bloom stems before they set seed.
Who is Robert Laing?
His vision as an indoor farmer isn’t growing big – it’s wide. Laing produces small crops of fresh herbs and greens in a year-around chef’s dream garden scheme. Everything in the commercial side of Farm.One is grown to order hydroponically. They specialize in growing the rare and unique plants and have grown 150 different crops. In addition to keeping NYC chefs in the freshest ingredients in every season, they also offer a weekly herb pack in a retail plan. But there are two sides to this indoor farm, which is situated inside the Institute of Culinary Education. The other side grows ingredients for students enrolled in culinary school here.
They currently offer 50 different herbs, greens, and edible flowers. You’ll find some other exciting inspiration of new plants and herbs to grow in the list on their website. Click the Shop Now button – ordering options are vast. And don’t miss the photos of plate garnishes using an amazing array of flowers, leaves, and more on their Facebook page. Absolutely gorgeous presentation examples.
Source: Green Prophet
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