More unusual herbs are featuring in TV cooking programmes and supermarkets, but how easy are they to grow at home? Plantsman Graham Rice says they are as easy as rosemary and chives
Take fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro). Until recently, most people only used coriander seed (whole or crushed) in cooking, but now that Thai, Indian and Mexican dishes have become more popular, so have coriander leaves. It’s easy to grow from seed in any open site in fertile soil, sow where it’s to grow and thin plants to 6-8in/15-20cm apart. Or grow in containers. Pick the leaves regularly.
Varieties of coriander (Coriandrum sativum) (right) are available that are specially developed either for leaves or for seeds. Specific varieties of dill (Anethum graveolens), more subtle in its flavour than fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), are also now available for leaves or for seeds.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is another that’s easy to grow, but it’s not frost hardy. Raise it from seed, or start by standing stalks from the supermarket in water then pot them up when they root. Plants can go outside in summer, but must be brought in to a warm room for the winter.
Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum) is much tougher. An easy-to-grow hardy perennial, use its flat leaves (and white flowers) like chives when you need just a hint of garlic flavour. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is another tough perennial herb, for horseradish sauce and as a common replacement for wasabi. But it can be too tough – invasive, in fact – so is sometimes grown in pots.
The most colourful of all, though, is borage (Borago officinalis) (right). A traditional addition to summer Pimms, use slices of leaves or freeze the starry blue flowers in individual ice cubes and add when mixing.
You might also like to try chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) – for omelettes and fines herbes, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) – for Indian dishes, ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi) – in curries and shiso (Perilla frutescens) – for Japanese and Korean dishes.