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No matter how adventurous you are in the kitchen, there’s always room to spice things up — quite literally.
And we’re not talking about reaching for your usual herbs and spices, either. There are some lesser-known options out there that can add the zing you seek.
We suggest sampling these nine unusual culinary herbs to freshen things up in your kitchen.
1. Lemon Verbena
Lemon is a kitchen staple — in more ways than one. It adds a citrusy zing to your meals, but you can also use it to clean your culinary space, too. For example, you can slide lemon halves over your cutting board to clean and sanitize it.
But perhaps you want a tasty spin on your traditional lemon zest or juice. We suggest trying lemon verbena, an herb that has a similar-but-slightly-different flavor.
You can use it in ways you might not be able to use lemon, too. For instance, you can use the leaves to create a lemon-flavored vinegar.
If you’re a big fan of Mexican cuisine, you might have already tried epazote.
This herb has many flavorful facets, all of which are delicious. You’ll taste a peppery side, a citrusy kick and a hint of mint, too.
You can add the leaves to your favorite spicy recipes, such as tamales or chili. Epazote also folds well into soups and even steeps into a unique tea.
3. Red Basil
You can’t have fresh pizza or pasta without a sprig of fresh basil.
But Italian cuisine isn’t the only place where you’ll find this trusted herb. Vietnamese and Thai food also features plenty of basil, but it’s not the standard variety — it’s red basil.
Red basil looks similar to its traditional counterpart, but its leaves are a red-purple color. It also has a spicier, more robust flavor than you’d get from regular basil.
Add it to your culinary herb garden list to try in salads and infused syrups, among other recipes.
4. Scented Geranium
Not all of your culinary exploits have to be making regular, old food. For example, you might need a decarb how-to to make herb-infused butter. Or, you might want to learn to flavor liquor and spirits.
You can do the latter with scented geranium. This plant comes in hundreds of different varieties, and many of them have unique scents. You can use rosy- or nutmeg-smelling blooms to infuse gin or vodka.
Scented geranium works well in competes and flavored sugars, too. And, if you plant it in your backyard, it will keep mosquitoes at bay. If that’s not a win-win for you, then we don’t know what is.
5. French Sorrel
You might have heard of sorrel, but the French version never really made it over the pond. And that’s a shame, considering its uniqueness amongst other culinary herbs and spices.
Specifically, French sorrel has notes of lemon and apple, and it tastes delicious on its own. Mix it into salads or pop it on top of your sandwiches. You can also blend French sorrel into soups for an extra layer of flavor.
Lovage is a unique entry on this list. It looks quite similar to parsley, but it tastes a lot like celery.
Still, you can get a slightly different flavor in your tried-and-true recipes by subbing lovage for the green stalks. Use it as a soup base or create tasty herbal waters with it for a refreshing summer beverage.
On top of all of that, lovage is super hardy and easy to grow. If you’re new at growing your herbs, it would be a great place to start.
You’ve probably heard of lemongrass, but you might still skip it when you buy culinary herbs.
However, adding lemongrass into your go-to list of herbs is a wise and flavorful decision. It’s a popular ingredient in Asian cuisines, so don’t be shy — add it to your curries and stir-fries for a citrusy zing.
Interestingly, lemongrass goes great with beef, too. So, don’t be shy — get creative and see how it fits in with your recipes that need a bit more zest to them.
8. Giant Siberian Chives
Perhaps you want to grow an herb garden and add to the types of culinary herbs you rely on in the kitchen. Look no further than the Giant Siberian chive.
This herb grows with ease, making it an easy addition to your herb garden. It also flowers with soft purple blooms — who says herb gardens can’t be pretty?
In the kitchen, you can use the chives similarly to regular ones, but the flavor’s even more durable. If you love the onion-garlic taste of chives, then this is a perfect new culinary herb for you to try.
9. Culinary Lavender
You know what lavender smells like. Its soothing scent makes it the perfect natural perfume for soaps, candles and essential oils.
But you can also enjoy lavender’s unique aroma by adding it to your food. Culinary lavender is the experts’ go-to herb to bake and cook with, although you can technically use most varieties of lavender to get the job done.
Because lavender’s flavor is so strong, start small. Add a little bit until you get the right amount of flowery flavor to your baked goods — cake’s a perfect place to start. If you’re feeling more adventurous, though, lavender also works as a meat rub or an aioli for potato-dipping.
Switch Up Your Culinary Herbs
You have a trusted list of culinary herbs for a reason — you know how to cook with them, and they add great flavor to your food. But there’s more than just what’s in your pantry. Experiment with these and other unique herbs to add even more variety to your cooking.
And, if you need more inspiration, check out the health and wellness section of our blog. We have plenty of tips for making your family feel their best — with culinary tips, self-care advice and more.