An Herbal Companion

African Basil: A cross between camphor and opal basils, it has very pungent but beautiful purple-veined leaves. Perennial.

Borage: Distinguished by its beautiful blue star-shaped blossoms, borage is classified as a hardy annual and can sprawl over a four-square-foot area. The flowers and very young leaves are commonly used in salad. The flavor is most frequently compared to cucumbers.

Buffalo Grass: This is an unassuming ornamental-looking grass that shows no flavor or smell unless it is dried or treated. When soaked in alcohol, it yields a hay-like odor.

Cuban Oregano: Actually a close relative of Swedish ivy, this fuzzy, thick-leafed plant looks more succulent than herb, but has an intense oregano smell.

Epazote: This leggy plant is an annual, but will volunteer with abandon. It has a pungent flavor that is regarded as indispensable to bean dishes in Mexico.

Kaffir Lime Leaves: Intensely aromatic leaves that grow in pairs on a stem. The flavor is bright, without the tang of citrus. Kaffir lime trees grow well in Southern California.

Pak Chee Farang: This plant produces slim leaves about five inches long with serrated edges. The flavor is somewhat like cilantro, but more intense.

Rau Ram (Laksa Leaf): Narrow, pointed leaves with a powerful, peppery taste characterize this herb. Once planted, it grows profusely.

Horapha (Red-Stemmed Basil): This strongly anise-flavored basil is the one used in Southeast Asian cooking. Regular sweet basil can take its place.

Salad Burnet: A bushy perennial growing 12 to 24 inches tall, with fern-like foliage that tastes and smells of cucumbers.

Shiso Leaf: Perilla and beefsteak leaf are other names for shiso , which comes in three varieties: purplish-red, green and a combination of the two. The graceful leaves have a pungent, edgy taste.

Spice Basil: A cross between common garden basil and wild basil, the taste of the wide green leaves is on the camphory side.

Bai Kaprao (Thai Holy Basil): Hard to find and fragile, this herb is stir-fried and even deep-fried in Thai cookery. Mint and regular basil are used as substitutes here.

Maenglak (Thai Lemony Basil): Another of the many varieties of basil that grow here, this one has a slightly tangy taste. The Thais call it maenglak.

Nepetella (Wild Mint): A member of the Nepeta (catmint) family, this is a stalky, low-grower that tends to sprawl, especially after its first full year of growth. The smell is minty, vaguely like pennyroyal, though Italian food authority Giuliano Bugialli describes it as a cross between sage and rosemary. It is regarded as an essential companion to fresh porcini.

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