By Teresa Opdycke
The juicy fragrance of fruit-scented herbs delights the senses in a garden. From citrus flavored to tropical scents, easy to grow herbs and several exotic varieties add a surprise element to the landscape. Use fruit scented herbs in cooking. Pick a bouquet of fresh herbs for a delicious centerpiece. Create sumptuous potpourris using a variety of fruity herbs. With so many different flavors and an array of ways to use fruity fragrant herbs, there’s no reason not to plant a few in the garden.
Lemon Scented Herbs
The smell of citrus abounds in the herb garden. Create a border next to a walk using lemon-scented herbs. Imagine a visitor brushing against the plants, a soft lemony fragrance wafts into the air causing the visitor to stop and look around for the lemon tree. Expect surprise upon discovering that the fresh citrus scent came from lowly garden plants.
The queen of lemon herbs and an old Victorian favorite, lemon verbena, adds softeness to the garden along with a strong lemon smell. A tender perennial, lemon verbena cannot withstand the harsh winters of the north. In warmer regions, plant lemon verbena outside, but in cold zones bring lemon verbena indoors during the winter. A leaf of lemon verbena scented fingerbowls in the Victoria era. Use the lemony herb as a substitution for lemon zest in the kitchen and as a flavoring for tea. Dried leaves of lemon verbena last for years and make a highly fragrant addition to potpourris.
Pick a handful of lemon balm’s heart-shaped, crinkly leaves and tuck them into a jar of ice tea to infuse a lemon taste. Flavor cakes and cookies by steeping leaves in milk. Chopped leaves add a splash of color and taste to fruit salads. A hardy perennial to zone 4, lemon balm grows to about two feet. Keep the plant in check or it will take over the herb garden.
If you love Thai cooking, you’re sure to know all about lemon grass. A native of India, lemon grass is a perennial up to zone 9. Other areas must winter the plant indoors. Use the tender white part of the stalk for flavoring dishes, but the entire blade can be chopped and simmered in stocks. Grow lemon grass in a container as a showy ornamental grass.
Basils cover a broad spectrum of varieties that include lemon. Start lemon basil seeds, an annual, indoors for an early harvest. Sow directly outdoors to keep your supply of lemon basil going throughout the growing season. Lemon basil brightens the flavors of chicken and when joined with sweet basil becomes a tasty pesto. Keep using lemon basil, pulling off leaves and even give it a good pruning to encourage growth. Once basils flower, the end of the plant is near.
Pull the tiny leaves of lemon thyme from the stem and use in stews, soups, and over vegetables. Low-growing thymes create a carpet and creep over rocks as a hardy perennial. Creeping lemon thyme fills in cracks between flagstone walks. Well-drained soil and at least six hours of sunshine each day keeps lemon thyme thriving. Golden lemon thyme sports green and yellow leaves with the citrus fragrance and flavor of a fresh picked lemon.
Fruit Scented Herbs
The luscious scents and flavors of herbs that mimic other fruits like limes, apples, oranges, and pineapple provide a feast for the senses. The sweet smell of pineapple takes you to a tropical island, tread on roman chamomile and be treated to the crisp smell of apples in fall. Each plant adds a new dimension of color, pattern, and texture to the herb garden.
Orange Balsam Thyme
The pleasure of oranges can be garnered by planting orange balsam thyme. The hardy perennial comes with a distinctive orange scent and flavor offering a show of white blossoms. The flavor of this unique thyme is an Indian cuisine favorite.
Pineapple sage is not only delicious to smell with a mouthwatering fresh pineapple scent, but it blooms in brilliant red blossoms. Grow this member of the salvia family in full sun as a container plant in colder zones or plan to replace it each year as you would an annual. The leaves add a pineapple flavor to fruit salads and desserts.
This plant soothed the tummy of Peter Rabbit in Beatrix Potter’s tale. Step on a blanket of white daisy-like rays with a tiny yellow center and the unforgettable apple scent of chamomile greets the nose. Plant the lacy-leafed herb in full sun with dry soil to soften edges. Create an environmentally friendly lawn using a low-growing variety of chamomile. It never needs to be mowed.
Mints have a reputation for taking over the garden, but along with being notorious, the plant family boasts unusual fruit scents and flavors. Stun visitors to your garden with a mint that carries a subtle fragrance and flavor of bananas. Apple mint, a tall perennial imbues the subtle taste of apples in teas. Lime and orange mint appear very much the same, but there’s no mistaking the difference in fragrance and flavor. Enjoy both mints in teas, desserts, and fruit salads. The square-stemmed plant has one more surprise flavor in pineapple mint. No other variety of herbs in the garden can be a taste and scent chameleon like the mint family.
Scented geraniums add a dimension to a fragrance garden with leaves that come in all shapes and sizes, from broad ones to finely-cut lacy foliage. Fingerbowl lemon, Rober’s lemon rose, citrosa, and lemon balm belong the pelargonium family and offer a scent of lemon when the leaves are pinched. Other fruit scents you’ll find among the scented geraniums are lime, orange, pineapple, coconut, and apricot. A cluster of scented geraniums sitting in the herb garden makes a green statement with lush foliage and delicious scents.
Let your herb garden capture the imagination and add an element of surprise with fruit scented herbs. From apples to apricots, lemons to limes, and the exotic tastes of pineapple, coconut and even bananas, fruit scented herbs are worth growing. Use them in teas, desserts, and chopped up over fruit salads. Add the zest of lemon to chicken and fish by mincing the leaves. Make your garden a symphony of scents with fruity, fragrant herbs.