Traditional Beer Brewing Herbs

ChamomileGerman1German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the herbal tones of chamomile combine well with beer, particularly pale ales and wheat beers. Both the aforementioned German chamomile and the perennial Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) can be used for this purpose, with the dried flowers being utilized. German chamomile is an annual which grows 12-24 inches tall and often reseeds itself.

koreantea (2)Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) – A tremendously popular brewing herb as it imparts an earthy spice palate. There are several hardy cultivars to choose from, including ‘Sochi Seedling’, ‘TeaBreeze’, ‘Korean Tea Seedling’ (shown) and the pink-flowered ‘Blushing Maiden’. Several commercial incarnations are available, like Green Tea Imperial Stout, Laughing Panda Green Tea IPA and Yoda Green Tea Golden Ale. Camellia sinensis  grows 6-10′ tall. USDA zone 7.

rosarugosahips (2)Rose Hips (Rosa rugosa) – The use of rose hips in beer brewing is becoming increasingly popular, as these impart a citrus edge. The hips from Rosa rugosa are large and flavourful, although some brewers prefer the smaller hips from Dog Rose (Rosa canina). A sampling of beers with rose hips include Ramble On Rose, Roselare Rosehip Ale and Roses & Honey Kolsch. ‘Hansa’ is a good producer of Rugosa rose hips and grows 4-5′ high. USDA zone 3.

bogbeanBogbean (Menyanthes  trifoliata) – Bogbean is an aquatic plant found in bogs across Europe, Asia and North America. Also known as Buckbean or Bog Hop, the bitter leaves were traditionally used as a hop substitute and also boiled in honey to make mead. It was also one of the traditional ingredients of the Swedish Gotlandsdricka, which is enjoying a bit of a revival. Bogbean grows up to 12″ tall in standing water. USDA zone 3.

Rosmarinusofficinalis'Rex'inflower (3)Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Rosemary is a strong herb and needs to be used carefully if you don’t want to overpower your beer – still that piney-herbal palate works well in moderation. Several flavourful rosemary cultivars to choose from include ‘Rex’, ‘Barbeque’ and ‘Gorizia’. There is also no shortage of commercial beers to choose from, like Rose Mary’s Stout, Fete de Noel (holiday ale) and Rosemary Saison. USDA zone 7.

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Traditional Beer Spices

GaliumodoratumflowersSweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum syn. Asperula odorata) – You may know this plant as a somewhat invasive groundcover, but it has also been utilized for hundreds of years as a herb used to infuse flavour in traditional German wheat beers (Berliner Weiss) and Maywine. The dried leaves are added to create a distinct herbal flavour, reminiscent of sweet hay. Grows to about 6″ high with an indefinite spread. Hardy to USDA Zone 4.

Juniperus communis berriesCommon Juniper (Juniperus communis) – An easy to find wild conifer in most of the northern hemisphere, including parts of Europe. Both the boughs and dark blue berries (often dried) are used to infuse a citrus-resin flavour to beer, in particular Gotlandsdricka, a traditional ale brewed on the island of Gotland off Sweden. This particular juniper has needled foliage and grows an average of 6′ tall by 10′ wide. USDA Zone 2.

 JasminumFlowersSweet Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) – A popular semi-evergreen vine which is widely introduced across the planet. The sweetly scented white blooms are borne from late spring to early fall. These are used to infuse a delicious sweetness to Jasmine Teas as well as a herbal India Pale Ale by Pivecka from the Czech Republic. It is important to positively identify the species before using the blooms, as some Jasmines are poisonous. This vine prefers sheltered sun and grows to 8-15′ tall. USDA zone 7.

erpspatrickBell Heather (Erica cinerea) – There are many cultivars of Bell Heather (which is native to western and central Europe) but the one displayed is ‘PS Patrick’. This species was traditionally used in Scottish ales with the cut sprigs of flowers added much like hops, with one recipe calling for a ratio of 5 parts barley malt to 1 part heather blossoms. These impart a flowery-fruit flavour which some liken to honey. Grows 12″tall by 18-24″ wide on average. USDA zone 5.

Sambucusnigra'Pulverulenta' (2)Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) – This European deciduous shrub has long been utilized for its fragrant white flowers and delicious edible black berry clusters. The bloom clusters are used to procure delicious cordials which some describe as ‘spring in a glass’. They are also utilized to create unique strong beers such as Mork Bock from Denmark. The variegated cultivar ‘Pulverulenta’ is shown, with the shrubs averaging 8-12′ high and wide. Full sun is best for both flower and fruit production. USDA zone 5.

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Captivating Citrus

CitrusLemon'Meyer'7Citrus x meyeri (syn. Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’) – Many local gardeners such as Bob Duncan of Fruit Trees & More (North Saanich, BC) are successfully growing these outdoors in Canada. However, he shelters his espalier under a glass awning and covers it with frost cloth during colder weather – using incandescent xmas lights as a heat source. This hybrid has a very sweet flavour. Grows 10-15′ in ground. Zone 9.

CitrusLimequatCitrus x floridana – This Key Lime x Kumquat cross is a good choice for novice gardeners as it readily produces at a young age. Expect Kumquat-sized fruits which are yellow in colour with a sweet-tasting rind but bittersweet lime-like flesh. ‘Eustis’ is the most common cultivar and it matures into a small tree when planted in-ground. Grows 10 to 12′ high. Hardy to USDA zone 9.

calamondin2 (2)x Citrofortunella mitis – This common container citrus is often found at garden centres around the Chinese New Year – it is a Mandarin orange x Kumquat hybrid. Although the small fruits look like tiny oranges, they actually have a more lime-like flavour which is useful for making marmalade or adding a thin slice to cocktails. Calamondin makes an excellent container specimen where not hardy. 10-20′ in ground. USDA zone 8.

Citrus'VariegatedPinkLemon' (2)Citron limon ‘Eureka Variegated Pink’ – Not only does this lemon have beautifully variegated foliage and juvenile fruit, but the flesh is a lovely pink with few seeds. This sport of the traditional ‘Eureka’ lemon was first discovered in Burbank California in 1931. This citrus also grows well in pots (which can be brought indoors) for colder regions. Grows 12-15′ high and wide in ground. Hardy to USDA zone 9.

CitrusmyrtifoliaChinottoCitrus aurantium var. myrtifolia (syn. Citrus myrtifolia) – The Chinotto Sour Orange or Myrtle-Leaved Orange has striking lance-shaped deep green foliage, fragrant white flowers (which the hummingbirds love) and tart orange fruits. These are used to flavour the traditional Italian orange soda and to make candied fruit or marmalade. The fruits ripen from winter to early spring in the Pacific Northwest. 4-7′. USDA zone 9.

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Hot & Beautiful Peppers

Capsicum'BasketofFire'Capsicum annuum ‘Basket of Fire’ – A Chili pepper that is as beautiful as it is tasty, these are a favourite for growing in containers or hanging baskets. The small tapered fruits mature from a creamy-yellow to orange, and finally a deep red. Peppers from this F1 hybrid can be dried and it shows good tolerance for growing in cooler climates. 80,000 Scoville heat units. Grows up to 20″ tall. Annual.

Capsicumannuum'BlackPearl' (2)Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl’ – This All-American Selection winner lives up to its name with jet black foliage and rounded glossy black fruits (resembling black pearls) that mature to a cherry red – these are about 3/4″ in diameter. The purple flowers add to the overall aesthetic appeal, making this a great addition to planters or mixed borders. 10,000-30,000 Scoville heat units. Grows to 18″ tall. Annual.

capcarolinaCapsicum annuum x chinense ‘Carolina Reaper’ – This habanero hybrid was once the hottest pepper in the world and the puckered red fruits often grow a small red tail on the bottom (hence the ‘reaper’ reference). The peppers range from 1-3″ in size and will come into bearing earlier when grown in large containers – just allow to dry out between waterings. 1,569,300 Scoville heat units. 3-5′. Annual.

capsicamloco1Capsicum annuum ‘Loco’ – A lovely chili pepper that holds as much ornamental value as it does flavour. The tiny fruits are abundant, staring out a bright purple (almost artificial looking) and maturing to a traditional deep red. These make great additions to salsas or chilies and it is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. 24,000 Scoville heat units. F1 hybrid. Grows 10 to 12″ tall. Annual.

capsicumannuum'fish' (2)Capsicum annuum ‘Fish’ – A heritage or heirloom pepper which comes to us from the mid-Atlantic states via the Caribbean. The plant and tapered fruits are often beautifully variegated with the peppers starting out white and maturing to red. The young white peppers from this Cayenne-Serrano hybrid were used to spice cream sauces for seafood dishes. 5,000-30,000 Scoville heat units. Grows 2′ tall. Annual.

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Rodney Davey Marbled Hellebores

helpippasHelleborus x ‘Pippa’s Purple’ – This sister plant to ‘Anna’s Red’ bear pinkish-purple blooms accented with a huge boss of pale yellow stamens. These are produced from February to April on contrasting reddish flower stalks. The deep green foliage is heavily marbled with creamy-white veining – adding to the overall aesthetic appeal. Prefers a partial sun exposure. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helpennysHelleborus x ‘Penny’s Pink’ – One of the first introductions by breeders Rodney Davey and Lynda Windsor, the blooms are stunning when backlit by the rising sun. It is named after plantswoman Penelope Hobhouse and bears pale mauve-pink flowers averaging 3″ in diameter. The attractive foliage is marbled in white and pink, making it a desirable foliage plant. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helmollysHelleborus x ‘Molly’s White’ – One of the newer Rodney Davey introductions which is a complex hybrid of Helleborus lividus x Helleborus niger and Helleborus x hybridus. It features abundant white (often tinged in green) outward facing blooms in late winter. These are nicely accented by heavily marbled foliage with silvery-white veining. Reliably evergreen through winter. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

heldanasHelleborus x ‘Dana’s Dulcet’ – Another newer introduction bearing pinkish-purple (somewhat similar to Pippa’s Purple) to violet-purple blooms from February to April. It is a sterile hybrid that presents itself well in containers with its upright flowers and beautifully marbled foliage draping over the pot. At times the edge of the flowers are occasionally darker in colour. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

helannasHelleborus x ‘Anna’s Red’ – This dazzling hybrid was twelve years in the making and features large (3″ wide) reddish-purple single blooms nicely contrasted by pale yellow stamens. These are held well above the marbled foliage which eventually develops magenta veining. ‘Anna’s Red’ was named after journalist Anna Pavord and is sterile, so there is no self-seeding. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

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Novelty Vegetables

straw2Chenopodium capitatum (syn. Blitum capitatum) – Strawberry Spinach may look quite exotic but is native to much of North America and parts of Europe – where it has been eaten since the 1600’s. The leaves are a potherb that are cooked like spinach but can be eaten raw in moderation. It produces bright red edible berries that are mildly sweet with a faint mulberry flavour. Grows 18″ tall by 12″ wide. Annual.

Cucumelon4Melothria scabra – The Cucamelon or Mexican Sour Gherkin is an easy-to-grow vine that is native to Mexico and Central America. The plants have both male and female flowers with the latter producing an abundance of grape-sized fruits that look just like tiny watermelons but with the taste of a slightly sour cucumber. They adapt well to container culture and are a delicious addition to salads. Grows 3-5′ tall. Annual.

Ipomoeabatatas'Marguerite' (2)Ipomoea batatas – Even the Sweet Potatoes we grow as ornamental trailers in our baskets and containers produce edible tuberous roots, but rarely as large as the one shown – which came from a cultivar called ‘Marguerite’. So once the frosts have gotten the best of your potato vines, carefully dig them up, looking for the purple tubers. Then simply slice and deep fry for a delicious snack. Grows 6″ tall by 3′. Annual.

chenopodiumgiganteum (2)Chenopodium giganteum – Tree Spinach is a native of India but can be easily grown in our temperate climates. As the name implies, it is a tall leafy vegetable with pink-tinged new growth that really catches the eye. The young tender leaves have a spinach-like flavour (with a hint of asparagus) once cooked but should be eaten in moderation when raw in salads. Grows 6 to 8′ tall. Annual.

P1110907 (2)Oxalis tuberosa – Oca is a relative of many ornamental shamrocks and has been grown as a root crop in South America for centuries. It was introduced to Europe and New Zealand in 1830 and 1860, respectively. Also know as New Zealand Yam, the tubers come in many colours and have a citrus flavour raw (expose to sun for a few days to sweeten) or nutty when cooked. 18″ tall. Perennial in USDA zone 7.

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Unconventional Teas

camelliasinensis'blushingmaiden' (2)Camellia sinensis f. rosea ‘Blushing Maiden’ – This tea camellia is a hardier form of Camellia sinensis ‘Rosea’ introduced by Piroche Plants back in 1992. It features pale pink flowers (as opposed to the traditional white) which appear from late autumn into winter. I have a friend who grows many tea cultivars and he considers this the best for green tea. Grows 7-10′ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 7.

JasmineTea1Jasminum officinale – Common jasmine is well-known as it has been naturalized across many warmer regions of the world where it proves hardy. It is a semi-evergreen vine here in Canada with potently fragrant white blooms borne in summer and several foliar forms. Jasmine tea is made by infusing tea leaves with fresh jasmine flowers and can be enjoyed by adding fresh flowers to green tea. 9-12′ tall. Zone 7.

IlexParaguariensisIlex paraguariensis – Yerba Mate tea is made from the foliage of this holly species which is native to parts of South America. Given its intolerance to frost, it must be grown as a houseplant in northern latitudes but it definitely thrives in warmer, brightly lit rooms. The rather chunky tea (use a bombilla straw) is high in antioxidants and has a green tea-herbal flavour with grassy overtones. 3-6′ tall in pots. Zone 10.

WhitePineTea5Pinus strobus – Our Eastern White Pine bears bundles of five needles which are relatively soft to the touch, as well as long pendulous cones. Indigenous peoples taught early Canadian settlers about this flavourful tea made from steeped needles which is high in vitamins A and C. This tonic for the common cold is not as ‘piney’ in taste as one would expect and should not be used by pregnant women. 45-70′ tall. Zone 3.

Ledumgroenlandicum (2)Ledum groenlandicum – Labrador tea is now botanically classified as Rhododendron groenlandicum, although it is often sold under its old name. This native of northern North America and Greenland features slender dark green leaves with a rusty-brown reverse and white flowers borne in late spring. Trapper’s tea is made by steeping dried or fresh leaves and should be enjoyed in moderation. 2-4′ tall. Zone 2.

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