Hyssop

One of the oldest herbs in cultivation hyssop is an attractive evergreen shrub with brilliant blue, pink or white flowers held on a spike. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) grows well with other scented herbs such as lavender and sage. The fresh herb from garden is commonly used in cooking. The leaves can be used to make hyssop tea which is considered a cure for bronchitis and chest complaints but the leaves are more often used in soups, salads and stews to add a bittermint flavour. It can be used for robust, rustic dishes like potato or bean soup, and it goes well with fat meat; others suggest it to spice up calf and chicken.

The flavour is strong and not universally popular. It was also used by the monks who made Chartreuse and Benedictine liqueurs and hyssop oil is used in parfumes. The plant is also attractive to bees and butterflies.

Hyssop is a brightly colored shrub or subshrub that ranges from 30 to 60 centimeters in height. The stem is woody at the base, from which grow a number of straight branches. Its leaves are lanceolate, dark green in color, and from 2 to 2.5 cm long. The species as a whole is resistant to drought, and tolerant of chalky, sandy soils. It thrives in full sun and warm climates.

Under optimal weather conditions, herb hyssop is harvested twice yearly, once at the end of spring and once more at the beginning of the fall. The plants are preferably harvested when flowering in order to collect the flowering tips.

It is a very cold-hardy plant, when dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to about -25°c. Hyssop has very aromatic leaves and is commonly grown in the herb garden where it makes a good edging plant to a border. There are some named varieties. The plant needs to be trimmed regularly to keep it in shape, untrimmed plants will soon degenerate. Spring is the best time to trim the plants. It is probably best to replace the plants in the garden every few years.


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