Using fresh herbs is one of the simplest ways to add flavour to your food. Most of us are familiar with familiar herbs like thyme and rosemary, but many of the more exotic herbs are just as easy to grow, and will give an authentic taste to your Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.


They can also be adapted to European dishes, too. Lemon basil and lemongrass are good substitutes for lemon thyme in fish and chicken dishes, and Chinese chives make a good addition to omelettes or a fish pie.

You can find these herbs at herb nurseries and some garden centres. And as they like warm, sunny conditions, most are perfect for growing on a sunny windowsill.

Discover some exotic herbs to grow.

Lemon basil and Thai basil

Lemon basil
Growing herbs - lemon basil

Lemon basil has a warm, citrus flavour; Thai basil has an aniseed taste. Buy them as plants and grow on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Use in curries and stir-fries. Thai basil can be cooked for longer than lemon basil, without losing its flavour. Add lemon basil at the end of cooking.

More like this

Perilla (shiso)

Growing herbs - perilla

Perilla has a minty/basil flavour with hints of aniseed. Sow seeds and grow plants in a sunny, well-drained spot. A favourite in Japanese cooking, the green-leaved variety is used with tofu, sushi, fried in a tempura batter or chopped as a garnish. The purple-leaved variety is popular in pickles.

Chinese chives (garlic chives)

Chinese chives
Growing herbs - garlic chives

Chinese chives have a mild garlic taste. Buy as plants and grow in full sun in pots or in the ground. A hardy perennial, it needs no winter protection. Use with fish, chicken or eggs - use the leaves chopped in broths, dumplings and fish cakes. The flowers are edible, too.

Vietnamese coriander

Vietnamese coriander
Growing herbs - Vietnamese coriander

Vietnamese coriander has a hot and spicy taste with a hint of mint. Buy from a specialist nursery and contain the roots in a pot. Protect from frost in winter. Add to dishes just before serving to retain the flavour but use sparingly. It works well with lemongrass, lime and chilli in stir-fries, curries and noodle dishes.


Growing herbs - mitsuba

Mitsuba has a mild aniseed flavour with hints of celery and parsley. It's easy from seed – sow monthly for a continuous supply. It needs rich, moist soil and some shade and can also be grown in containers. It has a strong flavour, so you'll need a small amount. Use as a garnish for miso soup, stir-fries and rice dishes. Add to salads, too.


Growing herbs - coriander

Coriander is fragrant with a citrus flavour. Sow every couple of weeks for a regular supply. It thrives in semi-shade but will run to seed (bolt) if it gets to hot or dries out. Sowing earlier or later in the season can help. 'Confetti' and 'Leisure' are slower to bolt. Add fresh at the end of cooking, as a garnish. Useful in curries, salsas, stir-fries and tagines.


Lemongrass growing in a container
Growing herbs - lemongrass

Lemongrass has a sweet and lemony flavour. Grow as plug plants or root your own from supermarket stalks. Needs warmth and plenty of moisture. Protect from frost over winter. As the plant matures it will form side stalks that can be removed at the base. Use these in curry pastes or to add flavour to broths. The leaves make a refreshing tea.