Look up the word “Aroma or fragrance” in a thesaurus, and what do you see? A list of herbs, from allspice to vanilla. In fact, fragrance so characterizes herbs that coming up with a list of herbs that don’t smell wonderful might be the easiest way to deal with this category. Nonetheless, we plunge daringly ahead, suggesting a few of our favorites. Crush a few leaves of the following plants and see whether you agree:
✓ Scented geraniums:
These olfactory superstars deserve billing above the title, as they say in the marquee biz. You can choose from scents such as rose, apricot, almond, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate mint, coconut, eucalyptus, lemon, orange, camphor, pine, strawberry, and apple.
If geraniums get the gold medal, mint and thyme tie for silver. There are mints that smell of apple laced with menthol, or lime, chocolate (think York Peppermint Patties), banana, ginger, grapefruit, orange, and more.
Go straight for lemon thyme, which actually does smell like citrus. Then try orange, caraway, lavender, mint, and nutmeg. You can even find thyme that smells like oregano.
The discerning nose will find some varieties sweeter and others more medicinal. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has the clean scent of lace handkerchiefs, while French (also known as Spanish) lavender (L. stoechas) smells more like something used for treating sports injuries and battling bugs.
Said not to attract cats the way catnip does, catmint also has a stronger and more appealing scent for the human nose. Some compare it to mint jelly; we think it has undertones of pine or cedar.
It’s a marvel how nature stuffed the aroma of curry, an East Indian concoction made up of as many as 20 different herbs and spices, into a single plant. Ironically, curry is not a culinary herb, but the silvery 12- to 18-inch plants make a great edging, and you can pluck the leaves for potpourri.