Hyssop, that’s what’s up

At the Santa Monica Farmers Market this week, Laura Avery gets schooled on hyssop, a dark green plant you may recognize from its lovely tall purple flowers, by Shawn Fulbright of All Good Things Organic Seeds and Chef Spencer Bezaire of L&E Oyster Bar.

It may look like a weed. But should you see a chef eyeing a pretty green shrub with tall purple flowers at the market, it’s likely to be hyssop. This plant has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Now chefs are working it into menus because hyssop is sweet, versatile and tastes of mint and licorice. When used as a garnish, hyssop also adds color to the plate.

At the market this week, Shawn Fulbright, owner of All Good Things Organic Seeds, talks to Laura Avery about growing heirloom hyssop varieties.

Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
(Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

Fulbright has 150 different seeds in her catalogue. Her top sellers are comfrey, hibiscus, burdock root, stinging nettle and smoking tobacco.

Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
(Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

Her seeds thrive on Mano Farm thanks to Ojai’s hot, arid climate. On the farm, the plants aren’t picked by hand until they are dry and brown.

Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
(Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

L&E Oyster Bar Chef Spencer Bezaire shows off the last of the season’s hyssop he got from Coleman Family Farms. “Hyssop is more than a pretty garnish,” says Bezaire. “It has a sweet flavor with minty overtones with a little bit of an anise kick at the end.”

Bezaire likes to use hyssop in the brown butter tart he has on the menu at the restaurant in Silver Lake. He infuses the honey he uses in the tart with hyssop, uses more of the plant in the tart’s filling, then garnishes it with hyssop. Find the recipe for Bezaire’s brown butter fig tart with whipped goat cheese and hyssop honey here.

Header image (top) by Sten for Wikimedia Commons.