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Green Thumbs

We talk to Thomas Keller (the French Laundry, Bouchon), Tony Esnault (Patina), Kris Morningstar (Ray’s & Stark Bar), Micah Wexler (Mezze), and Adam Horton (Raphael) about their gardens. Plus: Tips from Silver Lake Farms’ Tara Kolla

ThymeTHYME
Keller: “I grow a number of herbs, but this is my favorite. I use it for roast chicken I make at home.” 
Tip:It can handle a bit of drying out, so place with drought-tolerant perennials such as sage. 

 

Persian MintPERSIAN MINT
Wexler: “It’s great raw in a salad, but I also fry it quickly in olive oil. Cooked that way, it has a nutty flavor.”
Tip:Like any other mint, it will take over the garden. Give it space, and cut it back periodically. 

 

BorageBORAGE
Morningstar: “We use the leaves for pasta filling, and the flowers are a fantastic garnish for seafood.” 
Tip:Wear gloves because the stems are prickly. In moist soil it will sow itself, so buy just a couple of plants. 

 

Rau RamRAU RAM
Horton: “The flavor is between mint and cilantro. In Thailand there will be a plate of it at almost every meal.”
Tip: Trim regularly, as it will spread. You may want to tuck it away—it can look like a weed. 

 

Sweetwood RuffSWEET WOODRUFF
Esnault: “When cut, it smells like vanilla, and as it dries, the scent intensifies. I use it fresh in salads.” 
Tip:It prefers shade and wet conditions, not unlike those in a forest. It benefits from misting. 

 

TarrogonTARRAGON
Keller: “This herb plays a large role in our menu. We also have fresh tarragon in a cocktail.” 
Tip:A finicky plant, it needs consistent moisture. Find a cooler spot that doesn’t get afternoon sun. 

 

Opal BasilOPAL BASIL
Horton: “It’s spicy but not overbearing. The purple makes for a nice color contrast.” 
Tip:Fussy, it collapses when under- or overwatered. It’s fickle about sun as well, not wanting too much or too little. 

 

Lemon VerbenaLEMON VERBENA
Morningstar: “It’s used in cocktails, and it’s in our cavatelli with goat, artichokes, and goat cheese.” 
Tip:A supereasy shrub, it can be shaped into a multibranch bush or a single-branch five-foot tree.

 

Illustrations by Chris Lyons