Hyssopus officinale - a native of the Mediterranean where it grows wild in dry sandy or rocky areas. It has been cultivated throughout Europe for the last 600 years and is often a garden escapee. Hyssop makes an excellent plant for borders and informal hedging, with its pretty blue, white and pink flowers, that attract bees and butterflies. Hyssop likes dry , neutral to alkaline soils in the sun and is fully hardy. Plants should be well trimmed back in the spring, particularly hedges. Softwood cuttings can be taken in late spring or early summer from non-flowering stems. Hyssop grows very well in containers, giving a lovely scent on a summers evening.
Hyssop was referred to in the Bible, although there has been much debate as to whether it was Hyssopus officinale or Origanum syriacum as both contain a similar camphoraceous volatile oil. The volatile oil means it is useful for bronchial complaints and has been used since ancient times and is still used by herbalists today – although I have to say an infusion of hyssop tastes rather like hot liquid soil!! The Persians used distilled hyssop water as a body lotion , apparently to give their skin a glorious colour. Ritually hyssop has been used for purification and is believed to have been used by lepers.
As a companion plant Hyssop is excellent grown near cabbages to attract cabbage whiteflies. Grown near vines it is believed to increase yields – we are still waiting! The flowers sprinkled on salads are delicious, the leaves can also be used but sparingly as they are bitter. A sprig of hyssop is used in the recipe for Basque –style chicken.
As with many herbs, Hyssop should be used with caution and should not be taken when pregnant