14 Herbs With Bitter Leaves

The wide-ranging culinary and medicinal applications of these herbs with bitter leaves will make you overlook their bold flavor!

Herbs with bitter leaves are a type of dietary bitter that can substantially enhance metabolic function and support the liver’s health, thus detoxifying your system. Given their active ingredients are effectively absorbed through the oral mucosa, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include these herbs in your diet!

Herbs With Bitter Leaves

1. Arugula

Herbs With Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Eruca sativa

First on this list, we have the popular Arugula, known for its aromatic, peppery, and slightly bitter flavor. It’s commonly used to add zest to salads, like the classic Cobb, and is also a tasty topping for pizzas and a flavorful addition to various sauces.

Growing Tip: Plant a new batch of arugula seeds every two to three weeks. This staggered planting ensures you have fresh, tender arugula leaves throughout the growing season.

2. Chicory

Herbs With Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Cichorium intybus

Chicory is a well-loved herb, famous for imparting a bitter note to chicory salads and as a flavorful tea made from its roots. This herb is particularly cherished in the Ligurian and Apulian regions of Italy and southern India.

Growing Tip: Plant chicory in early spring or late summer to avoid the heat, which can otherwise cause bitterness.

3. Mugwort

Herbs Artemisia vulgaris

Botanical Name: Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort has a unique, resinous flavor reminiscent of chrysanthemum leaves and offers a pronounced bitterness. This herb is highly versatile, used raw or cooked in various dishes, from soups and fried sides to seasoning for fish and meats and even enhancing rice cakes.

Growing Tip: Choose a less tended, sunny area of your garden for mugwort, as it thrives in disturbed soils.

4. Sorrel

Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Rumex scutatus

With a mostly tart and slightly bitter taste to the leaves, the French or Buckler leaf sorrel is used fresh in salads and also often cooked into sauces and sooks. The small, bell-shaped leaves intensify in bitterness as the seasons change from spring onwards.

Growing Tip: Harvest the leaves regularly to encourage new growth and prevent the plant from flowering, which can cause the leaves to become somewhat bitter.

5. Peppermint

Mentha × piperita

Botanical Name: Mentha × piperita

While you may be quite excited about peppermint candy, here we’re focusing on the herb itself, not the candy!! Peppermint imparts a strong, sweet aroma and a complex flavor profile that starts warm and pungent and ends with a cool, slightly bitter aftertaste.

Beyond its popular use in desserts and salads, peppermint’s essential oil is also widely used in flavoring various culinary creations.

Growing Tip: Grow peppermint in a container to contain its invasive roots and prevent garden takeover.

6. Yarrow

Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is an herb with a history in both medicinal and ornamental applications. It emits a strong licorice-like aroma and has a naturally sweet yet bitter flavor profile, similar to anise and tarragon.

The best time to harvest yarrow leaves is when the plant is in full bloom.

Growing Tip: Get a super well-draining soil mix for this herb; it tolerates dry conditions better than wet.

7. Wormwood

Bitter Leaves Herbs

Botanical Name: Artemisia absinthium

Wormwood is infamous for its intense bitterness and strong sage-like aroma. Historically used in medicine and herbal remedies, it is a key component in absinthe, a potent alcoholic drink.

Growing Tip: Plant wormwood in full sun and poor soil; avoid over-fertilizing to maintain its aromatic qualities.

8. Mizuna

Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Brassica rapa var. niposinica

This Japanese mustard green is also considered an herb with serrated leaves and a mildly bitter taste. Although it is slightly peppery like arugula and bitter like frisée, its flavor is milder and sweeter than either.

In Japan, Mizuna is typically used in cooked dishes rather than raw. It is often found stir-fried, pickled, or simmered in hot pot dishes.

Growing Tip: Start seeds indoors 4 weeks before the last frost, then transplant outdoors when temperatures are consistently above 45°F. Cut leaves regularly to encourage new growth and prevent bolting.

9. Angelica

Bitter Leaves Herbs

Botanical Name: Angelica archangelica

This perennial herb has a plethora of culinary and medicinal benefits and is also used in the cosmetic industry. Popular for its towering height, this herb offers a complex bitter-sweet flavor and a variety of aromatic properties.

Growing Tip: Since it takes two years to flower, mark its location to avoid disturbing it. Apply a thick mulch annually to keep the soil moist and cool.

10. Blessed Thistle

Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Cnicus benedictus

With a slightly pungent aroma and bitter taste, this herb is consumed as a vegetable, while its leaves are also popular in juices, wines, or teas. Additionally, the flowers can substitute for artichokes, enhancing flavors in several culinary preparations.

Growing Tip: Plant seeds shallowly, about 1/4 inch deep, in full sun, then thin the seedlings to prevent overcrowding and improve air circulation.

11. Buckbean

Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Menyanthes trifoliata

Found primarily in wetlands, Buckbean exhibits trifoliate leaves and is loved for its tall stems topped with clusters of white or pale pink flowers. Despite its aesthetic appeal, the leaves have a bitter flavor and are traditionally used in various folk medicinal practices.

Growing Tip: This herb loves wet feet, so create a water feature or use a watertight container filled with loamy soil and maintain constant water coverage.

12. Centaury

Bitter Leaves Herbs

Botanical Name: Centaurium erythraea

A favorite of herbalists as a ‘stomach bitter,’ the Centaury helps in digestion due to the bitterness of its lance-shaped leaves. This bitterness contrasts sharply with its subtle, earthy aroma, which carries a hint of sweetness.

The plant itself is quite appealing to the eye, thanks to the clusters of bright pink, delicate flowers!

Growing Tip: Sow the seeds directly into gravelly or sandy soil in early spring and deadhead the flowers to extend blooming.

13. Milk Thistle

Bitter Leaves Herbs

Botanical Name: Silybum marianum

While the variegated leaves are loved for their beautiful show, this herb covers plenty of medicinal benefits as well. The leaves, stems, and even roots offer a bitter yet appealing savory flavor, with an added benefit for individuals with spleen and liver disorders or chronic constipation.

Growing Tip: Soak seeds for 24 hours before sowing to improve germination rates. They can be invasive, so harvest flower heads before they open to control spreading.

14. Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale Herbs With Bitter Leaves

Botanical Name: Taraxacum officinale

Often dismissed as a common weed, dandelion is a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins and minerals. Its leaves exhibit an earthy and bitter taste, similar to radicchio and endive, and are popular in salads, sautés, and teas.

For a milder flavor, harvest the leaves in early spring for use in salads.

Growing Tip: For medicinal-quality roots, grow dandelions in deep, organically rich soil. Water consistently to promote deep root development and harvest them in the late fall of the second year when nutrient content is highest.

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