Uses of Green Santolina (Santolina virens)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Tari Tyrone-Sinski
Posted on: November 17, 2003

To touch and then smell the leaves of the Santolina virens is very pungent. I’m not sure what to do with it. Can we cook with it? Is it for tea? Or should I bath in it?

The main use of santolina is for decorative hedging in gardens, particularly in knot gardens. All of Richters santolinas take to shearing well and grow into wonderfully dense little hedges.

The grey santolina, S. chamaecyparissus, is the one usually mentioned in the herb literature. It has a variety of little known uses. For example, the leaves are used for flavouring broths, sauces and dishes, but no doubt the taste is an acquired one. Probably it is best used sparingly at first until you get a feel for what it can contribute to a dish. Grey santolina – also known as lavender cotton – is sometimes used in herbal medicine; and it has been used as a natural dye, in potpourris, as a moth repellent, and as the source of an essential oil.

The green santolina, S. virens, probably can be used in much the same ways as the grey variety; but other than ornamental uses, there is nothing in the literature that suggests it has actually been used for anything.

One warning if you plan to experiment with santolina as a culinary herb: bruised santolina leaves are known to cause severe skin rashes in sensitive people.

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