Where are good places to buy a bit more unusual fresh herbs like curry leafs, holy basil, borage, lovage etc. Willing to drive but shops in the RWC, San Mateo, PA, MV area are prefered
May I suggest farmer’s markets? Heart of the City in SF has many vendors with herbs. Signage is minimal, so you’ll need to be able to identify the ones you want. I bet the Alemany market has even more, but I’ve not been there.
Curry leaves are the only ones I see at the farmers markets semi-regularly. Holy basil can often be found at Civic Center, but the vendors tend to run out before the end of the day (at least, when I shopped at that market pre-pandemic). I’ve bought Indian borage aka Cuban oregano a couple of times but see it very infrequently. I don’t think I have ever seen lovage at either Civic Center or Alemany.
The largest flower vendor at Alemany usually has fresh herbs. The main unusual one they sell is rue, which is probably safe for culinary use in very judicious amounts.
I second (or third or fourth?) the rec for Farmers’ Markets, especially ones with East/S. East/South Asian and Middle Eastern/African vendors. I am East Bay based, so not as familiar with markets in your neck of the Bay, but I’ve had good luck at the SF Civic Center market, and in Oakland, at the Old Oakland market on Friday mornings (and yes, earlier is better; the rarer things run out quickly).
But I would also try Asian Markets in general, from the larger ones—99 Ranch, etc—to the smaller, independent ones. I’ve definitely gotten Curry Leaves at South Asian markets (Vik’s Chaat in Oakland, among others) and various Basils at many S.E. & E. Asian markets (though Holy Basil is the most elusive), also culantro, makrut lime leaves, etc.
I think of Borage and Lovage as more a part of the European taste profile, but Borage grows vigorously as an ornamental and pollinator attractor in gardens around here, and it might be worth asking around for at Farmers’ Markets.
If you find Lovage, do let us know!!
Off the track, I know, but if you ever find yourself in Fresno, the Hmong community down there has several markets with incredible produce, including herbs.