Firstly, Happy New Year to you all – hope you had a good Christmas (although it seems like a long time ago now, the current weather is a sharp reminder that we are actually in the thrusts of a chilly English winter!).
I very much enjoyed your Christmas Faire, so nice to see so many of you out in force promoting local and your own arts and crafts, and also to get to taste some of your yummy homemade edible efforts too.
Well the snow is very much upon us at the moment, so much the same as my last blog, do be mindful of heavy falls sitting on top of hedges and trees, making them vulnerable to breakages by adding extra weight and stress to branches. Just gently removing some of the white stuff with a broom can greatly help reduce damage.
Don’t forget to feed the birds in your garden and crack the ice on bird baths to keep them going through these cold months. Keeping our feathered friends interested in your garden will pay dividends later on as the weather warms up and they gaily chomp up all the ‘nasties’ that we don’t want spoiling our plants and produce.
In this blog, I’ve decided to cheer you all up on such dull, dark days with some interesting facts and pointers on growing tasty and medicinal herbs! I was lucky enough to attend an inspirational talk by the famous Jekka McVicar last summer and would like to share with you the notes I took during her speach. The good news is, you don’t have to wait for the warmer weather to get going with growing some of your own herbs for daily use now. You just need a warm room, space on a window ledge and a good source of natural light to start growing a number of regular herbs such as basil, coriander, mint etc throughout the year. There are also some good points within the notes that could help you better plan your gardens as we approach the better weather.
I hope you enjoy the information below – I did my best with the spellings of a few of the more bizarre names as Jekka raced through them, so please don’t judge me too harshly if you spot any slight errors!! Enjoy...
JEKKA MCVICAR HERB TALK
HELD ON FRIDAY 13TH JULY 2012
Best grown up against a wall. Withstands winter temperatures to -14 degrees. Brilliant for tummy upsets.
This is classified as a herb. Has a natural slow sugar release, so good for stabilising blood sugar – it’s best eaten in the morning.
Leaves have the best nutrients and vitamins. Best used fresh in cooking, works well in mashed potato. Hates being transplanted as has a long tap root – if you do have to move it, cut tap root back before transplanting. Best sown in modules. Plant in partial shade, not directly in sun.
Best ‘pulled up’ so that you can use the roots also for cooking. Leaves, flowers and seeds can all be eaten. Plant in partial shade, not directly in sun. Sea Holly (Eryngium Foetidum), Ketumbar and False Coriander are often grown abroad and eaten –surprisingly, the spiky leaves actually dissolve on your tongue when eaten!
Very medicinal herb and natural hormone. Best made into and drunk as a tea for menopausal symptoms and throat issues. Sage leaves can be used to clean teeth and also make teeth white. Use fresh and cut back after flowering. Small leaf sage is currently being researched to help with Alzheimers.
The best cure for a hangover if made into a tea! Fires up the front part of the brain and is brilliant for improving the memory. Natural antiseptic. A digestive also as breaks down fats, that’s why it is commonly used when cooking lamb.
Heralded as one of the best antiseptic of all – within the oil. Also a fantastic muscle relaxant – cut a bunch, simmer for 7 minutes, strain, then add to a warm bath and soak. Cut back after flowering to stop it going ‘woody’. For an effective cough medicine, mix thyme, hyssop and honey together – tastes bitter but worth the foul taste! Plant Blue Thyme (semi evergreen) around trees as bees love it and it’s good for tree flower pollination. Borage also does the same (annual though, not evergreen). Agastache Foeniculum Thyme is a pretty lavender spiked variety.
Likes to be grown somewhere fairly dry and not in wet soil or a damp bed. Good for helping any illness and should be drunk as a tea. Marjoram is closely linked with some crossover to oregano and is often one and the same when grown on the continent.
Same family as oregano and marjoram. Winter Savory tastes of white pepper, a warming herb. It also stops flatulence and is good for bee stings if crushed and rubbed on to the sting.
Natural antiseptic, oil can be used neat on cuts and abrasions etc. Effective as a mosquito repellent. Can be used in cooking (pick whole flower heads and whilst fresh and dry, layer in a jar with sugar, place on a windowsill and shake often – sift when it looks ready, particularly good used in meringue recipes). Cut back after flowering, don’t leave as weather can split the shrub. Cut back hard to just above ground level – use sheep shears, apparently they are the most effective!
Don’t plant different varieties close together as when the roots touch, they all end up tasting the same over time. Buddleia Mint is good for attracting beneficial hoverflies. Cut all mint back 3-4 times a year. If you have potted mint, it’s essential to re-pot once a year after sawing in half the original plant otherwise it will die. Mint is closely related to basil.
Basil is known as the ‘King of Herbs’. Great for cooking. Works well with tomatoes and pasta. A natural antiseptic and fly repellent. Add leaves to bath. Underplant tomatoes to keep flies away.
Tastes of aniseed. Helps to digest fatty foods so is often used in a cream based sauce. Also good for sleep disorders.
Plant in partial shade. Sow in Feb / Mar and it will last into July. Sow in Sep / Oct and it will last all winter.
Can be pickled. Good for obesity *(my own thoughts on this are ‘not if eaten with dognuts or Mars Bars!!!)
Great for indigestion. Seeds can be chewed or made into a tea. Add to bread. Also a diuretic.
Best used with cucumber and courgettes, use leaf and seed. Also a natural antispasmodic.
Only eat the seeds. These can be eaten green (stronger flavour) or brown (milder flavour).
Make a tasty soup out of the leaves or make tea, it is said that borage tea gives you courage. Place the pretty blue flowers in ice cube trays, add water and freeze – they look good in drinks.
Lowers blood pressure. Crush 1 clove into hot water, stand for 2 days, strain and place in a spray bottle for use on seedlings – it keeps slugs and aphids off and whilst it doesn’t kill them, it deters them from munching. All alliums / chives are related family and all flowers can be eaten.
Flowers are edible, use in salads and cooking. Make calendula cream to apply as a healing cream.
Very pretty small blue flowers, grows very tall. Naturally bitter taste. Used in Camp Coffee which is made from the roots.
Oversized thistle type plant. Allow plenty of space. Grows up to 2m tall. Lots are grown in Italy.
Add to salads – delicious served with bacon. Flowers can be fried in butter. Good detoxifier.
Hack it back and use young new shoots in cooking and seeds in soups and casseroles.
Native UK herb that was taken over to India. Looks like French Parsley. Use seed in salt.
Very invasive herb – best grown in an old dustbin. Good for circulation and arthritis.
AUK native wild herb. Used as the main ingredient for gin. It used to grow wild along the river bank of the Thames. Can also eat the young leaves in salads and make a delicious jam and sorbet out of young stems.
GOOD KING HENRY
This herb is sure to be used in future times owing to the fact that it can be grown where wheat and corn cannot, it can be made into flour. Makes good unleaven bread. Related to Fat Hen
Can be quite invasive. Grows tall, up to 2m. Pretty leaves and white flowers. Seeds can be used in cooking and for cleaning pewter.
BROAD LEAF SORRELL
Likes to be grown in partial shade. Tastes of apples.
VIOLA TRICOLOUR – HEARTSEASE
Flowers can be eaten or frozen into ice cubes.
Laurus Nobilis best to grow. Check you’re growing an edible variety – you would be able to see all veins in the leaf. Makes a wonderful ice cream as it tastes like white chocolate!
Known as The Herb of Love. Brilliant for making gin with the berries!! Leaves can be used in cooking, they add warm flavours. It does require well drained soil in order to grow well.
Hack back hard. New growth will grow off of old wood. Boil the leaves and use the juice as a laxative.
Likes a dry environment – grow in walls or rocks.
Good to use for coughs. Naturally antiseptic. Effective companion plant as encourages black flies away from other garden goods.
Orange variety breaks down cholesterol. All of it is edible. Part of the mint family.
Harvest by drying. Makes a good tea for insomnia and an really delicious crème brulee!
BEEF STEAK PLANT
Leaves can be used in cooking. Flowers are also edible and sweet.
Will usually only grow in a greenhouse as likes a tropical climate. Thrives best being pot bound and kept on the dry side. Use the leaf to make tea and in cooking. Roots only sold in supermarkets here due to export laws! Cut back to 6 inches.
Good for making a relaxing tea, also said to help aid good memory.
Flowers can be eaten. Cuttings can be taken to propagate. Overwinter in greenhouse at a temperature of +5 degrees.
OTHER HELPFUL COMMENTS
Highly recommended PMT Tea Recipe : Hibiscus, Peppermint, Calendula and Green Tea – apparently it’s a real winner!
Jekka uses Bio Fungus in compost.
Doesn’t use rainwater to water in the greenhouse owing to fungus being present – instead, she uses tap water and citric acid.
Probably best to exterminate all snails found in your garden – Jekka tried collecting them and dumping them a mile from her garden, but after a month, they found their way back (apparently she marked them with Tippex so she could identify them!!)
Happy Herb Growing!
If you have troublesome ants in your garden, plant out mint or spearmint – they don’t like the smell apparently, so will move out pretty promptly J
Kingston Lacy – National Trust : http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy/
Worth a day out with the family to see the fantastic snowdrops mid February.