Herbs and Gardening
In a change from my usual food and recipe posts, I’m writing about herbs and my garden this week. The garden plays a big part in what happenes in the kitchen throughout the year and particularly over the summer and autumn months.
As long as I’ve had a garden, it’s always been a case of work in progress, and I think that’s probably the case for most people if they have a sizeable garden. I’ve had this garden for 26 years and although over that time we’ve put our own stamp on it, we’ve also made lots of mistakes.
Some plants failed to thrive, others just didn’t survive and my ambitions for a Mediterranean style garden in the West of Scotland saw the demise of plants that really weren’t suited to the garden.
Some area’s suffered from too much shade, others from bad drainage, and then there was the flock of free range chickens whose love of my herbs and salads led to the name ‘peck and come again.
The recent spell of warm weather has been a real boost for the plants and this year the herbs have got off to a particularly good start.
This fennel plant is well established and every year produces a healthy crop which is well used in many of the fish dishes I cook and is a delicious addition in salads. Apart from cutting back and removing the old woody stems it seems to take care of itself. Fennel is drought resistant but as you can imagine, that’s not a problem in my Scottish garden.
Sage is a herb I’m never short of and this plant will need to be cut back next spring. It started off as a small plant and has completely taken over the top of one of the beds. I tend to use sage with chicken and pork; it’s always in my Christmas sage and onion stuffing and fried leaves pair beautifully with butternut squash, particularly if it’s with ravioli and melted butter. It also dries well and leaves can be frozen.
This bed has a bit of a mixed bunch of herbs – parsley, lemon verbena, red veined sorrel and there’s a new cornflower plant peeping through in the background. Parsley is a herb I can never have enough of and try to grow as much as possible throughout the year. It’s so versatile and makes its way into soups, sauces and casseroles, sometimes on a daily basis and always on a weekly basis. It’s great with many fish dishes and can also be found in many of my pasta dishes.
The red veined sorrel is new to the garden this year and will most likely be used in salads. The sharp tangy flavour makes it useful addition to fish dishes and sauces. I’ll report back on how I use it although if you have any ideas, please leave me your comments at the bottom of this post.
Lemon balm is a herb I’ve always grown, mainly for the aroma rather than for culinary use. The leaves have a very uplifting smell and on a summers day it’s nice to run your hands through and inhale. As it’s part of the mint family I’ve been thinking of adding it to iced water to make a refreshing drink. Perhaps it’s time to make more of an effort to use lemon balm in the kitchen as it will add a delicious lemon flavour, particularly in sweet dishes.
As a family of lamb lovers, one herb I’m never without is rosemary and this picture shows a small rosemary hedge I had grown along the edge of one of the beds. Unfortunately it was attacked by a pest last year and the entire hedge and the curry plant growing along side had to be dug up. Since then, I’ve planted several plants in containers and most of them seem to flourishing this year. Rosemary and garlic are essential partners with roast lamb and I regularly chop rosemary sprigs to add to roast potatoes.
I’m not growing as many vegetables this year but have set myself a challenge to be completely self sufficient in salads.
To ensure success I’m doing this in 3 ways. I’ve been making regular sowings of mixed cut and come again salads, both indoors and outdoors and I bought a few established plants that have already been planted into the beds.
Check back next week to see how the salad project is growing.