Grow your own herbs
What amazing variety of plant herbs are. They can be easily grown by children, beginner gardeners, people with no garden at all, food lovers, chefs and commercial producers; they can provide year-round produce for culinary, medicinal and cosmetic use; and they can make every patch of garden look great.
In the last article, we looked at growing herbs and suggested some basic herbs for a culinary herb garden. Let’s now look at these culinary herbs in more detail.
Coriander, an annual herb, is easily grown from seed. It gives a kick to any salad and has many culinary uses. It goes to seed quickly but then you can harvest the seeds in autumn and use them freshly ground in curries.
Chives can be grown from seed, but it is easier to divide clumps of already established plants. They have a mild ‘oniony’ flavour. Use sprinkled on soups, salads, in egg dishes or blend with sour cream as a topping for baked potatoes. The flowers are excellent in salads, but don’t let the whole plant flower, as it lessens the flavour of the chive leaves. It is always good to have a few chive plants so you can let one plant produce flowers.
Parsley is a must in the garden, and not just for using as a garnish. It comes in two forms – the dark-green plain-leaved parsley and the paler, milder curled parsley. It is high in iron and vitamin c.
A range of mint varieties is available. The one found growing in most gardens is spearmint, which is often used on roast lamb. Peppermint is stronger and makes a good tea. Mint can be very invasive, so it should be grown in a pot to stop it from taking over the herb garden.
Garden thyme is the best known of the thymes. It’s fragrant leaves are essential in bouquet garnis. Lemon thyme is another lovely thyme; it attracts bees and is good in fish and mushroom recipes.
A hardy perennial shrub, rosemary needs well-drained soil and a sheltered position in the garden. As it is evergreen, so you can pick sprigs all year round. Try it with meat dishes, particularly lamb and to flavour roast potatoes.
Sage is a perennial evergreen shrub with a strong, distinctive flavour. The beautiful mauve flowers are very attractive in the herb garden. It is used in many pork and Italian dishes.
Oregano and marjoram
Both of these herbs are perennial bushy plants that attract bees in the garden.
Oregano is more aromatic and stronger than marjoram and is traditionally used in pizzas and pasta.
It is still time to start your herb garden with transplants (herbs in small pots) from a good garden centre or grower. Make sure plants are not pot bound, when you buy them. Don’t buy herbs that you will not use as you will neglect them and they take up space you could use more productively.
It’s a good idea to get a trusted reference book. I recommend Jekka McVicars ‘New book of herbs’ or Betty Jacobs’s ‘Growing & Using Herbs Successfully’. Going on a course and joining a gardening club are also great ways to pick the brains of other, more-experienced growers.
The first part of this article was published on Tuesday, May 18. It is available at the Outdoor Living section of www.mayonews.ie/living.
Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information in organic growing, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 9854338. Questions or comments? Contact Hans at email@example.com.