Now that Spring has well and truly arrived – let’s ignore the mercurial weather and concentrate instead on all the uplifting colours popping up in our flower beds, the smell of freshly mown grass, the birdsong, the sheer pleasure of being outside (hopefully in the sunshine). Yep, it’s definitely time to get out in the garden.
My 25 year old son was making a bit of a joke about ‘oldies loving to go to the garden centre’ and Husband and I laughed and told him that, yes, we really do enjoy wandering around endless wooden tables of budding plants – it’s like being in a very expensive sweetshop. I’m always surprised at how a trolley load tots up when handing over the debit card at the till. And how much smaller the plants look when they’ve been planted and are tucked up in the soil. But neither of those things prohibit the calming pleasure of being surrounded by the beauty of plants.
We went in search of a family run garden centre at the weekend. In truth, we weren’t expecting much as it wasn’t one of the large chains, but our new neighbours had recommended it. So we hopped in the car and, eventually, found it tucked away down a narrow country lane about two miles from our new house. It was so peaceful there, bursting with colour and promise. And it was not small – plenty on offer in fact. But, as we have to be sensible and see what comes up in our new garden before we start splashing the cash on new plants, I concentrated on treating myself to a few herbs instead. They are essential in my view, adding a freshness and colour to so many recipes. They don’t need much space to flourish and are generally easy to grow. I’m planting mine right outside the kitchen, so I can pop out with my snippers on a regular basis when I’m knocking up lunch or supper.
Apart from the obvious heros (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme) here are my favourite six herbs:
The name lovage is derived from love-ache being a medieval name for parsley. Smells and tastes somewhat like celery. You can use these fast growing leaves in salads and soups.
Has a sharp lemony tang. May be used raw as a salad green or fresh herb, or sautéed similar to spinach. Excellent for pureeing and sauces. The young leaves are tender and mild, best for fresh eating, while larger leaves become sharp and bitter, best for cooking. applications.
Keep pot bound as this one will try and take over if you let it! Add it to cakes, muffins, cookies, pies… everyone will be wondering about your secret ingredient.
Aniseed/liquorice flavour, slightly spicy. More stable for high heats or extended cooking than sweet basil.
Delicate aniseed flavour. I love using this fresh in salads or as a pretty garnish. Flowers and roots are also edible.
Shisho (aka perilla) My all time favourite. First tasted it in Japanese restaurants and I was hooked. Part of the mint family but it has a really unusual flavour which I am addicted to. I eat copious amounts in green salads, but it can also be used as a garnish or in a mojito. This article in The Guardian tells you everything you need to know. Seeds can be tricky to grow (am saying this from experience!) so I will be buying plants in mid – late May when they become available.
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