In my last post I mentioned popping into the garden to grab some sage leaves, and it got my thinking. There is nothing quite like fresh herbs for flavour, and having access to them year round is a real joy.
After many years of growing different things in my small London garden, I have found that herbs are the plants which offer the best balance of value over ease of growing.
My garden is on the side of a hill with the length south facing, so the sun hits the side wall of my house and patio. This makes my patio area almost Mediterranean in the summer, I have left a pan out there during a hot day and yes I could fry an egg! I have had some pretty good success in the past with chillies but only during good summers. When I have had a good crop in the past I dry them or make chilli sauce, taking a glorious taste of summer with me into the cold winter months.
Tomatoes have done fairly well too, but although my house and garden is perfectly positioned to make the most of our fickle English sunshine, it also creates a wind tunnel effect between the houses. Many a year when my crop has just about been ready to take in, I have looked out one morning and seen the garden dotted with tomatoes which have been blown over, off, down and all around. So fruit and vegetables have become a too much of a risk or too hit and miss.
Nice big heavy pots filled with herbs are the true stalwarts in my garden
I do laugh to myself when I see expensive packets of herbs in the supermarket, containing a few meagre strands. They are always next to “living” herbs in pots, these offer so much more value as they last and last if you just take them home and re-pot them. Be warned they will die quickly if you don’t.
During the winter months I am never without thyme, rosemary, sage or bay. They grow happily all year and are very low maintenance. You will experience a glow of satisfaction when doing a roast on a freezing winters’ day and go outside, brush snow of the herb of choice and take it straight to the pan.
In the summertime I increase the gastronomic scope of my mini kitchen garden with oregano, basil, coriander and parsley. I do my supermarket trick buying those potted herbs which have been reduced because they are almost “out of date” (err they’re alive!). This makes them a true bargain. Most herbs need very little care, just position correctly, water regularly and cut back any flowers so that the plant doesn’t go to seed. Although with coriander I do let this go to seed end of season and use the perfectly sun dried seeds, again much better flavour than those little packets you buy in the shops. You can also keep some to plant next year.
The window of my kitchen is in this sun trap as well, and I have two plants growing successfully which I am very proud of. The first is lemongrass (see left), this fragrant plant is amazing when used fresh in Southeast Asian cuisine, and gives much better flavour than the dried version. The second is a curry leaf plant (main photo), the fresh leaves in curries (surprise, surprise!) adds a really authentic flavour, whenever they hit hot oil the pungent scent that fills the room always reminds me of my time travelling in India.
I implore you to try growing some this year
As there are so many herbs which you can grow successfully in the UK. They make for fresher ingredients and will impart better flavour to whatever dish you make.
What do you grow in your garden or kitchen? Have you had any successes or failures growing? Please share below!