Add flavour to those winter dishes with delicious herbs grown from your garden.
1. Bay tree (Laurus nobilis)
This is great grown in a large tub or in the garden. It responds well to pruning so is also great in hedging and topiary. Has a handsome pyramid shape when left unpruned. Its aromatic, evergreen leaves are an essential ingredient in bouquet garni. To make it, tie together 3 stalks parsley, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf. Great added to stews, casseroles and vegetarian dishes.
2. Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
This is a perennial which grows up to 60cm tall. It prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Give it well-drained soil and do not use fertiliser. Water sparingly but do not let it dry out. Regular harvest or an occasional pruning will keep it bushy. Marjoram dislikes frost, but can be brought indoors to avoid the cold. In cold climates, marjoram can be treated as an annual and replanted every spring. Can be grown from seed or cuttings.
This needs a well-drained soil rich in organic matter with good moisture retention. It is a cool season crop — plant it in late winter or early spring at around the date that you would expect the last frost. Tolerates part shade. Sow seeds half an inch deep at intervals. Once they’re big enough to handle, thin them to 15-30cm apart. Long summer days will make it bolt to seed. Make sure you pull out before this happens or they will leave seed all over the garden. The leaves and stalks are eaten fresh and the seeds can be used as a condiment.
4. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
This is a signature flavour of many italian, Spanish and Mexican dishes and is hardy in the home garden. Give it full sun and good drainage, but avoid fertilising as a rich soil will reduce the flavour. Add to hot dishes at the end of cooking as oregano becomes bitter if cooked too long.
5. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
This is popular in flavouring meat and poultry and can be grown from fresh seed, root cuttings or seedlings. It prefers a warm, sunny location, but dislikes extreme heat. It is not fussy about soil but needs good drainage. Great in pots. Prune after flowering. Don’t overwater.
6. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
This grows well in rather dry, sunny locations. The flavour of this highly aromatic Mediterranean perennial herb blends well with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Grows to 15–25cm in height with a low-spreading habit. Allow a few months to establish, after which leaves can be harvested at any time. Don’t overwater. Prune hard each spring in warm climates to prevent woodiness.
7. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
This likes a warm, sunny position with good drainage and established plants love heat and dry weather. It is easy to grow from cuttings. Just snip off a stem about 30cm long and stick it in a pot of potting mix. Rosemary is best treated as an annual in the tropics, where it can be removed with the arrival of summer humidity and replanted in autumn. Great with olive oil and lemon juice, use rosemary sparingly.
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