herb of the month

  • Taste of Summer!

    Taste of Summer!

    We love a glass of pimms - it makes it feel like summer no matter what the weather! Here's our twist on the fabulous classic... We've made a special basket of plants, just for this purpose (not that we drink a lot *cough*)

    Ingredients:

    1 part Pimms No. 1

    3 parts Sparkling Sicilian Lemonade

    Fresh Apple Mint Leaves

    Fresh Lemon Verbena Leaves

    Fresh (Wild) Strawberry Halves

    Fresh Cucumber Slices

    Lemon Slices

    Ice

    Just pop your ice in a jug and pour over the Pimms. Add your fruit and leaves to taste and top up with lemonade. Find yourself a pretty straw and a nice spot in the garden and enjoy!

    If you're just not a fan of pimms (sacrilegious though it is) here's a few more summer drink recipes - so you can get your practice in while it's still spring!

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  • Herb of the Month - Horseradish

    Herb of the Month - Horseradish

    So it’s been a while since we’ve written a blog (we’re slacking, I know!) and in the meantime winter has crept in properly. In our house that means stews, pies and roasts – as often as possible! There is a certain someone in our household, who shall remain unnamed (Paul), who can’t seem to eat any of these things without an appropriately large selection of condiments. Our herb of the month has been chosen in his honour – horseradish.

    The best known, and possibly most delicious, use for horseradish is of course in condiment form as horseradish sauce (we personally like horseradish mustard). It’s a really simple sauce, made from grated horseradish root and vinegar – and it’s really easy to make at home. Not many people make it themselves though; in fact sales of horseradish in a bottle began in 1860 – making it one of the first convenience foods available. It remains popular throughout the world, with several varieties available, including with beetroot – yum…

    Horseradish has other uses though, including medicinally. It can be used to treat urinary tract infections, kidney stones, bronchitis, rheumatism, sciatic nerve pain, gout and even colic. Though as always, consult your doctor before use!

    Even better, horseradish is amazingly easy to grow at home. It will do best in a nice sunny spot, but this is the UK so it can also make do with some shade! It’s a perennial and best grown from a cutting. They can pretty much be planted and left alone, with possibly a little water if we (miraculously) have a dry spell, to be harvested the next year. When harvesting, you’ll want to make sure you remove the entire root and then replant only what you want – it can easily take over your garden if left to its own devices. It has to be said though, once you’ve got access to the fresh stuff, you won’t want it from a jar again!

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  • Herb of the Month - Vipers Bugloss

    Herb of the Month - Vipers Bugloss

    This time of year is all about those blooming flowers, when all your gardening seems to pay off. One of the most satisfyingly beautiful plants you can grow, our herb of the month is Vipers Bugloss.

     Echium vulgare, also known as Vipers Bugloss, Adderwort, or Blue Devil, is characterised by its cylindrical spikes of gorgeous bell shaped flowers. From the Boraginaceae family, Vipers Bugloss will take 1-2 years to reach its maximum height, up to 75cm tall – all of which will be covered in flowers when it blooms in early summer. Each flower on the column will itself be 1 to 2cm in length. It originates in Europe and grows best in dry grassland or dunes, preferring sand or chalk soils. Whilst it is slightly fussy about soil, Vipers Bugloss will grow in either exposed or sheltered areas and in varying amounts of sunlight.

    This is a fantastic plant to have in your garden if you want to attract bees or butterflies – both of which love the colourful flowers come summer. In the language of flowers, Vipers Bugloss represents falsehood or untruthfulness, most likely due to its snakelike appearance (as described in its alternative name, Snake Flower). The name ‘Bugloss’ is also derived from the appearance of the plant – this time its leaves. The term comes from the Greek word bou, meaning cow or ox, and the Latin glosso, meaning tongue. The leaves of the Vipers Bugloss could be said to resemble an ox-tongue in shape. Though it was once used as an anti-venom for snake bites, it is best to avoid touching it as it can cause irritation to the skin and will cause stomach upset if ingested.

    Whilst it’s not always possible to grow in your garden (if you don’t have chalky soil or have kids who might take a bite!), it’s always worth keeping an eye out when you walk along the dunes, as this really is a stunning plant.

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  • Herb of the Month - Honesty

    Herb of the Month - Honesty

    With such beautiful weather recently, our plants have been flourishing. This month’s stand out has got to be Honesty. Known best for its seed pods, rather than its flowers; Honesty can be a beautiful addition to your garden without being too ostentatious!

    From the genus Lunaria, honesty is also sometimes called a ‘silver dollar plant’. There are several variations of Lunaria, including ‘Lunaria annua’, which has a pure white flower and is biennial (meaning a plant grown from seed will take two years to come to fruition and then die). If you’re looking for an Honesy plant that doesn’t take quite so long to flower, there is also the perennial ‘Lunaria rediviva’, This has cross shaped flowers in a pale lavender colour, with heart shaped green leaves. Both these variations have distinctive seed heads, flat and almost papery; the annua Honesty has round, silver dollar shaped seed heads (from which they get their nickname!), whilst the rediviva seed heads are more elliptical.

    The seedpods that are so distinctive in Honesty plants are also what make them so easy to plant – and even easier for them to overtake your garden! Carried on the wind, the papery pods will dry out and release the seeds to germinate where they fall. If you want to grow Honesty from seed, all you have to do is collect these pods, let them dry out and collect the seeds. They will flourish planted straight into the garden, though if you’d like to grow them in planters or seed trays you should add a little old compost first. Honesty will develop thick roots, almost like tubers. This is common amongst the brassica family to which Honesty belongs, along with mustard. Due to this, they should not be kept in pots for an extended amount of time, as the roots will not have room to develop properly. They will flourish in almost any garden, though it will do better in less acidic conditions. The perennial rediviva prefers to be kept slightly damp and all variations of Honesty prefer not to be overfed (so stay away from the manure!). Try not to plant in the shade, though semi-shade should be fine.

    These are a great plant for us gardeners who don’t want to expend too much effort! They’ll grow fantastically if pretty much left alone. This also makes them great for kids learning to garden – they can watch the whole process from seed to flower and there’s not a lot that can go wrong!

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  • Herb of the Month - Pineapple Sage

    Herb of the Month - Pineapple Sage

    The weather’s been a bit up and down recently, sunny one minute and raining the next – as they say in Cornwall, ‘don’t like the weather? Just wait five minutes’! We’ve still got some thriving plants though, including our herb of the month, Pineapple Sage.

    Salvia elegans, commonly called Pineapple Sage, is a perennial shrub with tubular red flowers and a pineapple scent to its leaves (hence the name!). Native to Mexico and Guatemala, its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, in some areas was found to be in the top three plants visited by hummingbirds. It grows up to 1.5m tall and usually flowers between August and late autumn, though some varieties bloom much earlier in the summer. Pineapple sage is relatively easy to grow, liking rich and well-drained soil with lots of light and regular watering. It will flourish either in the ground or in a pot, just remember to leave it lots of space as its roots will grow into a large tangle.

    When it comes to uses, pineapple sage shines as a culinary herb. Mixed with garlic and butter it can be a beautifully fruity rub for chicken or even an unusual way to make garlic bread. Its leaves are used in many pestos, with a slightly sweeter taste than common sage. They can also be tossed into fruit or vegetable salads, used as a garnish or to make hot or cold teas. Or try something more adventurous and make a pineapple sage syrup to use on pancakes, waffles, cakes or ice cream. Even the flowers are edible, making fantastic garnishes for desserts.

    Pineapple sage is a member of the Salvia family, which takes its name from the Latin verb ‘salvare’, meaning ‘to save’ or ‘to heal’. It is not a surprise then that sage has many medicinal uses. It is traditionally used to lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, indigestion and heartburn. It is also used to ward off negativity, bad spirits, bad health and even bad luck. A home can be cleansed of all negative energy and influences by hanging garlands of sage around windows and doors, or ‘smudging’ (burning the herbs). Whether you use it for any of these things or not, it can’t be denied that pineapple sage is a beautiful addition to any garden.

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  • Herb of the month - Iris germanica

    Herb of the month - Iris germanica

    Iris germanica, better known as orris, is a species in the Iris genus. A perennial that blooms from April to June, orris can grow up to an impressive 1.2m high and 30 cm wide. It is an easy plant to grow from cuttings; the rhizome should be cut into sections, each with a growing bud, and planted in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. The roots should be planted no less than 45cm apart to allow room for growing and should be well watered throughout the summer months. They will be ready to be divided every 4 to 5 years. It’s beautiful flowers come in a variety of colours, but it is best known for the uses of its rhizome.

    Orris root was historically prized as a component of perfumes, though its beautiful violet scent does not appear until between 3 and 5 years of drying the root. Though it was at one point a staple in face powders and other cosmetics, it has been found to cause reactions in sensitive skin and is now more likely to be found in potpourri as a scent fixer. It is also makes a fantastic dry shampoo and when mixed with honey can be used as a moisturiser for dry skin.

    Medicinally, orris root has been used to stimulate appetite, soothe headaches, toothache, muscle and joint pain, diabetes and some skin diseases. It can also be used to treat bronchitis and colds and to cause vomiting and empty the bowels (though I don't know why you would want to do this!).

    Culinary uses include as a tincture to flavour syrups and as one of the ingredients of Ras el hanout, a blend of spices associated with Moroccan cuisine. Most commonly, orris root is used as a tea preparation.

    The Iris genus takes its name from the Greek goddess Iris, who was the personification of the rainbow. This is most likely due to the wide variety of beautiful colours to be found in the flowers of the Iris family of plants.

     

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  • Herb of the month - Fennel

    Herb of the month - Fennel

    This edition of herb of the month was chosen based on what was still looking good in our very own herb garden – and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is the winner by far!  This multi-purpose perennial plant is best grown in loose, well-drained soil, with regular watering and full sunlight.  Although it is suitable for container gardening, it will really thrive in the ground.  The most likely problem to encounter when growing fennel is root rot, easily avoidable by ensuring you don’t overwater the plants and that they are in light soil. Although I have to say our fennel is outdoors and winters are very wet here and it does just fine.

    Whilst fennel is best known for the aniseed taste of its seeds, its bulb (Florence Fennel - Foeniculum vulgare, var. azoricum) is a great vegetable to cook with, being very high in vitamin C.  Its fine leaves can be snipped and used for seasoning; the thicker stalks are also great as a snack with hummus (if you like that sort of thing). It can also be kept around just for its pleasant yellow flowers, or its ferny foliage used to stunning effect in flower arrangements.

    Fennel is used as seasoning in a lot of Mediterranean cuisine, but can also be delicious combined in more unusual foods - fennel chocolate truffles are simply wonderful. It can also be used in salads, stews, risottos, or this gorgeous recipe for avocado, prawn and fennel cocktails.

    The seeds of fennel are often made into oil to treat various ailments, including heartburn, bloating, colic, coughs, bronchitis and backache. It is even suggested to be a cure for bedwetting. Fennel powder can be used as a poultice for snakebites and some women use forms of fennel to help increase the flow of breast milk and ease the birthing process.

    The latin for fennel is Foeniculum vulgare and historically, fennel is the symbol of flattery. Shakespeare used this symbolism most famously in ‘Hamlet’, where Ophelia slights the King by handing him fennel (or flattery). It is thought that this is due to the tendency of fennel to wilt very quickly after being picked.

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  • Herb of the month - Oregano

    Herb of the month - Oregano

    January is a good time for sowing oregano seeds under cover or indoors. Perennial, frost hardy plants, they like full sun and well-drained, nutrient rich soil (though I find they grow well in any soil).   Easy to grow and maintain they make a lovely, fragrant addition to any garden.

    This fabulously under rated herb is great with tomatoes and is of course used to season pizza topping.   A brilliant culinary herb, we use it to season our tomato relish, but it is also found in many Mexican dishes and gives a distinctive flavour to enchiladas. In fact it is a very versatile culinary herb.  High in Omega 3 and anti-oxidants, oregano is antibacterial, anti parasitic, antiseptic and antiviral, as well as being insect repellent.

    Medicinally the plant and essential oil have been used for a wide range of problems from dandruff and skin conditions to bronchitis and croup, it has even been used to treat warts.

    Infuse for a relaxing bath or as hair conditioner, use in pot pourri and herbal pillows. Add essential oil to baths, ointments or compresses to relive pain and tension. Place few drops near pillow to promote sleep.

    Said to have been created by the Greek goddess Venus it is a symbol of happiness. It is recorded as having been used to make crowns for healing and as being used as an oil massaged into the forehead and hair. In the language of flowers oregano is the herb of love and protection.

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