Herb of the week

  • Handy Kitchen Herbs

    Handy Kitchen Herbs

    We made some fab hanging baskets recently, stuffed full of beautiful, useful herbs – and it got us thinking! Why not grow your favourite culinary herbs in planters right outside your kitchen door? We know that sometimes everyone needs a reminder of how easy it is to add a twist to otherwise standard foods, so although we’re probably preaching to the choir, here’s our handy list of kitchen herb combinations.

     

    Blackcurrant and sage

    This unlikely combination is guaranteed to please the taste buds. Just a tiny pinch of sage is all you’ll need to add an unusual flavour to this seasonal fruit. Check out this recipe for fantastic fruity tarts and experiment with the use of sage – you won’t regret it!

     

    Strawberries and mint

    While there are still plenty of strawberries around, why not have a go at adding a little finely chopped mint and sugar for an easy but exciting pudding. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try your hand at a mint jelly  and serve with crème fraiche.

    Potatoes and rosemary

    Sometimes the classics really are the best and it doesn’t get better than potatoes and rosemary! Whether it’s a pinch in your mash or a sprinkle on your roasties, it’s an easy trick that never fails to please. Rosemary’s great fresh or dried, so if you need to stock up have a look in our food hall.

    Butter and fennel

    We all know that everything tastes better with butter, but why not try something new with butter and fennel? Mash a sprinkle of fennel in with your butter for a super easy seasoning, great for roasting fish, slathering on bruchetta or use instead of garlic butter for a great garlic bread alternative!

    Yoghurt and coriander

    The summer months are a great time for casual eating, finger food and dips in the garden with a cocktail in hand! Spruce up your yoghurt with a handful of chopped coriander leaves – great just with breadsticks, cucumber and carrots or try it as an unusual salad dressing.

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  • Herb of the Week - Aloe Vera

    Herb of the Week - Aloe Vera

    With the sun making a welcome appearance this week we are sure to see plenty of sun burned skin – so our herb of the week must be Aloe vera.  This important medicinal plant has so many uses – in beauty preparations and medicinally.  Sun burnt skin can be treated with cooling aloe vera gel.  We keep a plant in the kitchen and use the sap directly from the leaves for all types of minor burns – especially those little cooking accidents.

     

    Aloe can help in the relief of symptoms of dermatitis or psoriasis as well as eczema and skin irritations.  It contains a mix of properties including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agents as well as minerals and vitamins, which aid penetration of the skin and tissues and encourage healing.

     

    A perennial, tender succulent, this plant should be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill.  It needs a well drained gritty soil and little water, allow to dry out completely between waterings.  It can grow up to 3 feet tall with clusters of long, fleshy leaves and tubular yellow flowers.  Aloe vera is really easy to grow and is a great plant if, like me, you are a bit slack with watering your houseplants!

     

    The sap is also preserved and dried or liquified for use commercially in a wide range of products including toiletries.

     

    We use aloe in our skin care range and our aloe gel can be used as a shaving gel or even used as a base to create a fabulous face mask, try adding avocado and oats.

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  • Herb of the Week - Lavandula

    Herb of the Week - Lavandula

    Lavandula is probably the most popular and useful of scented garden plants.  Growing to a height of 30cm to 1m Lavender prefers full sun and will thrive in most soils including dry and stony ones; persistently wet situations will cause the plant to die.  They are salt tolerant and make great plants for seaside gardens. Moderately frost hardy to frost hardy, this evergreen is easy to grow  and makes a great container plant.  In Tudor and Elizabethan times it was grown extensively in knot work gardens and even as lawns

    Great for adding scent to the home - hang dried bunches around the house for their sweet smell, use dried flowers for lavender bags or pot pourri, or use the essential oil in oil burners or on a cotton wool ball.

    Lavender is a calming herb; it aids sleep, can be used to treat minor burns, cuts and bites and makes a fabulous relaxing massage blend.  It can also help relieve muscular aches and pains.

    For as long as records exist lavender has been used to create healing balms and potions and was used ritualistically in the embalming of mummies.  Folklore has stories of lavender for healing broken hearts; warding off the evil eye; mixing with other herbs to call upon fairies and spirits; for protection charms; and to attract love.

    Once valued as a culinary herb it is making a comeback in the kitchen.  Use sparingly to flavour cakes, biscuits, ice cream or even chocolate.  Try this great recipe for lavender biscuits:

    • 150g butter softened
    • 150g sugar
    • 225g plain flour
    • tsp lavender flowers finely chopped

    Put flour, sugar and lavender flowers into  a blender with the butter and blend until it forms a soft dough.   Shape dough into a log and put in fridge for 30 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to cut into thin rounds, place on a greased baking sheet and bake in oven (gas 5 or 190C) for about 15 minutes until golden.

     

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  • Herb of the week - Rosmarinus officinalis

    Herb of the week - Rosmarinus officinalis

    Rosemarinus officinalis is an evergreen, perennial plant that flowers in late spring.  It prefers full sun and will thrive in poor soil, it is great for seaside gardens as it is salt tolerant.   Originally the plant comes from the Mediterranean. However it has adapted to cooler climates and grows well in this country.

    Widely used in cooking, place sprig of rosemary in the roasting pan for meats and potatoes.  Or try Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Rosemary Cake.

    Rosemary has a rich history of useage; during the middle ages it was used as a strewing herb to sweeten and disinfect the home (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strewing_herb). Bunches can be hung around the house as a natural air freshener, or the leaves and flowers can be included in pot pourri.  It can also be usefully scattered on the barbecue to deter insects.

    In bath products rosemary is invigorating, it adds it’s sharp scent to our signature Rosemary & Bergamot range of products where it mixes beautifully with the citrusy orange aroma of bergamot.

    Historically the Ancient Greeks believed anointing the forehead with a tincture of rosemary would increase their memory.  Linked with Biblical tales it is said the plant will only grow as tall as Christ did.  It is also believed to be endowed with health giving powers. Sprigs of Rosemary have also been used as a protection against evil, being placed in baby's cots, bridal bouquets and the hands of the dead.  Rosemary is the herb of remembrance, its use is said to improve memory, Greek scholars apparently wove it into their hair for this reason.

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  • Herb of the week - Calendula

    Herb of the week - Calendula

    Calendula officinalis is an annual, reasonably frost hardy plant with medicinal and culinary uses.  It likes well drained soil in a sunny position but will tolerate partial shade.  Growing to a height of approximately 50cms it has vivid orange blooms throughout the growing season, cut these back as the petals die to encourage new growth.  The seedheads of this plant are fabulous, reminiscent of little sea creatures.

    The flowers of Calendula are edible and make a pretty addition to salads, they can also add colour to rice dishes and be used as a garnish for fruit.    Or boil them to create a pale dye.

    Petals can be added directly to baths, or used to make into simple balms.  The easiest way to use would be to make an infused oil - take a handful of petals and place in a clean sealable jar (such as a kilner jar).  Cover with a neutral smelling oil, sunflower or grapeseed are best, and leave in a warm place.  Change the petals after a week and leave again.  Do this two or three times until the oil has an orange tinge, then strain through muslin and pour into an airtight container.  Store in a cool dry place and use within 6 months.

    Calendula is good for dry skin, we use it to make our Heel and Corn Oil, and it is great for gardeners hands.

    Some say Calendula makes for the best love potions! Some say Calendula makes for the best love potions!

    In the language of flowers Calendula is a symbol of devotion and is used by some cultures to decorate wedding feasts and outfits.  Dreams of this plant are said to signify happiness in love or marriage.  Indeed love potions have been made from its flowers and leaves!

     

    St Kitts Herbery products with Calendula:

     

    Calendula Cream 30g, 120g, 500g

    Calendula Oil 100ml

    Heel and Corn Oil 100ml

    Spiced Lime Shaving Oil 50ml

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  • Herb of the Week: Woad, Isatis tinctoria

    Herb of the Week: Woad, Isatis tinctoria

    This unassuming plant with pretty yellow flowers has a long and fasciating history!

    A  member of the humble cabbage family (Brassicaceae), woad is celebrated for the blue dye extracted from its leaves. The earliest recorded example of woad dyed textiles dates to 2500BC, and woad has been traded, used in textiles and ceremonies ever since - one of the most well-known uses is that of a warpaint used by the ancient Britons.

    Woad flowers

    Trade in woad reached a peak in Britain in the middle ages - in the 15th century it was one of the most important imports into the country, which reflected the growth of the textile industry. Over the following centuries woad was rejected in favour of indigo, imported from India, which gave a much stronger blue colour.

    Nowadays there's renewed interest in this fascinting herb, due to its use as a biodegradeble ink and its possible cancer fighting properties.

    All the plants featured in our 'Herb of the Week' series are available from St Kitts Herbery at the time of publishing. Please contact us to check availability at other times of the year.

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  • Herb of the Week: Borage, Borago officinalis

    Herb of the Week: Borage, Borago officinalis

    This easy to grow herb is loved by humans and bees for its blue star shaped flowers, hence it’s other name ‘star flower’.

    The flowers and leaves are edible and have a mild cucumber flavor. Try adding a few leaves to a salad- use young leaves though as the older ones tend to get tough and prickly.  The flowers also make a brilliant addition to drinks, especially a classic summer Pimms!

    Image by Phil Sellens

    Traditionally, borage makes a good poultice and was believed to induce happiness and good humour, perhaps that’s why a common botanical used in  gin!

    Prized for its healing, soothing and moisturising properties, we use borage cream as the base for most of our creams, including our Rosemary & Bergamot Hand Cream.

    Rosemary & Bergamot Hand Cream

    It’s easy to grow and self seeds freely, meaning just one plant could keep you supplied with borage leaves and seeds for life.

    All the plants featured in our 'Herb of the Week' section are available from St Kitts Herbery, Camelford at the time of publication. Please phone us to check availability at other times of the year.

    Borage flower image by Phill Sellens.
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  • Herb of the Week:  Pulsatilla Vulgaris

    Herb of the Week: Pulsatilla Vulgaris

    This week’s herb of the week is particularly appropriate at this time of year- Pulsatilla, is also known as the Pasque flower or Easter flower

    It’s one of the earliest flowers of spring and, like other anemones provides a welcome shot of colour after the long winter months. After the flowers have faded, the fluffy seed heads continue to provide interest.

    Pulsatilla Vulgaris

    Traditionally, this hardy perennial was used to make a dye used to colour eggs at Easter, and was also used to treat respiratory and digestive treatments.

    All the plants featured in our 'Herb of the Week' section are available from St Kitts Herbery, Camelford at the time of publication. Please phone us to check availability at other times of the year.

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  • Herb of the week: Tree spinach, Chenopodium Giganteum

    Herb of the week: Tree spinach, Chenopodium Giganteum

    This easy to grow herb has the double benefits of being lovely to look at and delicious to eat!

    The leaves of this quick growing annual have striking, magenta coloured stems and make an unusual ‘cut and come again’ crop.

    Tree spinach imageThe tender, young leaves are great in salads, while the more mature leaves can be used as you would ‘ordinary’ spinach- we love them lightly steamed and finished with butter and a twist of pepper.

    Best positioned at the back of a border or bed as it can reach up to 2m in height – tree spinach seeds freely too, giving you plants for years to come!

    All the plants featured in our 'Herb of the Week' section are available from St Kitts Herbery, Camelford at the time of publication. Please phone us to check availability at other times of the year.

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  • Herb of the week - Blackcurrant Sage, Salvia microphylla var. microphylla

    Herb of the week - Blackcurrant Sage, Salvia microphylla var. microphylla

    We have many different varieties of sage here at St Kitts, each with different colours and fragrances. One variety that stands out is blackcurrant sage- if you thought that sage was a savoury ingredient, think again!

    This deliciously fruity variety has a remarkable blackcurrant fragrance and is the perfect ingredient to pep up drinks, fruity pies, puddings and jellies.Blackcurrant sage

    Blackcurrant sage has bright, berry red flowers and a fruity aroma which makes it irresistible to bees. It’s a frost tender perennial, so as long as you keep it frost free over winter, it will add colour and scent to your herb garden year after year.

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