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Monthly Archives: May 2013

A new herb garden

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Aromatic plants and herbs have always interested me and for more years than I can remember I’ve grown a range of culinary herbs both in the garden and on the kitchen windowsill. There’s something very satisfying about being able cut what you need for a recipe from the garden without having to make a journey to the shops, in my case it’s a 5 mile journey and very often what I’m after is out of stock.

During the summer months when parsley, mint, sage, coriander and dill are plentiful, I freeze them in ice cubes trays and that keeps me stocked during winter. Other more robust herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage continue growing on quite happily throughout the winter although sage usually needs some fleece protection in winter.

I’ve had my current garden for for 31 years and the herbs have a small bed beside the raised veg beds with several containers dotted around with mint and extra parsley. All the old favourites are there, parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay, dill, sage, mints, wild garlic, oregano and marjoram. Basil grows happily all year round on the kitchen windowsill as it never seems to grow well either in the garden or an outside container, even during the warm Scottish summer.

This year I’m making some changes in the garden as growing vegetables and maintaining the beds has become more challenging due to some problems with some old injuries. Scaling back the veg growing leaves me with a large empty bed and I’ve decide to turn that into a kitchen herb garden.

A helping hand to clear the bed from one of my chickens

A helping hand to clear the bed from one of my chickens

Sketching a plan and deciding on plants is the challenge at the moment. Obviously growing from seed is the cheapest option but I’ll also be buying some plants as I want to have a number of mature plants in the beds. Several of my seed sowings including parsley, thyme, oregano and basil have already germinated and will help fill the spaces and can also be planted in containers.

Some of the already established plants such as this Rosemary will be replanted into the bed and I'm thinking that Rosemary will will make an attractive small hedge on one side.

Some of the already established plants such as this Rosemary will be replanted into the bed and I’m thinking that Rosemary will will make an attractive small hedge on one side.

Dividing the bed into four sections separated by a narrow cross brick type path seems like the simplest way of arranging the area and that design will allow for easy access to maintain and cut herbs for cooking. I’ll also place some the herbs in containers on the paths around the new bed and near to seating areas in the garden as there is nothing nicer than running your hands through a herbal plant and inhaling the aroma. Close your eyes and you can visualise being somewhere on the med.

Jekka McVicars book, ‘Jekka’s Complete Herb Book’ is a great reference for herbal plants and advice about cultivation and it was interesting to read that some of the plants I have growing in flower beds are classed as herbal plants, some of which are edible.

Here’s a few of those plants.

Alchemilla Mollis, Lady's Mantle grows prolifically on the banks of the stream and anywhere else it manages to seed itself. The leaves are edible and the bitter tasting leaves can be used in Salads.

Alchemilla Mollis, Lady’s Mantle grows prolifically on the banks of the stream and anywhere else it manages to seed itself. The leaves are edible and the bitter tasting leaves can be used in Salads.


Yarrow,Achilea Anthea is growing in the flower beds and the young leaves can used in salads and in a hot infusion is one of the best herbal remedies for fevers.

Yarrow,Achilea Anthea is growing in the flower beds and the young leaves can used in salads and in a hot infusion is one of the best herbal remedies for fevers.

I’ve always grown bergamot for it’s interest and and for it’s wonderful citrus aroma. The essential of bergamot is a long time favourite of mine and it was one of the oils I used to treat my sons skin when he had shingles as a toddler. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads, while the leaves can be used in sauces, teas and drinks. It has only started growing again so no picture at this stage.

I've being growing Angelica for a few years and it has successfully self seeded but until now I've enjoyed it for it's beautiful foliage and flowers. This year I'lwill make a point of using the leaves will follow Jekka McVicars advice to add the young Angelica leaves when stewing rhubarb or gooseberries. Less sugar will be needed and although it doesn't sweeten the fruit, it's muscatel flavour cuts through the acidity of the rhubarb.

I’ve being growing Angelica for a few years and it has successfully self seeded but until now I’ve enjoyed it for it’s beautiful foliage and flowers. This year I’ll make a point of using the leaves will follow Jekka McVicars advice to add the young Angelica leaves when stewing rhubarb or gooseberries. Less sugar will be needed and although it doesn’t sweeten the fruit, it’s muscatel flavour cuts through the acidity of the rhubarb.

Parsley, protected to keep the chickens out.

Parsley, protected to keep the chickens out.


I’ll be posting updates on the progress of the new patch over the next few weeks and I’ll be delighted if you’ll share your advice and similar projects with me.

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Eating seasonally and a special treat of Scottish tomatoes

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Wednesday is delivery day for my organic veg bag and usually means I’ll plan food for the days ahead with the seasonal vegetables for that week. As the seasons change I find myself getting quite excited at the thought of what’s included as I rarely know the contents in advance.

As we move from the winter months into spring there’s a gradual change in the vegetables, moving from then arthy robust swedes, parsnips, winter cabbages, to tomatoes, courgettes, spring greens, spinach, asparagus and new potatoes.
veg bag

Although there’s always the old favourites such as carrots and broccoli that get cooked every week, it’s nice to start thinking about some lighter dishes to cook.

This week is Fresh Week, launched by Tefal as a celebration of fresh food and healthy eating so it’s seems a good time to be writing about fresh seasonal food. There are lots of recipes for fresh ingredients on the Tefal website http://www.Tefalfreshexpress.co.uk/FreshWeek and you can also take the pledge to give up processed food for the week.

Letting the seasons dictate what I cook is something I enjoy enormously. It’s not just vegetables that signal the changing seasons, the range of meat, fish and game changes and there’s something very satisfying with going with what’s available. It’s such a great way to shop. The rhythm of my food shopping week is the veg bag delivery on a Wednesday followed by a farmers market on a Saturday and maybe even a Sunday.

The past few weeks there’s been plum tomatoes in the delivery but the highlight of a trip to Glasgow farmers market last weekend was undoubtedly Clyde Valley Tomatoes following the recent revival of the the Scottish tomato industry by partners David Craig and Scott Robertson.


Having followed their story since they began the venture last year, it was a real joy to see the tomatoes finally on sale. And shoppers were not disappointed. It was obviously a fantastic sensory experience, sight, touch, smell, and a taste of tomatoes that tasted like I remembered from childhood. It was also great to see so many varieties available, freshly picked and having travelled only 25 miles to market. Cucumbers were also available, and immediately two dishes came to mind. Tomato and cucumber raita to accompany Saturday night’s curry and a Greek salad with a Scottish twist for Sunday lunch.

A vibrant display of tomatoes at Partick  Farmers market

A vibrant display of tomatoes at Partick Farmers market

Tomato and cucumber raita
tomato and cucumber raita

130g mixed tomatoes chopped
50g cucumber chopped
200ml Greek Yoghurt.
2 tbsp chopped mint
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper.

Mix the tomatoes and cucumber with the yoghurt. Stir in the mint and cumin. together and season to taste. Tip into a serving bowl and sprinkle with cayenne and pepper.

Greek Salad
gk salad

4 large tomatoes
Half a cucumber
1 red onion
Black olives ..I use a small pack with about 20 olives.
Block of Feta Cheese
Herbs….fresh…Oregano is good but sometimes I use basil.

Dressing.
I used Summer Harvest
rapeseed oil and bramble vinegar, a real favourite of mine
50 ml rapeseed oil
15 ml bramble vinegar
Freshly Ground black pepper and sea salt flakes.

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite size chunks, slice the red onion thinly, add the olives and crumble over the Feta Cheese.
Combine the dressing ingredients and mix through the salad. Scatter the herbs on top, drizzle with some more olive oil and season to taste.

You can find out more about the revival of the Scottish tomato industry and Clyde Valley Tomatoes from http://www.clyde-valley.co.uk
More information on the bramble vingegar and rapeseed oil can be found at http://www.summerharvestoils.co.uk