Thursday, 19 January 2012

Love the herb bug

The other night I was watching some River Cottage related programme about three hungry boys or something like that. Another day, another foodie show. 

However, as with all that Hugh and his mates seem to do, there is a combination of a challenge and a moral determination. This time round, it's to get from A in Somerset to B in Cornwall without so much as a penny or petrol. A converted milk float and a few supplies. But otherwise, it's fend for, and feed yourselves.

So far, so West Country.

But. Within minutes of setting off they go and raid Hugh's garden for essentials to feed them (see 6 minutes in). The things that will give them fuel, see them through the harsh conditions ahead. So what do they nick?

Oragano, sage and lemon thyme. 

I mean, come on. Seriously guys, where on this earth are those considered to be essential other than Hampstead? And lemon thyme? Not even normal thyme, you have to go for the fancy stuff. Sheesh.

Yet herbs have a hold on people and it's this hold that I want to explore as both a gardener and fledgling cook. So I've come up with a new challenge. To create the most abundant herb garden and start to see what impact it has on my everyday food. And I'd like some help too.

I've got a small legacy from previous owners/tenants. First of these is a bay tree, which despite regular use just grows like mad. I'm not complaining as I've come to love it.

I also have a small clump of chives. I've cut it right back because last year after it died off in the winter, brand new shoots were the first hint of spring growth. Vigourous and positive, I await this year's spring charge!

So for my challenge I've bought / still have some of the standard herbs but I'm also looking for the rare, the under-rated and the downright unfashionable. Tweet me, comment or email the one herb you think I should try to grow and cook.

As I grow I'll be asking my partner in cooking crime Ruth to give me recipes and tips on her blog yummymummycookingschool but don't let that stop you sending us your suggestions too.

For more, head over to my shockingly named About thyme page...


Nome said...

Aww, just one, Tom? Aside from chives and bay, I'm sure you'd get most use out of basil (easy from seed indoors all year round, but I can never manage it outdoors) and oregano (perennial but tricky from seed - buy a pot in Wilkinsons!). They're both lovely raw in salads/sandwiches as well as cooked, and they pop up in recipes all the time.

(Sage and rosemary are both easy, low-maintenance and good value perennials too...)

Esther Montgomery said...

Basil is what I would like to grow. I've tried but it gets eaten and I don't have a greenhouse. If I had a greenhouse, I'd grow basil.

I would like to grow parsley. Not the flat leafed kind - the curled leaf tasty stuff that you can pick in handfuls and munch on - if you can grow it at all. I seem to have lost the knack.

If you want a comparatively unusual idea - loveage. It has a celery type flavour so you can use it in soups but the leaves are big so you can put them in salads and sandwiches.

That's one isn't it?

Hapless gardener said...

Ha, sorry Nome - I thought it would be a bit of fun to get you all to choose the burning herb in your belly that I should grow. But I'll let you both off for being so kind as to leave comments!

Lovely to hear from you Esther, hope you're well? Agree with you both basil i do love - i did try last year but had a bit of a disaster with it.

@akentishkitchen also suggested Lovage, which is new to me but is now top of the list as I adore the flavour of celery!

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.