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Herbs Growing Guide

Grow herbs in pots and containers on a sunny patio near the kitchen door for convenience, a window sill or in the garden border. Herbs should be grown in full sun although chives, mint and parsley can be grown in a position that only receives sun for part of the day.

Most herbs can be sown in February and March in a heated greenhouse and many annual and perennial herbs can also be sown outdoors from April to June. Grow on in pots until the end of May/early June once the danger of frost has passed. The plants can then be planted outdoors in the garden or grown on in pots or large containers on the patio. Mint is invasive and if planted in the garden border it should be planted in an old bucket or large pot with the bottom removed to restrict the root spread.

Herb leaves can be can be dried, frozen or used fresh. To dry the leaves hang bunches of about ten stems up side down in a warm dark place. Once dried remove the leaves and store them in an air tight container.

Basil

Grow in a sunny position avoiding the scorching midday sun. Sow during March in a heated greenhouse or on a window sill. Can also be sown outdoors in May and June. Take care to avoid over watering the seedlings as they are prone to damping off.
Harvesting:
Pick the young leaves.
Preserving:
Freeze the leaves, painting both surfaces with olive oil to retain the flavour. The leaves can also be dried, store whole in an air tight container.
Culinary Uses:
Sprinkle over salads, sliced tomatoes, rice salads, courgettes, marrows, beans and Mediterranean dishes.

 

Borage

This easily grown annual is attractive to bees. Sow the seed during April and May, choosing a light well drained soil in a sunny position.
Harvesting:
Both the flowers and leaves can be harvested as required.
Preserving:
The flowers can be dried and the leaves can be frozen in ice cubes.
Culinary Uses:
The flowers can be used as a garnish or spread on salads. Young leaves can be added to wine cups for their cool cucumber – like taste. Chop finely into salads, yoghurt, soft cheese and pickles. Cook as or with spinach.

 

Chives

A perennial herb, Chives require a moist well drained soil in a sunny position or partial shade.
Sow the seed March to May outdoors. Grow some on the kitchen windowsill for use during winter.
Harvesting:
Cut the leaves back to 2.5cm (1in.) above soil level to allow for regrowth. Divide and replant clumps every 3-4 years.
Preserving:
Place the leaves in a polythene bag where they will stay fresh for about a week if refrigerated. Chives can also be frozen.
Culinary Uses:
Sprinkle the leaves on salads, sandwiches, soups, cheese and egg dishes.

 

Coriander

Sow the seed in late March to end of June. Grow in full sun in a well drained soil. Fennel will produce less seed if grown near coriander. The variety Confetti can be used as a cut and come again crop or grown on to a mature plant.
Harvesting:
The young leaves can be picked at any time for immediate use. Or they can be frozen. Collect the seed when it turns brown, before it drops, dry and store whole in air tight containers.
Culinary Uses:
Add the seed to tomato chutney, pickles, ratatouille, curries, soups, sauces, vegetable dishes, apple pies, cakes and biscuits. Add fresh lower leaves to curries, salads, stews and use as a garnish. The leaves are also suitable for use in potpourri. The stem can be cooked in soups and with beans.

 

Dill

Dill should be grown in full sun in sheltered position. Sow the seed outdoors in spring. Dill should not be grown near Fennel as they cross pollinate and the flavours become impaired.
Harvesting:
The young leaves can be picked at anytime. Collect the seed once the seed head turns brown. Hang the plant up side down over a cloth to catch the falling seed.
Preserving:
The leaves can be frozen or dried. Dry the seed before storing in an air tight container.
Culinary Uses:
Use the ground or whole seed in soups, fish dishes, pickles, apple pies, cakes and bread.
Finely chopped leaves can be added to soups, potato salad, cream cheese, eggs, salmon and grilled meats and as a garnish.

 

Fennel

Sow outdoors during April and May, in a moist well drained soil in a sunny position. Avoid clay soils. Do not grow near dill as the plants will cross pollinate or coriander as it reduces fennel’s seed production.
Harvesting:
Pick the young aniseed flavoured leaves as required. Collect the seed when ripe.
Preserving:
Freeze the leaves and dry the seed and store in air tight containers..
Culinary Uses:
The leaves can be added to fish and vegetable dishes and soups. The seeds are used for fish dishes, bread and sauces.

 

Florence Fennel

Sow the seeds in a sunny, well drained position from May to July. Thin the seedlings to 20cm (8ins.) apart. Do not grow near dill or coriander.
Harvesting:
The swollen root stalk can be harvested from mid August through to October.
Culinary Uses:
Florence Fennel has a celery like taste with a hint of aniseed. The swollen root stalk can be sliced or grated for using raw in sandwiches and salads, braised or boiled.

 

Lavender

The seed should be sown during February and March at a temperature of 18°C (65°F). Sowings can also be made in May and June in trays placed in a cool greenhouse or cold frame. When the seedlings are large enough to handle transplant into small pots. When they have grown sufficiently plant outdoors in a sunny position where the soil drains freely.
Harvesting:
Pick the flower stems just as they start to open. Leaves can be picked at any time.
Preserving:
Dry flowering stems in trays or by hanging in small bunches.
Culinary Uses:
Use the flowers to flavour jams and small amounts can be mixed with other herbs in stews. Leaves have a bitter flavour and are best used in potpourri.

 

Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass is a tender perennial that can reach a height of 1.8m (6ft.). The seed should be sown during February and March at a temperature of 18-20ºC (65-68ºF). The plants can be stood outdoors during the summer months. Over winter the plants at a temperature of 13ºC (55ºF).
Harvesting:
Cut the young growth as required. Do not cut too heavily in the winter. Allow the plants to recover and cut in spring to encourage new growth.
Culinary Uses:
Chop tender shoots into salads and stir fries.

 

Lovage

A hardy herbaceous perennial that will grow to a height of 150-200cm (5ft-6ft 8in). The leaves have a celery like flavour. Sow the seed indoors or in a greenhouse from February to September at a temperature 16ºC ( 61ºF). Sowings can be made outdoors in mid April or August. Plant out in the garden 60cm (2ft) apart in a sunny position. Keep the plants well watered in dry weather. If seeds are not required the flowers should be removed as they develop.
Harvesting:
Pick the leaves as required but retain the young central leaves. Dig second and third year roots before flowering. Collect the seeds when ripe.
Preserving:
The leaves can be dried or frozen. Dry the roots and seeds.
Culinary Uses:
The seed can be crushed and added to bread and pastries or sprinkled on salads, rice or mashed potatoes. The chopped leaves can be used in soups, stews and casseroles. Fresh young leaves can be added to salads. The peeled roots can be cooked or pickled.

 

Marjoram (sweet)

Grow in a nutrient rich, freely draining, alkaline soil. Marjoram has a stronger flavour in nutrient rich soils. If growing in containers apply a liquid fertilizer regularly.
Harvesting:
Pick the young leaves at any time. If the leaves are required for preserving they should be picked just before the flowers open.
Preserving:
Preserve the leaves by either freezing or drying.
Culinary Uses:
Add finely chopped leaves to salads, meat dishes and sauces for fish. Marjoram should be added to meat dishes in the last few minutes of cooking. The stems can be laid on barbecue embers to give food a faint flavour of Marjoram.

 

Mint

Grow mint in full sun or partial shade, in a moist well drained soil. If planted in the garden border plant in an old bucket or pot with the base removed to prevent the roots spreading. Grow a pot of mint on the window sill during winter for a supply of fresh leaves.
Harvesting:
Use fresh, Pick leaves and sprigs before they start to flower.
Preserving:
Mint leaves can be dried or frozen.
Culinary Uses:
Fresh leaves can be added to beans, beetroot, carrots, drinks, fruit salads, new potatoes, peas, spinach and for mint sauce.

 

Oregano

To develop the full flavour the plants should be grown in a well drained, nutrient rich soil. Choose a sunny position for these plants.
Harvesting:
Pick the young leaves as required
Preserving:
The leaves can be frozen or dried, picking just before the flowers open.
Culinary Uses:
Use to flavour meat dishes, pizzas and omelettes.

 

Parsley

Parsley will happily grow in full sun or light shade. Sowings should be made in a heated greenhouse during February and March and outdoors in April and May. Further sowings can be made in June to provide young growth over winter. During early autumn pot up a few plants and grow on the window sill for use in the winter months.
Harvesting:
Pick the leaves for immediate use.
Preserving:
Dry or freeze the leaves.
Culinary Uses:
Add freshly picked to salads. Finely chop and sprinkle over sandwiches, egg dishes, soups, fish dishes, boiled potatoes and sources.

 

Purslane

Purslane requires a well drained soil in a warm, sunny, sheltered position. Sow the seeds at a temperature of 12-20ºC (54-68ºF). Make regular sowings throughout the summer to maintain regular supplies.
Harvesting:
Can be grown as a cut and come again crop. Taking the young leaves and stems.
Preserving:
The leaves can be pickled in vinegar.
Culinary Uses:
Add the fresh, crunchy leaves to salads. Can also be added to stir fries, casseroles, omelettes or sautéed.

 

Rocket

Rocket requires sunny position and a well drained, moisture retentive soil. Sow the seed from April to June thinning seedlings to 20cm (8ins) apart. The plants must be kept well watered during dry spells to keep the leaves tender and to reduce the risk of the plants prematurely running to seed.
Harvesting:
Pick the leaves as required.
Culinary Uses:
Add to green salads. The leaves can also be used in sauces or steamed as a vegetable. The young leaves have a milder flavour.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial herb suitable for growing in a well drained soil in a sunny position, sheltered from strong, cold winds, in a very well drained soil. Sow in early spring at a temperature of 21°C (70°F) or outdoors April and May. Germination can be slow. Avoid over watering as seedlings can be prone to damping off. Rosemary can grow to a height of 4-5ft but can be kept shorter by trimming.
Harvesting:
Pick small amounts of leaves throughout the year. The main leaf crop for preserving is picked before flowering.
Preserving:
Dry branches and sprigs, stripping off the leaves before storing. To preserve the aroma crush the leaves just before use.
Culinary Uses:
Use sparingly in meat dishes, especially lamb and pork.

 

Sage

Grow the plants in a sunny position and to maintain a bushy habit cut back the plants after flowering. Yellowing of the foliage may indicate that the plant needs repotting. Sow February and March in a heated greenhouse or on a widow sill. Sow outdoors during April /May.
Harvesting:
The leaves should be picked just before the flowers appear.
Preserving:
To obtain the best flavour dry the leaves slowly.
Culinary Uses:
Used in stuffing for poultry, and cooked with pork, duck and sausages.

 

Sorrel

Make sowings outdoors from March through to the end of May. Grow in light shade, in a moist, rich, well drained soil.
Harvesting:
Gather young leaves as required.
Preserving:
The dried leaves have little flavour. It is best to freeze prepared dishes.
Culinary Uses:
Use for flavouring omelettes, lamb, salads and sauces for fish, poultry and salads.

 

Tarragon (Russian)

The seed can be sown in a propagator or indoors at a temperature of 15-20ºC (60-68ºF) from February to April. Alternatively sow outdoors in April. The plants require a sunny position and a well drained soil.
Harvesting:
Pick the leaves as required.
Preserving:
The Leaves can be frozen or dried quickly at a temperature of 27ºC (80ºF).
Culinary Uses:
The leaves are used to flavour pickles, mustards, and sources for chicken, fish and rice dishes.

 

Thyme

Sow the seed from April to mid June. Thyme should be grown in full sun in a well drained soil.
Harvesting:
Thyme leaves are at their best when the plants are in flower but can be picked throughout the summer.
Preserving:
The leaves of Thyme should be dried.
Culinary Uses:
The leaves can be added to stock, marinades, stuffing, sauces and soups. Also excellent with beef, poultry, shellfish, game, veal, cheese and egg dishes.

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