Quarantine cooking and growing herbs at home!
As we are all at home and looking for new ways to cook while also learning about being self sufficient by growing our own, many us are going back to basics , and rediscovering the healing and comforting powers of fresh herbs
Growing herbs can be very satisfying way of connecting with nature, and well as being rewarding and handy for flavouring food in general. Herbs are also packed with vitamins, antioxidants and natural oils, a great natural addition to a healthy balanced diet.
Our ‘Herbs at Home’ box is packed with flavour from lemon and lime basil to pineapple sage and hot n spicy oregano. You’ll be spoilt for choice as to the cooking options.
With over 30 years growing herbs here is our expert guide:
Why grow herbs now?
Well June is the near perfect month in the Irish garden to quickly establish summer herbs. The soil is warm, the sun is at its height and herbs will thrive in the coming growing months once they have put down some roots.
You will also feel better for being able to freshly pick from the garden , window sill or patio, knowing exactly where your produce is coming from.
Where to grow?
Patience is a virtue, some of these herbs have taken several weeks to produce at our farm in Wicklow to get to this stage, and now you have the opportunity to maximise there value by finding the best location for them to flourish some more
If you just have a windowsill , herbs will do fine, but don’t expect a full long summer without some degree of extra care, why not try potting them on to a slightly bigger pot to prolong their life. Some of the multi sown pots of parsley and basil will benefit from splitting up.
Ideally many herbs will do much better in the garden where after establishing they will largely look after themselves. Alternatively large tubs or pots are a good intermediate solution, you will just have to check on watering and some feed every so often.
How long will they last?
Hardy herbs like sage thyme and rosemary should last into the winter. Choose a sunny location with free draining soil, give them plenty of space. As with all herbs good initial watering , followed through daily should quickly establish so the plant self sustains.
Mints will tolerate more shade and thrive in moist ground. If you don’t want them overtaking the ground, bury them in large containers which will restrict the roots.
For annual herbs like coriander and dill, you will have to be less ambitious sometimes these are only one single cut herbs, but why not try sowing your own seed to get a succession on the crop , the pots here will just get you up and going.
Parsley is a biennial which means it goes to seed in its second year. Why not carefully spilt the clump in to 4 or 5 , and settle these into the ground. Some good fertile soil and several watering should well establish them. Don’t be tempted to harvest until they establish some more , and then the plants should yield a few cuts.
More exotic herbs like lemon verbena or pineapple sage will also grow very well, these will survive a mild winter but its best to count them as a seasonal season plant. In particular if you pick a good spot for the pineapple sage it will grow to a good height and width so plant at the back of the herb garden or veg plot with that in mind.
Any special equipment?
You won’t need any specialist equipment but a watering can and perhaps a trowel for planting will be handy. If you are planting in tubs or planters then some good compost , look after draining by using gravel at the base and make sure there’s lots of draining holes.
A golden rule is to give everything a good water before and after planting, and perhaps a week or two after again
For indoor kitchen use , have you tried our self watering unit from Boskke, this will have your watering very nicely regulated and suits most herbs making them last a few more weeks than usual on the kitchen counter.
Last tips on basil!
Alas Basil is a temperamental herb, not liking changes in temperature or any chill or draughts, something we nearly expect in a typical Irish summer! It’s a Mediterranean native so really only does well in climates where the summers are very warm where it thrives.
Our glasshouse is set at a pleasant 20 degrees day and night, so basil grows really healthily, so unless you are fortunate to have your own tunnel or glasshouse , we recommend basil is kept indoors. If you want to extend its life, you could divide the clump and pot these into separate pots, a bright position out of direct sunlight would be good. With watering it’s good to let the soil slightly dry out between watering’s, slightly stressing the plant, rather than have it moist or too wet constantly, as this may just rot the root system which cant be recovered.
Tips for the summer
Our neighbour Catherine Fulvio has given us some summer tips for BBQ and infusing herbs:
For use in BBQ
Chop the lemon thyme into a marinade for chargrilled chicken, or add them to the beef mix for bbq burgers. It’s delicious added to summer lavender shortbread cookies as well as a teaspoon full stirred into an orange vinaigrette dressing will add some zing to a salmon summer salad. Add a few sprigs to an oil infusion.
Adds the pungent aroma in tomato sauce for bbq pizza as well as add to lamb kebabs with a mint dressing for summer. Chop some into yeast dough for homemade bread as well as an easy tomato, olive and oregano topping for focaccia and added to a herb oil to drizzle over bruschetta all of which can be done on the bbq.
It’s delicious, chopped and roasted with potatoes and lemon zest as well as stuffed into whole fish on the bbq and with chargrilled vegetables like red peppers, asparagus and red onions served with a creamy tarragon sauce.
On Drinks and Teas
Add leaves with summer berries to make cool ice cubes for your summer drinks. Make a lemon verbena sugar syrup for your cocktails – a homemade one always adds another level especially a dash or two into a glass of Prosecco.
Add a sprig or two into your homemade lemonade for a wonderful summery drink or into a strawberry smoothie or even try a pineapple sage mojito for a change on a summer’s evening.
There is nothing nicer then a refreshing cup of mint tea after a long day at work. Add a teaspoon or two of pomegranate seeds to it for a delicious tea or even an iced tea with mint leaves, strawberries and plenty of pretty ice.
We wish all our customers happy herb gardening, and hoping we see you all soon. In the meantime if you have any questions we can help you on, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.