Herbs in our Turangi Garden
As you can see from this photo, it has finally warmed up in Turangi and things are really starting to grow. It's nice to have some self-seeded flowers coming up all around the pond.
It's also nice to see our perennial herbs growing back now that it is warm again. The rosemary, oregano, chives and lemongrass are all starting to look great. There’s an opportunity every spring to sow some annual herbs, and here are some of the herbs in our Turangi garden this season.
I’ve been trying out lots of fresh Indian recipes lately, after finding a really inspiring Indian cookbook. The first thing that I realised is that most of the recipes need a supply of fragrant fresh coriander leaves, so the first thing to do was to sow some of these seeds. Now I have coriander plants scattered through the garden.
Coriander does well in cooler temperatures, so these plants don’t need to be in the greenhouse. Having fresh coriander in the garden is such a treat. The plants grow to about 60cm in height and it is worth leaving the plants in the garden as they begin to flower – the delicate white flowers are very pretty and make a nice edible garnish.
Of course, if you let it flower, it will also set seed – if you are planning to allow the plants to do that you may need to stake them to prevent the plant lolling around in the garden. Once the seeds are brown and mature, and before they start to drop from the plant, you can pop the whole plant into an old pillowcase and leave to dry, then shake the seeds off later and use them in the kitchen. I did this last year. It took me quite a while to clean the seed up so you if you don’t enjoy this kind of thing you might just want to buy whole coriander seed for the kitchen. It isn’t expensive to buy but I did find the home grown seed was a lot bigger and better quality. If you enjoy harvesting your own coriander seed, one or two plants can produce a lot of seed.
It’s for the fresh leaves that most of us want to grow this variety, however. There’s no substitute for being able to stroll out into the garden and pick as much fresh, fragrant coriander as you need! Coriander likes to grow in a light well-drained soil, in the semi shade and in a dry atmosphere. Letting the soil dry out too much will cause the plant to bolt, so keep the plants watered.
Another herb I’m sowing now is Chervil. Now that the soil is starting to warm up, it is a good time to sow this seed, which will germinate quickly. Make sure you are using fresh seed when growing chervil – this seed needs to be fresh to germinate well. This year I am going to sow Chervil again in autumn, as it can grow through the cooler temperatures. I can pop it in the greenhouse to protect it from the winter frost. So that you can have a good supply of the tender, fresh leaves, try to plant your plants in a semi-shaded position – having them growing out in the full sun can encourage them to flower and set seed and then your supply of tender leaves will be over. You could plant your chervil seedlings out in between your vegetable rows or under the shade of other garden plants. These leaves have a delicate parsley-like flavour with a hint of aniseed and can be used generously in salads and cooked dishes – this herb is one of the fines herbes used in French cooking. I’m determined this season to try and maintain a supply of chervil as it is delicate and flavourful and I’m keen on being able to harvest this throughout the season if I can keep the successional sowing going.
We have calendula everywhere in our garden – beautiful bright orange splashes of colour – from memory these are Calendula Indian Prince. They really are a wonderful variety. This year I have also sowed seeds of Calendula Snow Princess. They are easy to grow from seed so I ended up with a lot of seedlings. I’ve planted them out throughout the garden, and when they flower in early December, I’ll show you how they turned out. I chose this variety because this is an almost-white Calendula, so having these in flower will bring some brightness and light (and a foil for all the purple!) into our chaotic and floriferous food forest in the front garden. These flowers look a pale yellow when in bud, because the backs of the petals are yellow, but then they open up into nearly-white flowers.
Last year I shared some chamomile plants with a friend and this year the favour has gone the other way – the same friend has just given me some spare chamomile seedlings. That means I can again harvest chamomile flowers for making fresh herbal tea, and I will be able to dry the spare ones for use over the winter. It’s one of the most enjoyable things to do – wandering around the garden, picking chamomile flowers, hearing the bees humming on the nearby plants, and feeling the sun shine down. Thanks Linda for sharing your excess seedlings! If you want chamomile flowers for making tea, the variety to grow is German Chamomile. If you want a fragrant carpet, choose Roman Chamomile.
There are a couple of other herbs I am thinking of sowing – both produce seeds that I use in the kitchen.
Caraway seed is really nice to have on hand for adding to home-made bread. It is traditional to add caraway seed when making sauerkraut. The seeds have a liquorice-like flavour.
I’m intending to use the leaves as well. Caraway is a herb I haven’t grown before so I am looking forward to having it in the garden this year. I'll report back later in the season on how the caraway has worked out.
The other herb that I’m planning to sow is cumin. Another plant that produces edible seed. I know I can buy these seeds easily enough, but it is far more interesting to have the plant in the garden and watch it go through its seasonal growth cycle – and as with my experience growing coriander in the past, I’m expecting my home-harvested cumin seeds to be bigger and better than what I can buy. This is another variety I will report back on later.
What herbs are you sowing this season? We always love to hear your tips, tricks, stories and anecdotes!