Have you noticed how many TV chefs have their own kitchen garden, growing vegetables and herbs thus reducing the loss of those amazing flavours by the time they get into the kitchen? Although we don’t all have room, time or interest in growing our own vegetables there is one group of plants that we could easily grow in a few containers, hanging baskets or small part of the garden providing ourselves with a few fresh ingredients for our kitchen. Not only are many herbs a complimentary cooking ingredient but they can also have other interesting and medicinal properties too.
The new potato is transformed with a knob of butter and a few sprigs of mint, cheese on toast is delicious with a sprinkling of fresh chives and pasta would be so boring without basil and oregano, where would stuffing be without sage?
There are many varieties of mint and they probably don’t all taste good with potatoes, but spearmint, garden, and apple mint do and are easy to grow. These are best grown in moist but well-drained soil in containers because they grow vigorously and can easily become invasive. Cutting regularly will encourage new growth which is the tastiest for cooking and if allowed to flower they’ll become a valuable source of nectar for bees and other beneficial insects. They’re useful too made into a pot pourri, have varying medicinal properties, as well as deterring flies, aphids or even mice.
Chives are related to the onion family and prefer moist but well-drained soils in a sunny spot, although they will tolerate light shade. Their mild onion flavour makes them a tasty companion ingredient with cheese, salads, sandwiches and omelettes. Flavour is best if regularly cut however those little purple pom-pom flowers do look pretty as well as being attractive to bees etc.
Garlic chives produce white flowers, and are also a great flavouring too giving a mild garlic flavour as well as having some other useful purposes in the garden.