Some years ago I came across a packet of Lemon Basil seeds from Thompson and Morgan – my favourite seed supplier since 1970! – that I have to confess had been ‘loitering’ in my seed box for some time, four years in fact! As I had a bit of space in my tiny greenhouse, I thought I would see if they germinated, expecting a few to come up which would be very useful for salads. To my great surprise the whole seed tray bounced into life and I had so much basil I had to give much of it away! Recipes and more information is here.
With that experience in mind I decided to go through the T&M catalogue looking for herbs that I could grow to add to salads, even if they didn’t grow to full size they would add a variety of flavours. Most herbs are available at very reasonable prices and with germination rates generally pretty high it’s a win win situation!
Most recently I have successfuly sown
Outdoor Basil This gave an excellent germination and again found I had so much I had to give many plants away. I kept some indoors and others in the kitchen garden. I love picking a leaf or two and eating it when I’m wandering around looking for weeds to pull up.
Borage, the young leaves have a cucumber taste and widely used in salads and the bright blue flowers look wonderful in drinks, or salads. At the end of the season the plant can be added to your compost. It does get a bit untidy but I can forgive that characteristic as it attracts so many bees and other insects, it is a joy to see it thriving.
Coriander This can be sown direct in the ground. However it is useful to sow some in pots to keep indoors for year round fresh leaves to add to salads, salsas and Asian cuisine. Another flavour indispensable TO the adventurous cook.
Chervil Used in French cooking to flavour fish dishes, sauces and soups, is a familiar taste of France. Can be grown in pot on the windowsill for all year fresh leaves.
Summer Savory this comes highly recommended from Bob Flowerdew who waxes lyrical about its effect on broad beans! Try it chopped and mixed with melted butter. Thompson & Morgan suggest adding it to breadcrumbs to coat fish, added to soups and stew – said to be magnificent!
Endive not often found on sale here in the UK, is easy to grow from seed. Easy too to grow it as salad leaves.
Other seeds I have successfully grown for the kitchen garden this year are globe artichokes, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, lettuce, sugar snaps, french beans, courgettes, leeks, pumpkin, outdoor melons – the jury is out on these they are not growing very quickly and I wonder whether they will flower and produce mature fruit, they are protected by a cloche to keep the heat in and the wind out.
I have grown many plants to attract insects. French marigolds, calendula, I have allowed the parsley to go to seed for insects to feed on, poached egg plant, nigella, and alfalfa to dig in as a green manure. Red clover has been sown for the same reason.
I have also used odd spaces to grow flowering plants for the main garden, for instance escholtzia, chrysanthemum daisies, scabious, sweet peas and I have experimented with unusual plants, for instance cucumelon.
It will be some weeks before I know which plants are worth keeping and which seeds are worth sowing next year. As always the gardener in me is constantly adding, subtracting and repeating plants, always aiming at perfection. Ever hopeful!
Val Reynolds, Editor In Balance Magazine