Fragrant herbs

FRAGRANT HERBS

Earlier this month I spent a wonderful week in Sardinia, my husband’s homeland. Warm evenings spent in my mother-in-law’s garden inspired me to write about herbs this week. I started photographing various plants as I was impressed with how many useful herbs one can grow easily on a very small piece of land, or even simply in a few flower pots!

Garden in Sardinia

Rosemary, mint, dill, sage, thyme and many more, all happily growing together in the backyard. In one of my recent posts I was encouraging you to pay attention to where your veggies come from and also inviting you to grow your own plants if possible. Well if you don’t have the space to grow leeks, broccoli or beans why not start with some herbs in one or two containers on the kitchen window sill? You can get your kids involved in looking after the plants and make a family thing out of it. Cooking with fresh herbs which you looked after will feel so much better than using supermarket bought herbs. If you want to learn about some other practical benefits of having herbs within arm’s reach, then have a look at this article from the Guardian.

If you are not cooking a lot at home, you might not even be familiar with a big variety of herbs and spices. If this is the case, I definitely want to invite you to start getting to know some of them. Even, if not home grown! If you are an experienced cook, then for sure you know the power of small but fragrant leaves, which can be used to prepare so many different types of food. They can create the main, dominant flavour of a dish or give it that little finishing touch, which makes all the difference. Just think of lemon zest or chilli flakes – always added in small quantities but what a difference these can make to the final result! Sometimes you can add a leaf which won’t even be eaten, but the scent itself will make a big impact on the overall experience. What comes to my mind here is a dessert which the restaurant chain Carluccio’s used to have some years ago. It was a kahlua chocolate fondant served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a couple of mint leaves. These leaves, even if not eaten, but just there for you to smell, were adding that much needed touch of freshness to a rich dessert.

Here are some of the herbs, which I found in the garden of my mother-in-law. Have a look and pick one or two to cook with or even better to grow at home! Do you have any favourites?

ROSEMARY
rosemary
Adding rosemary, garlic and olive oil is always a great way to roast potatoes and other vegetables. Rosemary is also used to cook lamb and chicken.

MINT
mint
I love adding a slice of lemon and some mint leaves to a glass of water. Makes such a refreshing drink! There are lots of things you can do with mint. Check out this article to find 49 ways to use mint!

BASIL
basilMost often I pair basil with tomatoes, mozzarella and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a delicious caprese salad.

SAGE
sage
I will be honest- I have never cooked with sage! This is a herb I need to get to know better. Anyone any tips?

THYME
thyme
Thyme can be used when cooking meat or veggies and is also great when added to sauces.

MIRTO
mirto
OK, this is not really a herb! Mirto, in English Myrtus or Myrtle is a typical Sardinian plant. It can also be found in Corsica. It is used to produce Sardinia’s most famous liqueur, called as the plant: Mirto. You cannot really grow mirto in a container on your kitchen window sill, but as I am presenting you plants photographed in my mother-in-law’s garden in Sardinia, I just couldn’t leave out the traditional mirto!

PARSLEY
parsley
I am sure all of you have used parsley before! Great for sprinkling onto salads, potatoes and of course a necessity when preparing a tabbouleh!

DILL
dill
Boiled young potatoes with some butter and lots of chopped dill on top is my comfort food as this is what my grandma used to prepare for me often when I was little! It was the standard side to any typical Polish dish.

PEPERONCINO
pepperoncino
Peperoncino is more or less the same as chilli, just smaller! The jar you see above is dried peperoncino which we brought home from Sardinia ages ago. We still have some left and keep using it. The little peppers are really hot so you only add a tiny bit to any dish you want. My husband normally uses it for pasta sauces. You can try growing chillies in a container at home, but I read somewhere that to be successful and get the plant to produce the peppers you need at least 6h of sun a day which in the UK is not very likely to happen!

ALOE
aloe
Aloe vera is a strong plant and can grow in all sorts of conditions. It has many great benefits. When I got sun burnt I just cut a bit of the plant and used the gel it has inside as a kind of a cooling lotion and it helped a lot. I did the same when I had a bad itchy mosquito bite and it helped too! At one of the juicing workshops which I attended, one of the recipes we tried out had some aloe in it. We just removed the skin and only used the gelly substance. The key is to know that you have a plant that is OK for consumption. There are different types and they look very similar so if you want to grow one at home, you need to make sure you get the right one.

bunch of herbs A bunch of fresh herbs straight from the backyard into your kitchen. Can it get any better? I hope I have inspired you a little bit to get to know some herbs, start using them for cooking and even grow some at your home! What are your favourite herbs and how do you use them? Anyone out there who’d like to share? If so, do leave a comment below!

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Nathalie cooper

    I love growing my own herbs! We have found that MINT is very easy to grow in the garden – it’s incredible how quickly it spreads! If you like spicing up your meals, it’s great to have a little chilli plant on your kitchen windowsill too! Thanks Anna!

    • Thanks for your comment Nathalie! Well done if you managed to get your chilli plants to produce the peppers! I have three little plants but haven’t been lucky to see any fruit so far. I think sowing early in the year is the key to make sure the plants get enough sun and warmth. Chilli plants must definitely be enjoying the current heat wave in the UK 🙂

  2. Iwona

    Recently I bought a flat with a small garden. At the beginning I thought it’s going to be just a nice place where I can drink a cup of coffee in the morning, invite friends for a barbeque, maybe plant few flowers…
    BUT luckily I discovered a secret corner of the garden arranged by the previous owners. Corner full of various herbs: basil, lovage, sage, lavender and 2 different types of mint.
    I used to buy these herbs in the local supermarket. Now I don’t have to – I use my own resources 🙂
    And this is not the end – next year I plan to plant them more to have unlimited access to fresh herbs whenever I need them.
    Anna, thank you for the inspiration – you gave me a hint how to enrich my garden and diet 🙂
    I’ll come back to you with some pictures next year. Btw., it would be lovely to have a possibility to share them here(hint from me).

    • Hi Iwona, thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear you love your little herb garden and intend to expand it next year! Definitely do let me see the photos – you can post them on my facebook or twitter pages for others to see too. Thanks!

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