Written by Herb Society Member Sara Dixon
‘Can you really eat a plant?’ ‘I thought herbs were just for lotions, potions and witches’ brews.’
Just 2 of the comments most frequently made as I stand on market stalls here in Northamptonshire. I don’t mind. It is good to be able to give people a new idea to think about!
I shall be writing a blog every month or so for this wonderful society – focusing on how to use your herbs in cooking and making drinks. Not a witches’ brew in sight!
People most commonly say they do not know how to use the herbs that they have. In pots. In gardens. In window boxes. On allotments. And I say to them just stick with one herb at a time and get to know that herb.
Is it one which tastes sweet? Does it hit the salty areas on your tongue? (Herbs are often used to reduce sugar and salt in cooking.)
Is it one which, raw, tastes amazing but which loses a bit of its flavour when cooked? Or is it one which needs long cooking to really bring the flavour out? Doone Valley Thyme tastes really lemony raw. Much more so than Lemon Thyme. But, when cooked, it loses its flavour unlike Lemon Thyme. Is it a spicy herb? Hot and Spicy Oregano, or Broad Leaf Thyme.
Or one which saves you at least two ingredients? Garlic Chives (onion and garlic).
Is it one which becomes a spice as well? Coriander.
Is it one which kills another herb if planted nearby? Dill and Fennel.
Is it one which can neutralise the taste of a related herb? EG planting different flavour Mints near to each other ends up with all Mint tasting of Spearmint.
Those who come on my cookery courses go away with ideas about how to build their ‘Herb Larder’ and that is what I shall cover next month. In the meantime, get out there and have a look at what herbs you do have. And then get ready to experiment over the coming months!