Category Archives: Herbs

all to do with herbs I grow and forage. Includes stories, recipes, photos…

Rocket fuel

It was a busy weekend trying to keep up with what to make with all the nice things growing in the garden. I finally got around to making the radish tops soup. This was actually amazing. It tasted so nice. The slow sautéing of the onion really added a sweet flavour. The children loved it too surprisingly. I made fresh rolls with ham, cheese, lettuce, radish and mustard to go along with the soup. It all just tasted like more once gobbled up.

After that bit of sustenance, it was back out to the garden to figure out what to do with all the rocket, which was about to flower.  I decided to give it the chop, with the help of Seren. Any opportunity to use her scissors :)

Helping me snip the rocket.

I decided to make the old faithful pesto. Can’t go much wrong with that. Rocket is peppery so I wanted to add something that would counteract that. I toasted walnuts as they are sweet, plus I like the smell.

I made two different types:

Garlic and Rocket Pesto

  • clove of garlic
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Throw it all in a blender/mixer and give it a blast. I added some parmesan but this could be added before eating.

Rocket and sun-dried Tomato Pesto

  • three to four sun-dried tomato halves, soaked in oil
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Repeat the same process as above. Make sure to pour the pesto into sterilized jars. Use them whatever pleases you!

 By the way, does anyone know of a more appetising name for the soup. Radish top soup is not very appealing!

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The jewel in the garden.

I planted nasturtiums in the garden a while back and they are really taking off now. There is one especially that sits next to the raspberry bushes and it is flourishing in that particular spot. I had no idea that it could creep along the ground until one day I spotted a cheeky runner making its way to the wall! I am fond of this plant though (perhaps a bit unhealthily, as if it were my child). It is the first and best of the lot of nasturtiums and I watch it proudly growing each day. Every evening I go out to inspect its progress. Tonight I discovered that it was harbouring its own microcosm! Lo and behold there was the first flower bud holding its head up with great pride, as it should. Look at how aerodynamic it is. It reminds me of the shape of a raptor’s head (but much more beautiful of course :))

The flower is not alone however. On every leaf there is a different occupant. Here is a little yellow spider who has delicately spun his web using the leaf’s edges as his frame.

He’s not the tidiest little fella though, not having cleaned up after his dinner. Yuck!

Across the way, little white fly eggs have been laid with military precision. Peter sorrowfully informed me that these are not the friendliest things to ooh and aah over as they will devour the neighbouring carrots. 

Buh-bye eggies. Thank goodness for parasitic wasps to take care of these little things. They lay their eggs in the white fly eggs. It’s a cruel world. Not the prettiest thing to look at (turn away now if bugs make you want to vomit!).

Although the meandering lines across the leaves look nice, these are as a result of leaf miners. I enjoy squashing them between my finger tips, a bit sadistic, I know, but effective.

I guess that’s why the nasturtium is so suited to being a companion plant in the garden. It attracts all sorts of trouble by luring  nasty bugs toward it with its giant saucers for leaves and exotic jewels for flowers.

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Shades of green…

I went into the garden to take some photographs of our ever-growing jungle yesterday. The garden is really coming into itself. There are many shades of green throughout. I am pleased with how the photographs turned out. Have a look!

It's a jungle in there.

The above photo is looking through the potato plants. We planted rocket in between the rows. It’s about done now and I am planning to make pesto with it this weekend. Yum!

Fuzzy fennel

The fennel towers above the herb bed and acts as a focal point in the garden. It is great to be able to just throw some on salmon and poach it.

Golden oregano and lemon balm

I love the contrast in the shades of the oregano and the crispy green lemon balm. I have used the lemon balm in vinaigrettes. It adds a zingy flavour. The oregano goes into pretty much every dish! The great thing is that it grows back so quickly.

Raspberry flower

The bumblebees are out in force now that the raspberry blossoms are out. Isn’t nature amazing. Look at those red thorns.

Lone soldier.

The lavender is just about to bloom and explode into a purple cloud.

Geranium "Ann Thomson"

This geranium is planted under the tree and the magenta flowers really add character to that corner, which before was void of colour.

You know, as much as we like to complain about the rain, I kind of really yearn for a good rainy day, because the garden just flourishes the next day.

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rampaging ramsons!

Here are some ideas of what to make with ramsons, which are also known as wild garlic or bear’s garlic. It is more akin to chives than to the garlic bought in the shops. Not only is it free to pick in woodland areas from March to end of April but it is also quite diverse.

So here are some thoughts:
First off, you can make the easy classic wild garlic soup. This was originally a war-time soup. It is made with potato and ramsons and a dash of cream.

Shove a few handfuls of ramson leaves into a chicken, together with a lemon. This gives the chicken a sweet garlicy taste. Roast the chicken breast side down for the first hour. Then turn over for the last 30 minutes.  I made this on Sunday and it was to die for!

Jamie Oliver makes a ramson carbonara. He blends the ramsom leaves in with the carbonara sauce before adding the cooked spaghetti to it. I reckon this is a good way to introduce ramsons to children. Here’s hoping they are not discouraged by the green colour!

The first recipe that pops into people’s minds is of course the ever-popular  pesto. I like to make mine with a twist – using walnuts instead of pine nuts. For a milder pesto try sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves and ramson leaves with the obligatory pine nuts, olive oil and pecorino.

Ramsons go well with eggs. So scramble your eggs and sprinkle freshly torn ramson leaves over it when cooked. Alternatively, you could make a light omelette.

Another way is to make a goats-cheese and ramson quiche.

Throw in a handful of torn leaves into some mashed potato, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Lastly, mix the chopped leaves with butter and lemon zest. Form it into a roll and freeze. Then when you have a fillet of salmon/steak cut off a piece as a sauce.

And there you have it! Now get picking…

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parsley honey

parsley honey

Parsley honey is one of the simplest things to make. It tastes good and can be used as a substitute in many different recipes. The recipe originated during the hard times of World War 2, when people found it difficult to get honey. It appears in many cookbooks of that time. This way of making honey is cheap and is great to give away as a present.

Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum) has long been regarded as a medicinal herb, being used to treat diuretic and stomach ailments. This recipe is probably not that healthy though because the prolonged cooking depletes the parsley of its minerals and vitamins, not to mention the large amount of sugar added to it!!

I made this recipe as the parsley in our herb garden grew so much that I had surplus. Besides freezing lots, I had plenty more still to use.

Method

my trusty helper

Wash and roughly chop a large handful of parsley, including stalks. Place it in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and boil for half an hour. Strain through a muslin square. To each pint of juice add 1lb of sugar and juice of 1 lemon. Bring back to boil and reduce heat. The sugar has to dissolve and the liquid becomes like a syrup. Pour into sterilised jars et voila.

This is delicious poured over a fruit salad or muesli and natural yoghurt for breakfast.

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Wandering Yarrow

Common Yarrow

My walk to work usually takes about 40 minutes and it takes me through suburbs and a park. I always admire the foliage, flowers, trees and the birds singing. I love to watch the changing colours as the seasons turn.

This morning, I discovered common yarrow growing on the side of the footpath. There is nothing common about this little beauty. Not knowing at first what this plant/weed was, I picked a sprig and crushed the leaves. Wow, the smell was deliciously sweet. I looked it up and identified the plant.

Yarrow, or achillea millefolium, has a long extant history. It is said that Achilles, the greek warrior, used this herb to heal his wounded soldiers in the Trojan War. It has gained the name herbal militaris for its properties that aid the staunching of blood flow from wounds. It grows as a wildflower throughout Ireland and flourishes in sunny areas. Its leaves are green and feathery and it has little white daisy-like flowers from June until August.

Yarrow was a popular ward against evil. As a result, it has also been called the devil’s plaything.

Its medicinal properties make it a useful herb to use to fight colds and flus. It is good combined with elderflower in tea infusions as it can help promote sweating to rid fevers.

Its modern Irish name is athair taluin and in old Irish it may have been referred to as eimer. It is thought that the name of Cu Chulainn’s wife, Emer, may be derived from this plant.

Yarrow is a great plant to grow in an allotment. It attracts aphid eating insects such as ladybirds and lacewing. Therefore it would be ideal to plant it beside broccoli. I’ve read somewhere that, supposedly, yarrow leaves aid in a more rapid process on the compost heap.

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