The Kitchen Herb Garden

A Seasonal Guide to Growing, Cooking and Using Culinary Herbs

Maureen Little

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 212 p
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 978 1 905862 89 4
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 2012 Maureen Little 

------------------Hardiness zone-------------------
My experience as a gardener is restricted to the British Isles, so all the recommendations
I make and examples I give in this book are based on this.
Our climate has been categorised as falling generally within hardiness zone
8a or 8b, so if you are gardening outside the British Isles, adjustments must be made.

There is much pleasure to be had from growing your own herbs — they are
decorative; many, if not all, are aromatic; they attract beneficial insects; and
are relatively easy to grow. As if these were not reasons enough to cultivate
them, herbs have a variety of practical uses too - indeed, if herbs were
people, then in today’s parlance they would be ‘multi-taskers’! In this book,
however, we will be looking at culinary herbs. These are plants which,
through generations of use, we know are safe to eat, fresh, dried, or cooked.
Although my dad and mum had a market garden and plant nursery, my
first real taste of herbs came about because of my cookery teacher at school.
Bear in mind that this was at a time when, in our neck of the woods, even a
red pepper was exotic and the nearest you got to a Chinese meal was the
new-fangled ready-meal Vesta Chow Mein. Our cookery teacher. Miss
Smythe-with-an-e, was looked on as somewhat avant-garde, introducing us to
coq a u v in instead of chicken casserole, using cos lettuce instead of the limp
‘cabbage’ type, and - most radical of all - presenting us with a bunch of f in e s
herbes (the quintessential French combination of chervil, chives, parsley and
tarragon) and using them to make the most sublime omelette I have ever
tasted. Goodness only knows where she got those herbs from. She must have
grown them herself: at that time the only herbs you could buy were sorrylooking
specimens in jars that looked like scrunched up wheat cereal (you
know the kind — the one that even my husband can’t eat three of) lurking at
the back of the grocer’s dry goods shelf.
As a result of Miss Smythe-with-an-e’s influence, I pestered my dad to
allow me some space in his propagating house to grow some herbs - not
always successfully - but I learned enotigh, mostly through trial, error and
effort, to be able to grow some of the better-known herbs like parsley, sage.
rosemary and thyme (I feel a song coming on!). The rest, as they say, is
history. But whenever I taste an omelette with fines herbes I am instantly
transported back to the school teaching kitchen and Miss Smythe-with-an-e
and her sensible lace-up shoes, baby-pink twin-set and string of pearls, but
carrying with her an almost indiscernible, but nevertheless unmistakable,
aroma of Chanel No. 5. What with the fines herbes and Chanel perfume, us
girls often wondered if Miss Smyth-with-an-e’s mother was French: the more
romantic among us contemplated the possibility of - bon Dieu - a French
boyfriend! We never did find out, but I shall be eternally grateful to Miss S.
for that early introduction to fresh herbs.
This is a seasonal guide but not in the usual sense. Instead of adhering to the usual spring, summer, autumn and winter categories, I have arranged the year into two, key seasons: the dormant season and the growing season. Within each of the two-season classification I have introduced subcategories which I think will prove useful when looking at different jobs to do in the herb garden. These are the early, main, and late dormant periods (which roughly correspond to late autumn, winter, and early spring), and the early, main, and late growing periods (which essentially tally with late spring, summer and early autumn).
There are a number of reasons for dividing the year like this. First, even though we traditionally recognise spring, for example, as being the months of March, April and May, plants are governed by day length and temperature: how many times have we reached Easter only to find the daffodils long gone - or are still enjoying roses in November? Plants start and stop growing according to natural conditions, not an arbitrary date!
Second, the jobs we find ourselves doing in the herb garden are also dependent on what the plants are doing and the prevailing conditions: even though it might tell you on the seed packet to plant out your tender herb in late spring, there is no point doing this until the last frosts have gone. And if seed is ripe in July, don’t leave it until September to collect it.
Third, and perhaps most important for this guide, I have divided the culinary herbs that we are going to look at into two main groups - delicate ones and robust ones (which I first referred to in my ebook. How to Grow Your Own Herbs). Broadly speaking, delicate herbs are those that we can harvest and use during the growing season; this is when we lean towards fresher, lighter dishes and when we call for corresponding flavours from our herbs. Robust herbs are ones that we can har\est all year round, even in the dormant season. This is when more comforting, substantial recipes
requiring longer cooking are the order of the day, the staying power of our
robust herbs adding to their flavour. For anyone who has little or no
experience of using herbs in their cooking, I hope this distinction will prove
to be useful.
Last, even though herbs are available all year round in the supermarket,
this book is about encouraging you to grow and use your own. Unless you
have sophisticated equipment which provides ‘unnatural’ heat and light all
through the year — like the growers who supply supermarkets - you will be
governed by what nature dictates can be grown at any particular time. I
guarantee that you would be hard pushed to grow dill, for example, during
the dormant season. So you see how a two-season year is practicable when it
comes to both growing and using herbs.
I have divided the book into three parts, each one containing two
chapters. Part 1 is dedicated to various ‘herb’ techniques. Chapter 1 is
devoted to looking at my selected range of culinai'y herbs and how to grow
them. We also look at where to grow them and how to propagate them. In
Chapter 2 we discover when and how to harvest our selected herbs and
explore different ways of preserUng them.
We look at seasonal jobs in the herb garden in Part 2. Chapter 3 focuses
on the growing season. Here you will find what jobs need to be done in the
herb garden during the warmer, lighter months. Chapter 4 takes us through
the jobs for the dormant season.
In Part 3 the focus is on individual herbs. Chapter 5 covers my range of
delicate herbs, with individual entries, providing lots of information on how
to grow them, along with recipes for each herb. Chapter 6 contains entries
and recipes for the robust herbs.
I have tried to offer recipes that are neither complicated nor call for
ingredients that you can’t get from a market, grocer, or supermarket. And
because this book is about making the most of herbs, they take centre stage
or have a major supporting role in all the recipes. I hope you enjoy making
- and eating! - the dishes as much as I do.

------------------Latin and common names-------------------
When talking about plants it is customary to use their Latin names to avoid
confusion. On this occasion, however, I have deliberately stuck to the
generally accepted English common name of the herbs that we will be
looking at. You will find the Latin names in the list of herbs in Appendix 1,
however. The reason for using the common name is that when a recipe calls
for a herb (or any other vegetable or fruit for that matter), it is invariably
referred to by its common name: I can’t ever recall being asked to crush two
cloves of A llium s a tiv um (garlic) to add to my finely chopped Petroselinum
c rispum (parsley)! Where there is more than one common name in
widespread usage, I shall endeavour to give the alternatives, too.

Table of Contents
A cknowledgements
1. The Why, What, Where and How o f Growing Herbs
Why should I grow and use culinary herbs?
What culinary herbs should I grow?
Dividing herbs into groups
Where should I grow my herbs?
Growing herbs in a herb garden
Designs for Culinary Herb Gardens
The Traditional Herb Garden
The Contemporary Herb Garden
The Border Herb Garden
Growing herbs with other plants
Growing herbs in containers
How should I grow my herbs?
How can I keep my herbs growing well and looking good?
2. Harvesting and Preserving Your Herbs
When should I harvest my herbs?
How can I preserve my herbs to use later?
Flavoured vinegars, oils, butters, sugars and jellies
The Kitchen Herb Garden
3. The Growing Season
The early growing season
The height of the growing season
The late growing season
Fresh herbs that can be harvested in the growing season
4. The Dormant Season
The early dormant season
The depth of the dormant season
The late dormant season
Fresh herbs that can be harvested in the dormant season
5. Delicate Herbs
Fresh versus dried
Celery leaf
Lemon balm
Lemon grass
Lemon verbena
Summer savory
Sweet cicely
Sweet marjoram
Collections of delicate herbs
What delicate herbs go with what ingredient?
6. Robust Herbs
Fresh versus dried
Celery leaf
Winter savory
Collections of robust herbs
What robust herbs go with what ingredient?
And Finally
1. Latin Names of Chosen Herbs
2. Where and When to Sow Herb Seeds
3. What Type of Cutting is Suitable for Which Herb
Useful Addresses and Websites
Index of Recipes

Published by Spring Hill, an imprint of How To Books Ltd
Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road
Begbroke, Oxford 0X5 IRX
United Kingdom
Tel: (01865) 375794
Fax: (01865) 379162

First published 2012
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