It was growing herbs that first really got me hooked on edible gardening. They’re easy to grow, taste good and don’t need much looking after – how could I not want to grow them? In a small sunny yard I grew parsley, rosemary, chives, thyme and sage in a collection of pots, and had some basil and coriander on the windowsill, just for good measure.
Over the years I’ve grown more and more herbs, after all with two uses – looking good in the garden and being useful in the kitchen, I can justify buying more seeds and plants. Most herbs are really easy to grow given the right conditions, get the soil and amount of sunshine right and they should be happy. And they are great for wildlife too – the flowers of many herbs are rich in nectar.
It’s when the fresh young growth starts to appear in spring, brought on by a bit of sunshine, that I know things are really starting to get going in the garden again. And it means that there’s a bigger range of herbs to use in the kitchen.
We were in Edinburgh at Easter and I found a recipe for home made butter in The Scotsman (http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/features/tom-kitchin-easter-is-one-of-th-most-exciting-times-in-my-kitchen-1-2209818). Deciding that this could have the makings of a good holiday project, I bought some cream and got the children to help. It worked well, although it does take some time for the butter to form even if you’re using an electric blender. We drained our butter in a sieve lined with damp muslin, then before shaping and chilling, divided it into three and added a couple of tablespoons of chopped herbs to each piece. We had chives, tarragon and parsley fresh from the garden.
The chive butter was melted onto hot jacket potatoes, tarragon butter was used to dress carrots cooked in water, honey and lemon juice, and we added some mashed garlic to the parsley butter to have with dough balls made from left over pizza dough. And they tasted good enough to encourage us to try more herb butters soon – there’s coriander, chervil and oregano just ready for picking.