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Cooking with herbs has become more and more common lately,almost a new trend in the cookery world. Whilst herbs have been used for more years than are documented for a variety of uses,from many more rescent years we seem to have ignored their flavours,and benifits. My own small garden is home to several hundred varieties of herb,and my windowsil is home to few aswell,I use them almost daily and find endless uses for them. Most supermarkets sell herbs either dried,frozen or fresh.Which ever way you buy them they can be expensive.
Buying dried herbs - Although they are very convinient and keep well,they do not have the flavour of fresh herbs or of home dried herbs.A small jar of about 28g will set you back in the region of £1.
Buying frozen herbs - A slightly more flavourful option than dried herbs,but with a slightly shorter shelf life ,and still far less flavour than home dried or fresh herbs.These will set you back anything upto £1.99
Buying growing/fresh herbs - Most supermarkets that sell fresh herbs sell them growing in litle pots.As they are growing they will last fairly well,although they are not established plants and usually survive little more than a few weeks.They retain much more flavour,they are force grown usually and the flavour still far less than home grown.You can expect to pay between 70 pence and £1.29 for each plant.
Growing your own - These top class herbs will amaze you with their depth of flavour.They last the whole season and can be used fresh whilst in season then at the end of the season can be dried or frozen to last you through the winter.Dried they will still hold more flavour than force grown fresh herbs.
The vast variety of herbs can make growing all or even a range of them an extensive job,but there are a few more commonly used herbs well worth your time growing,and that will grow easily and make a good collection for daily cooking.Some of these include -
Mint - There are a huge range of mint varieties,but the common mint grows well,almost too well as it can be rampant.Varieties include,applemint,spearmint,pineapple,lemon,basil and common mint.Ideal for use with peas,potatoes,,savoury dishes or just for a good mint sauce to go with your lamb.If you decude to grow mint,always grow it in a contained area.Either in a container sunk into the ground,or in a pot of it's own,and it will come back year after year.
Sage - The strong and aromatic leaves are great with pork,game or pulses.It is great for use in home made stuffing.Again available in an assortment of varieties,it will grow again each year.This grows into quite a descent sized bush,although if pruned back regularly can be kept smaller.
Basil - With a warm spicey flavour to it's leaves it makes an ideal accompanyment for tomatoes,pasta or garlic.Again there's a variety of plants available including a fresh,lemon scented one.This herb is one of the more tempremental ones to grow,but in a warm windowsil or a tub in sunny spot in the garden it will thrive.You will usually have to reseed every year.
Rocket - A member of the mustard family this rampant hang over from Elizabethan times makes a delicious leaf added to a salad.Have a big area to grow this in.
Rosemary - Not only is this a delicious herb to add to lamb,pork or game it is also a beautiful shrub type herb that can make a decorative addition to any garden.It can grow into a mature and full bush which will flourish every year,or can be contained to a small pot with pruning.
Thyme - An essential ingredient to boquet garni,it can make an excellent accoumpanyment to fish or chicken.The lemon scented variety especially lends itself to chicken.It should regrow every year,but after a very harsh winter it may need reseeding.It grows in clumps and low to the ground and is idealy place in boarders or in tubs.
Bay - Another essential for boquet garni,this herb lends itself to stews,stocks,pates,pickling or poultry.Again it naturally grows bush like and returns annually.
Parsley - Best used raw,or lightly cooked this herb acompanies soups,salads,fish and eggs.The f;at leaved variety has a stronger flavour than the curly type,but both grow well,and almost anywhere.
fennel - Fennel can grow very high and is most certainly an outdoor plant,although anywhere outdoors will suit it.The delicate anise flavour is ideal for oily fish dishes,or pork.It's degestive asistance properties make it ideal for any fatty or oily dish
chives - With pretty ball like flower heads that can be used for decoration,it has mild onion flavoured leaves that chop into salads,or enhance fish,meat,poultry or vedgatable dishes.They grow in clumps and spread gradually with time,returning in large amounts each year.
All these herbs can be grown in the garden or in tubs,and most even in pots on your windowsils.The seeds will set you back about 80 pence from a garden centre ,and will keep you inplants for years.Small seedlings can be picked up for about 50 pence.When it comes towards the end of the season they can all be dried or frozen to last you through the winter.The flavour of dried herbs is actually increased per weight for use in a way that many commercially bought dried herbs don't.You can also use your herbs to make teas by steeping the leaves in hot water,this is an excellent drink with many healthy properties. There are so many different herbs available and so many ways of using them that I couldn't possiblly include it or them all into one op,so keep tuned for a whole series.I intend "opping" on more specific uses of herbs,and more detailed information on each plant,but for now this is an introduction to the basic herbs.I can heartily recomend their use,not only are they very tastey ,they also hold so many natural healthy properties that they are ideal for those who are health concious.
I add herbs and spices to everything. We've always had a fully stocked herb cupboard, but when I moved in with the OH, I tried to cook a spag bol one night and ended up with no herbs as she didn't use them - I was appalled! Great review - very insightful x x x Jo x x x
Dardalius 21.04.2003 08:11
We have a herb garden now, Its great to add a handful to the cooking. Great op
Calypte 20.04.2003 18:17
Which reminds me, I must plant those cress seeds for next week's lunch! It's about the only thing I can guarantee not to kill when I try and grow it ;) Super op, though - very useful :)
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