Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

This is an interesting article written by Alys Fowler for The Guardian, USA. I have taken out the references to overseas suppliers of plants and seeds. Please bear in mind that this is an article from the US and the seasons are opposite to ours.

10 herbs you probably haven't heard of but should be growing

Refresh your cooking this season by growing rare herbs from seed

It is no secret that I think with my stomach. And as summer approaches, my thoughts turn greedily to herbs. But let’s be adventurous here: a single plant of something new can radically change your cooking, offering new pairings and flavours. So, it’s time to think beyond parsley, basil and rosemary. I have another agenda for wanting more herbs in your life: I’ve become president of the Herb Society, founded by the magnificent Hilda Leyel in 1927, who believed passionately that herbs increased our health and wellbeing.

If I wish anything for you this growing season it’s that you sow from seed, because the rarer stuff is often not available as plants at garden centres, where there’s limited space. Seeds take up no room and can be sent anywhere. Plus, there’s the satisfaction of seeing through the whole life cycle with nurture and love.

Here are 10 herbs to expand your range: all, I promise, will bring joy to you, your garden and the bees.

1 Sweet bergamot, Monarda didyma

Sweet bergamot makes a delicious infusion.

Also known as bee balm or oswego tea, this is a North American prairie herb. It tastes of bergamot, with a hint of mint and thyme. If you like Earl Grey tea, you’d enjoy this as a great infusion and it’s a beautiful, bee-friendly addition to the garden.

2 Lettuce-leaved basil, Ocimum basilicum ‘Foglia di Lattuga’

I know, I know, basil doesn’t sound original, but this one is a monster. The leaves grow hand-sized, meaning a single leaf fits perfectly in a sandwich, with a flavour similar to sweet basil but slightly stronger. Grow in a pot, somewhere sheltered and warm; slugs love the large leaves when young, so mollycoddle it. I’d even consider growing inside on a windowsill until July.

3 Summer savory, Satureja hortens 

If you use a lot of thyme, try summer savory.

If you use a lot of thyme in cooking, then you’ll love the tender tips of summer savory. This is the herb to pair with beans, with its sweet, spicy, peppery notes and pungent aroma. Or use under the skin of a roast chicken, in pork dishes and with cabbage. It is easy to dry for winter. It grows best in full sun, in free-draining soil, and is very happy in a pot. It is not frost hardy.

4 Mitsuba, Japanese wild parsley

Somewhere between parsley and celery, and with a hint of sorrel and coriander, this is a subtle herb. Use the sprouts in salads and the leaves much like parsley. If your garden is shady, this is the one for you. Grow it in the sun and it will taste bitter.

5 Tulsi, Ocimum tenuiflorum

Holy basil makes for a wonderful tea and smells heavenly of peppermint, cloves, liquorice and lemons. It’s a tender, sun-loving plant and may need to be grown on a warm windowsill if you don’t have a sheltered garden. It’s a little tricky from seed: you need a heated propagator and good light.

6 Korean mint, Agastache rugos 

Korean mint works well in spicy dishes and fish stews.

This is somewhere between mint and basil; the leaves smell distinctly minty, but there’s also an aniseed flavour present. It’s a very handsome plant, growing up to a metre and loved by bees. It can grow in sun or part shade, in humus-rich soil. Sow now on a sunny windowsill. It works well in spicy dishes and fish stews.

7 Houttuynia cordata

If you have a pond, grow this strange and wonderful edible in its margins. There’s a variety called Chameleon, which is green, pink and white, or a more refined double white flowering form. I can best describe the taste as somewhere between fish sauce and something floral, and it smells of orange peel. You can eat it raw or use in a fish curry.

8 Par-cel, cutting celery

If celery has alluded you as something impossible to grow well, try par-cel, a cross between parsley (easy to grow) and celery (not so easy). It’s grown for leaf production rather than stems and is sweeter tasting than celery leaves. Useful for stocks and soups, and healthy yet tasty so you can munch on it daily. Sow it now in sun or part shade.

9 Chop suey greens, Glebionis coronaria

Use chop suey greens or edible chrysanthemum as a leaf vegetable. Photograph: Getty Images

An edible chrysanthemum that is used as a leaf vegetable. Pick the leaves young and use immediately or they taste very bitter. Good with rice. Let a few grow tall for the lovely yellow flowers (also edible).

10 Vietnamese coriander, Persicaria odorata

A lemony, minty coriander that’s a doddle to grow in a pot, doesn’t mind if you forget to water it, and packs a punch in slaws, summer rolls, chicken and potato salads and in spicy soups. It’s not fully hardy, so will need protection and is best bought as a plant, as the seeds are not widely available.

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Replies to This Discussion

If any one is after tulsi I have a huge plant that flowers like crazy, so always have little ones poping up around it. Can bring some to Diannes GV. Actually its strange that we are making tulsi tea tonight.

Hi Doug, I would love some, I am just getting my Herb Garden back in order. Thanks in advance.

I will dig some up this arvo and pot them up

Thanks so Much....

Hi Doug, I would love some but can't make it to Diannes GV.  Hopefully I can grab some when I come to your GV.

Sure Cheryl, there is hundreds of seedlings to choose from. They grow in the cracks of my drive!
The tea we make from the leaves is great for clearing congestion, I use it before freediving as it helps clear my sinuses as I am equalising hundreds of times swimming up and down to 20 metres depth.

Thats great Doug.  Love idea of it clearing sinuses - I damaged my ears not being able to equalize when I was scuba diving.

Great info Dianne.  I have not looked at BLF for about a week, as we were going on a weeks holiday down the coast and have cancelled due to the virus. Now I can try growing some immune building herbs to make us healthy and happy.

We had sacred tulsi on our fenceline but they were all pulled out by neighbour who thought they were weeds. It leaves a fragrant scent when you brush past it.  The fishy taste plant I have grown in the past and a couple of the others I think. My problem is keeping the seeds.  Doug is doing a great job by offering to share his seeds and seedlings with others.

Thanks for spreading the info Dianne. It is a good time now to plant plants of olde.

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