This morning we woke up to the first frost of the year: a welcome change. All week, we’d had grey skies, cold and gloom, and in those circumstances what choice is there but to wait, to sit the month out? I’m waiting to sow all those seeds I mentioned last week, oh and a few more that just arrived in the post as an early birthday present for me. For my birthday tomorrow, my son promises to make me a chocolate cake (he has just recently learnt how).
This week’s Six on Saturday focuses on another pick-me-up, winter herbs (photos taken on Friday, pre-frost). Just the smell of rosemary crushed in the fingers lifts the spirits.
1 Winter Savory (Satureja montana). This is a fantastic herb for winter. It really packs a punch in a stew or mixed with other herbs in a salad or sandwich topping. Peppery and aromatic, similar to thyme, it’s a key ingredient in zaatar, the Middle Eastern spice blend. Good for digestion, hence it is traditionally used in bean stews!
2 Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus). Another herb with a good, strong flavour, lovely in a marinade for chicken or with an omelette. It has kept its looks through this mild winter. Note to self: I must take more cuttings of thyme, as invariably they go woody and need replacing.
3 Oregano (Origanum vulgare). I am surprised this seems to do so well in the clay here. I grow most of my Mediterranean herbs in pots to provide them with good drainage and so that I can move them to the sunniest spots. But this one is quite happy, blending with the Heucheras. It’s essential for topping pasta or in any tomato sauce, basically goes so well with tomatoes.
4 Sage (Salvia officinalis). One of my favourite herbs, but like me, it doesn’t really like winter. These are cuttings from last year, and they look a bit vulnerable. Fleece is to hand if it actually ever snows. I like sage in black tea: just add some leaves to the pot. This really soothes an upset stomach. The 16th century herbalist John Gerard said that sage was “singularly good for the head and brain and quickenethe the nerves and memory”.
5 Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). It’s my favourite essential oil, I diffuse it in the home when I need to feel more positive or alert. Perhaps that’s what has been missing this week. It’s wonderful in cooking too – add to roast veg with olive oil in the oven, or use with salt to coat potatoes. I have three rosemary plants in the garden, and more cuttings in the greenhouse. This one is the prostrate variety.
6 The patio herbs. I’m running out of numbers for the herbs I want to feature! So here’s a selection of what’s still doing well on the patio or in the mini greenhouse:
- Mint: incredibly I still have fresh if straggly mint outside in January. Only the pot by the kitchen door is still going, the others have behaved more normally and gone into dormancy. I believe this one is Moroccan mint.
- Fennel: in a small pot but puts on fresh leaves as soon as you cut it.
- Bay: am waiting for this one to grow some more. My MIL has an enormous bay tree in her garden, from where I get my supply.
- Claytonia perfoliata / winter purslane: more a salad than a herb? Very rich in Vitamin C, Californian miners ate it to prevent scurvy during the Gold Rush, hence it’s also known as miner’s lettuce. Mousty the cat seems to like it too. Healthy cat.
- Curly parsley. I prefer the straight-leaved parsley, but find this one easier to grow.
I feel the need to add that I did actually do one proper bit of gardening this week. We pruned the grape vine, hurrah! There’s something very satisfying about these bundles.
To take part in Six on Saturday, visit The Propagator’s page. Thanks for reading, and see you next time, when I’ll be a year older.