Sunday 25 April 2010

Garden gallery: some of the herbs I grow

Chocolate peppermint
Chocolate peppermint, a variety of Mentha piperita. I love peppermint, it's my favourite of all the mints for flavour and for medicinal use. I'm always a little sceptical of 'flavoured' herbs, because some of them really are rubbish and don't taste anything like their names suggest. We would get Pomegranate and Ginseng thyme or Oak-Smoked Cheddar and Somerset Raspberry basil if somebody thought they could make a quick buck out of it. But Chocolate peppermint is good. It doesn't really taste of chocolate of course ... the name is partly for the warmly chocolatey stem colour and partly because the sweet, clean, intense flavour evokes the taste of After Eight mints. But it's tasty enough that I eat the leaves straight off the plant. Love it.

Lemon variegated thyme
And another of the flavoured herbs which stands out for me. This is Lemon Variegated thyme, more properly known as Thymus pulegioides Aurea and a product of Thymus x citriodorus. It has large rounded leaves of a deep green with bright yellow margins. I always thought the golden variegated thymes were bred for ornamental rather than culinary use, but this one is a corker. The lemon taste is sharp, intense and well developed with no bitter herby undertone, and a little goes a long way when you cook with it. I have two other citriodorus thymes: Lemon Curd, despite its enticing name, has an uninspiring flavour while Doone Valley, another golden variegated one usually sold as an ornamental, tastes better ... but neither of them are in the same league as this one.

Silver Spires rosemary
Silver Spires rosemary. This is a silver variegated rosemary bred by Christine Wolters of Mayfields Nursery in Guildford. I keep reading that silver variegated rosemary, which was prized in England in Shakespeare's day, has been lost and no longer exists. Well I have it, and it certainly does exist. I bought the plant in 1997, and salvaged it from my old garden when I moved, but haven't seen it anywhere since. Shame, because I rate it highly for looks and flavour. There is a golden variegated rosemary which is more readily available, but this one is quite different.

Italian thyme
More thyme. This one is an unknown variety, but I've had the plant for many years and it's the best culinary thyme I've ever found - very intense, refined flavour and dries exceptionally well. I've never seen it in garden centres. It has fine, narrow greyish leaves and grows taller than most popular thymes ... the leaves are looking quite green at the moment because it's on the cusp of flowering. The plant originally came from Waitrose, of all places. It was being sold as a fresh organic herb, the idea being that you don't bother to plant it, just take it home for the windowsill and murder it for this week's dinner. But I did plant it, and it thrived. It came from an organic farm in the Dolomite mountains of Italy, and that's all I know.

Rosemary blossom
Rosemary blossom. One of the joys of this time of year, and the bees think so too.


Robin said...

Your photographs are great. I also like the chocolate mint. It is a very nice plant. I have never seen the unknown thyme either.

I really enjoy reading about your Luna Trick projects.

Kath said...

Hyssop is a favourite herb of mine(or have I anticipated the next post?) It's wonderful with beef and the steam clears stuffed sinuses a treat.
Can't get on with mint though, even though Himself loves it. It makes everything taste like toothpaste!

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Thank you Robin!

Kath, it's the other way round here, I like mint but husband can't stand it, so eating it off the plant is my only option really. I am a bit funny with it though - I don't like it in sweet things. I'm happy with it as a savoury herb but when it's combined with sugar - bleurgh - the toothpaste effect kicks in. I have a new hyssop plant in the new herb garden but it doesn't look very interesting yet so it didn't make it into the gallery.

Jude said...

How do you keep your Thyme looking so good. Mine goes straggly and dies normally. Any tips?

cottage garden farmer said...

love the sound of the chocolate mint

Nome said...

Great pictures. I'm a herb fan too and adore my herb garden!

I'm not a mint fan at all, but there's this one chicken stew recipe I make with spring veg and mint and lovage which is just divine!