Sunday 25 April 2010
Garden gallery: some of the herbs I grow
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.
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. 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.
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. One of the joys of this time of year, and the bees think so too.