Friday, 10 November 2017

How to grow Herbs

How To Grow Herbs: 1

There are several reasons why herbs are grown. Over the centuries they have been cultivated for their medicinal and healing properties but this practice has declined with modern medicines. Herbs are more widely grown now to enhance culinary dishes, for their scent such as Lavender or as attractive additions to flower borders. Most herbs are fairly easy to grow, but a few need a little more care and know-how. Here are ten of the most popular and widely used herbs to grow yourself.


Basil has a strong clove-like flavor and is an essential ingredient to many Italian dishes. It is synonymous with tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pizza and salads. Basil is one of the slightly more difficult herbs to grow as it is a tender annual and cannot withstand the frost.  To grow it needs to be sown under glass in a peat pot in March to April. It can then be planted out in early June in a well drained, sunny spot. Plants need to be spaced about a foot apart and the growing tips need to be pinched out regularly, this will ensure a bushy rather than tall plant. The leaves can be gathered as required. To preserve some of your crop of Basil for the winter it can be frozen. Simply chop up the Basil and place in ice-cube trays topped up with water.


Bay is an evergreen, laurel-like tree often grown for it's decorative nature in containers trimmed in a cone shape. Although fairly slow growing, beware if not pruned regularly it can become quite large. To grow Bay it is best to buy a pot-grown specimen and plant it out in the Spring. It needs to be in a sheltered position, away from winds. It should be planted in soil containing lime. Water frequently in summer and pick leaves as required. The leaves can be dried very successfully. Bay can be used in bouquet garni and goes well in casseroles, stews and fish dishes.


Chamomile is famous for it's soothing properties as is often drunk as a calming tea. The best type of Chamomile to grow is the English or Roman Chamomile. This is a creeping perennial which grows to about 6in tall, with a 1-2ft spread. It has decorative yellow-centered white flowers and feathery leaves. To grow Chamomile, plant clumps or sow seeds in Spring or Autumn. Plant about 9in apart. The plants spread fairly rapidly once they have become established. For this reason they should be trimmed back to avoid them becoming invasive. The plants need to be lifted and divided every 3 years.


Chives are a member of the onion family, but have a much milder flavor than onions. They make a wonderful addition to salads in particular potato salad. Also useful in omelettes, soups and sauces. Chives can be grown from seed sown in March, but it is easier to plant pot-grown chives in Spring or Autumn. The plants should be spaced 9in apart and divided every 3-4 years. They are best grown in moist soil and full sun. Plants should be watered regularly. To use, the stems should be cut to within and inch of the soil level. Never snip off the tips and never leave the flower heads to open if you want your crop to keep producing.


Dill is an essential ingredient to go with certain fish dishes such as salmon. It is also great for adding to yogurt, meat as well as vegetable dishes. It has very attractive feathery leaves and grows to about 2 feet tall and bears flat plates of small yellow flowers in July. The leaves have a distinct flavor which is retained even after drying. The seeds can also be used and lightly crushed they produce an even stronger taste. Dill does not like to be moved, so once you have found the ideal growing spot it is best to leave it there. To grow Dill sow seeds in April and leave to grow. Once established they can then be thinned to 12in apart. They require a sunny, well drained spot and should be kept well watered in dry weather. To harvest the seeds, cut the stems when the flower- heads have turned brown. You then need to tie a paper bag over each flower-head and hang the stems upside-down in bunches. Dill is best gathered for immediate use and for drying when still young.

Saturday, 28 October 2017


The Maidenhair tree is one of the oldest trees in the world, and does not have any close living relatives; it is also a living fossil.

Fossils dating back 270 million years are recognisable as relatives to the modern Maidenhair tree! 

A botanical oddity remote from all other trees and plants, it is a survivor from a botanical group Ginkgoales widespread in the Jurassic and it is now the only living representative.

Found mainly only in the wild in China, the Ginkgo Biloba tree has many culinary and medicinal uses.

Thought to be a memory and concentration enhancer, and the nuts are often used in ceremonial dishes in China. 

This is an endangered tree, isolated to a few distinct areas in eastern Asia.

It is fully hardy 

This is an easy tree to grow and has amazing staying power.

There are many Ginkgo trees that survived the atomic bomb blast on 6th August  1945 at Hiroshima.

On the 9th of August 1945 buds were seen sprouting from the tree in Hiroshima
 Japan and now has another new name: Bearer of Hope.

The leaves are 3" and fan-shaped. They turn yellow in the fall before dropping off.

Ginkgo biloba is dioecious, meaning that male and female parts are contained in separate flowers that grow on separate trees.

 The male trees have drooping catkins, while the females have drooping flowers. Both appear in March and April.

Ginkgo biloba grows to a size of 50-75'+ high and 50-60' wide. It usually forms a pyramidal to very irregular shape.

Ginkyo have developed a resistance to most pests and diseases, allowing it an incredibly long lifespan. One tree in the Shandong province of China is thought to be 3,000 years old.

Ginkyo is the second most storm tolerant tree after the giant redwood sequoiadendron.

Ginkyo is one of the most beautiful fall colored trees you will ever seen.
Medicinal Uses:
The most commonly known medicinal use for Ginkgo biloba is to improve memory. However, as our Alternative Medicine expert Cathy Wong notes in her Ginkgo health article, it can also be used for tinnitus, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, sexual dysfunctions, peripheral arterial disease, enhancing blood circulation and macular degeneration.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

How to store Turnups

Turnips are hardy cool-season root vegetables.

 A member of the cabbage family,  and they are a welcome addition in the kitchen for use in soups and stews. 

Loaded with carbohydrates and fiber,  and very easy to grow in the home garden.

 There is a wide variety of turnip types from which to choose,  have a look what verty other growers around you are using.  

Turnips are harvested three to four months after the seeds have been sown and are then stored for the winter in the following manner.

1.Harvest the turnips as needed, beginning in the early Autumn.

2.Average diameter of approximately 3 inches is the best.

  1. Cut the greens from the turnips or they will draw moisture from the root, ( these greens can be used in soups/strews ext)
  2. Rinse the greens in cool water and shake vigorously to remove any excess moisture.
  3. Use a cool, moist, dark location for the storage of your crop
  4. Put the unwashed turnips in a single layer in the storage area.
  5. Check them every couple of weeks for signs of deterioration or decay, removing any blemished roots. 
  6. Turnips can be safely stored for up to five months.
  7. Keep a supply of turnips on hand in the refrigerator. 
  8. Turnips can be stored in this manner for up to two weeks.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

How to store Potatoes:

How to store Potatoes:

How to store your potatoes so that they will last you through the winter:
A lot of growers will not bother with growing potatoes, however I do for two reasons.

  1. Because I can choose what verity I grow.
  2. Potatoes are a very important crop to grow in your rotation.

There are three important reason to store your potatoes:

  1. Protect them from the frost.
  2. Protect them from rodents.
  3. Protect them from the light.  

The three items above is what you have to do. I keep mine in a metal dustbin in my shed with an old blanket around it. 

This has been successful for the last seven winters.

Word of warning: only put in your store perfect potatoes i.e none with cuts or holes in them. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

How To Get the Best From Your Herbs

How To Get the Best From Your Herbs

The use of herbs in our cooking has grown over the last couple of decades. Most top chefs recognise that the importance of good quality fresh herbs in their dishes can make a world of difference to the flavors of the food. So much so, that many top restaurants have their own herb gardens from which to pick and use only the freshest herbs.

Growing your own herbs in the garden or a container is an excellent way to ensure a good supply of fresh herbs or even growing them on the kitchen windowsill. But if you do not wish to grow your own, supermarkets now sell a wide range of pre-cut and potted herbs. Pots of herbs last longer than cut herbs, but need to be cared for just as houseplants do. They will need a sunny windowsill and be picked regularly to keep them growing and from going to seed. Other sources of good quality herbs might be a greengrocers, who often sell a wider range of herbs than supermarkets do. Also farmers' markets, often have more unusual varieties of herb such as angelica, lovage, pennyroyal, and uncommon varieties of thyme, mint and sage.

To get the best flavors from herbs, storage is very important. Many of us tend to store dried herbs as well as spices to well past their sell by date. This will definitely not enhance the flavors of your dishes to their best. Make sure you renew jars and packets of dried herbs frequently, as they go stale very quickly. While it's handy to keep a few dried herbs in the cupboard, most herbs taste best fresh, and some such as basil or coriander, have a very disappointing flavor when dried. Frozen herbs are a good substitute. These can now be bought from the freezer section in a supermarket or frozen from your own home grown herbs. This can be done by finely chopping herbs and placing them in ice-cube trays, top up with water and place in the freezer. This is handy to keep to put in stews and casseroles.

To protect the flavors of fresh herbs with cut stalks they should   be wrapped in a plastic bag (left open, not sealed) or in a damp paper towel and kept in the fridge. Bunches of herbs that have longer stalks can be kept like cut flowers in a jug or vase with a little water in the bottom. Do not fill right up as this may rot the delicate leaves. Some hardy herbs, such as curry leaves, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, can be stored whole in the freezer, wrapped in a freezer bag. If using potted herbs bought from the supermarket they are best kept on a sunny windowsill with the soil regularly moistened but not waterlogged as this will rot their roots.

Preparing Herbs

Fresh herbs are usually best prepared by picking the leaves from the stalks, apart from herbs such as bay, (although this is not always necessary), then chopping them as finely as desired with a chefs' knife or two-handled rocking knife (mezzaluna). Herbs such as chives can be cut in bunches into small pieces using kitchen scissors. Some tender herbs - particularly basil, tarragon and mint - bruise easily which can adversely affect the flavor. To avoid bruising and discolouration, do not chop these herbs too finely and make sure you use a sharp knife. They can also be added as whole leaves to dishes, or torn into small pieces with your fingers.

What gives herbs their unique flavor and fragrance is their highly volatile oils which in some cases dissipates quickly after exposure to heat, so to get the best from your herbs it's best to add them to dishes towards the end of cooking, or just before serving. However, some herbs such as sage, bay, rosemary and thyme are best when given time to infuse with the other ingredients in the dish, so should be added at the beginning of cooking dishes such as stews, soups and casseroles. Tender herbs - such as basil, chives, mint, chervil, dill, coriander, parsley, tarragon - can also be used fresh and uncooked to make salad ingredients, toppings and garnishes. In this case they should be picked just before serving.

Getting the best from your herbs just involves a few simple steps in storing and preparation. Using fresh herbs wherever possible is always best.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017



Basil is a very popular herb used in cooking, mainly associated with Mediterranean cuisine. However, Basil is also widely used for medicinal purposes, much used in Far Eastern medicine especially in the Ayurvedic tradition, where it is also known as tulsi.The name of the herb "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king" or "royal", reflecting that this herb was regarded extremely highly. In Italy, basil was symbolic for love and was sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps explaining it's wide use today in Italian dishes. However, it originated from India and was introduced into Europe in ancient times.

For medicinal purposes, it is widely used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, flu and emphysema. Basil is an expectorant, making it good for treating upper respiratory symptoms.  It has also been used as an antidote to poisonous insect or snake bites as well as being used in the fight against epidemics and fever, such as malaria. Basil improves blood circulation and the digestive system. It is considered a 'cooling' herb with anti-inflammatory properties and is used to relieve symptoms of rheumatic pain, irritable skin conditions and soothe the nerves. It is good for rubbing the leaves on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. They can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. This can be done by pouring boiling water on to the leaves and inhale the steam.

Like most other mints, Basil is often recommended for digestive complaints. When drunk as a tea after a meal it can enhance digestion and dispel gas. To prepare the tea, pour 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water over about 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Basil leaves  and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink. Honey can be added if a sweeter taste is required.
A basil infusion (tea) is recommended for treating vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation. As it has slight sedative properties, it can be useful for headaches and anxiety especially in combination with other sedating herbs like chamomile and catnip.

As an excellent natural insect repellent, sprigs of basil burned on the barbecue will repel mosquitoes and a pot of basil in a windowsill will discourage flies.

There are many varieties of basil, each with their own distinct flavour such as Lemon or Clove Basil which are used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Although Basil is native to India and Persia it is also commercially cultivated in the Mediterranean. Basil is a member of the mint family and is very similar in appearance. The most popular type of basil that is used in cooking is sweet basil.

Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Along with its medicinal value, basil is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  As it can be consumed in fairly large quantities compared to some herbs, it makes it a very beneficial health food.

Basil is easily available from your local supermarket, fresh, dried or even frozen. Fresh basil sold already cut, will keep for a few days if refrigerated and wrapped in a damp paper towel. Living pots of Basil that you can keep on your windowsill are an even better way to supply your needs of fresh Basil. These will keep going for weeks even months if cared for properly and work out very inexpensive compared to regularly buying ready cut Basil. As with most herbs fresh basil is much more aromatic and flavoursome than dried basil and gives a completely different taste to your dishes. Always try to use fresh basil where possible.

Basil is an exceedingly versatile herb that may be used in an abundant variety of foods. It is especially excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash. It is great in soups but don't add it until the last few minutes of cooking as it will destroy the flavor. It can also be used in cream cheese for sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of your pizza or sprinkle torn basil over a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add to stir-fried vegetables. Use in a marinade with garlic and olive oil.
Add fresh leaves of basil to your salad.

Basil is delicious, nutritious and an effective natural treatment for many common ailments. It should therefore be an essential feature  for your outdoor or indoor organic herb garden.

Monday, 25 September 2017