Even if you only have a windowsill, you can still grow a herb garden or little pots of your very own herbs. With the help of our friends at The Simple Things, we’ve put together a handy planting guide and some delicious rosemary recipes too!
Herbs punch above their weight in the kitchen, a mere teaspoonful lending interest and depth, a good handful turning dishes into vibrant celebrations of the season. They are also brilliantly easy to grow, and so a good place to begin if you have a new interest in growing your own. Put simply: herbs are givers, and you can easily grow a few if you are not already, or grow more if you are.
If you have a sunny garden, patio or windowsill, the herb world is your oyster. A good number of well-loved herbs hail from the Mediterranean, on parched, sun-blasted hillsides. Thyme, oregano, marjoram, lavender, sage and rosemary are all Mediterranean ‘sub-shrubs’. They are generally compact and easy to fit into all but the very tiniest of sunny gardens, their one other requirement being well-drained soil. If you have boggy or clay soil, or if unsure how suitable your soil is, grow them in pots instead, where you can tailor the compost to suit your herbs.
Top tip. These herbs all benefit from being picked little and often, which makes them bush out from the base. If any of yours start to get leggy, give them a light trim to the same effect. None of them likes to be cut back hard.
Basil is also an essential sun-loving herb and an annual that will need to be replanted every year. Water each morning and pinch out the top few leaves when you want to cook with it, just as you would with other herbs. Dill is likewise an annual and should be sown in late spring directly into the spot where it is to grow, as it hates root disturbance.
Do not despair of your future herb filled lunches if your garden only boasts shade, as there are several herbs that will thrive there. Mint is the queen of shade-loving herbs: plant it in a pot in your dankest corner and it will still produce fresh and lively leaves all season long. It is always best grown in a pot alone as its roots are thuggish and will quickly swamp other plants.
Chives will also grow contentedly in shade, though they’ll produce fewer of their edible flowers than they would in sun. As with mint, chives are perennials that will die down each winter and leap back into life each spring. Lovage is another perennial that will grow happily in partial shade.
Short-lived shade-loving herbs include coriander, parsley and chervil, all of which are best sown in late summer for use through autumn, winter and spring.
Rosemary is the most dependable of the herbs as it can be picked all year round. It’s a savoury and strident herb that can also work in sweet dishes. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus, means ‘dew of the sea’, perhaps because its wild Mediterranean habitat is often on craggy sea cliffs. Once established, you’ll have an evergreen, shrubby bush with beautiful spires of foliage that can be picked throughout the year. If you are short on space, look for compact or trailing varieties that like being in pots, such as ‘Severn Sea’. It’s an easy plant to take cuttings from, too.
This fruity and herbal drink is beautifully refreshing. Make the syrup ahead of time and store in the fridge, then you can make the orangeade up as and when you need it.
400g granulated sugar
About 4 good sprigs of rosemary
Fresh orange juice
Step 1. Put the water, sugar and rosemary into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Once all of the graininess has vanished, bring to the boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, leaving the pieces of rosemary in the syrup to infuse. Pour into a jar and refrigerate until needed.
Step 2. To make the orangeade, combine one part cooled syrup with one part orange juice and one part fizzy water. Pour over ice cubes and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
Rosemary leaf itself is sometimes considered a little too bold to be actually eaten, and so it’s often cooked alongside roasting meats or vegetables, to release its oils, rather than chopped into dishes. For full rosemary immersion, strongly herby and more than a little resinous, this is a great dish to try
For the Parmesan Chips:
Extra virgin olive oil
300ml full fat milk
125g instant polenta
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
For the Bacon and Greens:
8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
300g spring greens, chopped
12 spears asparagus, trimmed
100g peas (frozen is fine)
100g broad beans, steamed and double podded
Step 1. Oil a baking tray and set aside. To make the polenta, pour the water and milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the polenta into the boiling liquid, stirring constantly. Continue to stir over a low heat for a few mins, while it thickens, then remove from the heat and add the rosemary, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine, then spread the polenta onto the baking tray and leave for 10 mins to cool.
Step 2. The polenta will now have a thick, sliceable consistency: cut it up into batons and place them onto a piece of silver foil on the grill pan, drizzle with oil, and grill each side until they are brown and crispy.
Step 3. Meanwhile, cut each bacon rasher into four and fry until crisp. Add the spring greens and asparagus spears and toss in the bacon fat, then cover the pan and cook for 5 mins. Add the peas and broad beans, toss them all together, cover, and cook for a further 5 mins. Taste and season, then serve hot with the polenta chips.