by Dick Handscombe, Holistic gardener and allotmentor, author and broadcaster, living in Spain for 25 years.
Since I first had a personal garden 70 years ago, at the age of five, herbs of one sort or another always featured. From memory the first were almost non destructible chives and dandelions. The latter to add to wartime salads and to feed my pet rabbit.
Now in Spain we have an allotment to supplement the garden, plus an olive grove. But I can still recall the herbs that grew well in the UK and now feature in our Mediterranean Holistic garden. Basically that means that we are self sufficient except for farmhouse cheeses, cured hams and wine!
John asked me to talk a little about herbs that had useful culinary and medicinal benefits and would grow and look good on your allotment.
Knowing that space is a premium a baker’s dozen are described below. Why a baker’s dozen? Well my first Saturday job was to count up piles of 960 farthings and bag them for the bank at my fathers’ bake house and shop and every thirteenth bag was my pocket and birthday money in the same way that in those days a thirteenth doughnut or roll was free.
Herbs for your plot or garden.
- Comfrey – a must – one can harvest several crops a year to put in bucket of water for a month to produce a handy ecological fertilizer. We also wrap each seed potato in a couple of leaves, add some to the compost heap as an accelerator, and use a poultice on a strained knee or ankle, or a gouty toe. (More on Comfrey)
- Mint – best planted in a large sunken pot to control the expansive roots. Added to the boiling water adds a good touch to your new potatoes. Alsop useful for mint sauce and an infusion is better than a mug of tea or coffee for a Saturday night hangover. More: Grow Your Own Mint
- Stevia – now Available in the UK as Suttons had a special offer of the seeds last Spring. The leaves are very sweet and a great replacement for sugar. We have just dried some of our leaves for the winter months.
- Garlic – the healthiest vegetable/herb of them all. More: Grow Your Own Garlic
- Chives – A row looks ornamental and a good addition to salads. More: Grow Your Own Chives
- Horseradish – A couple of plants in the ground or large sunken pot add zest to trout and meat dishes and usefully increases ones metabolism after a gluttonous meal. More: Grow Your Own Horseradish
- Sage – Obviously for sage and onion stuffing. An infusion good for gums. More: Grow Your Own Sage
- Purslane – An interesting addition to salads.
- Rocket – Use like rocket – adds a spicy taste.
- Basil – Each year we grow a selection of the annual seeds from the interesting and long list offered by Chiltern seeds. Geat with chopped tomatoes and salads. More: Grow Your Own Basil
- Perilla – A good looking purple leaved plant. Dry the leaves in the autumn and an infusion is useful for Spring hay fever. Reputed to be useful for panic attacks such as the Sunday morning you find that slugs have eaten all the lettuces overnight.
- Parsley – Great with fish dishes and infusions useful for the wife’s cystitis. More: Grow Your Own Parsley
- Good King Henry – a broad leaved perennial alternative to spinach being full of vitamins and minerals.
Well that could get you off to a productive start. There are many more. We list forty that we regularly use for cooking and various preventive health measures in our book, ‘Living Well from Our Mediterranean Garden’.