We are busy anticipating the arrival of the newest Fairweather and one of the things I have been trying to do is to stock up the freezer with prepared dinners and keep the storage shelves full of staples so that there is little thinking to be done when hungry mouths need to be fed. To that end, the kitchen has been working overtime and the shelves of my pantry are constantly being assessed with a critical eye. There’s a post in the making about my beloved pantry but currently in there, I am down to my last jar of chutney. Really at some stage, I have to get down to making some more at the end of season. Little Paddler is quite keen to pick every green tomato in sight and has to be convinced to exercise some restraint. A difficult concept for a three year old. Also, it’s been a while since I have made jam after the last disaster, but I’m not defeated yet. We even got some garlic in to dry and in a few weeks, the onions can be lifted, dried and plaited for storage. Mr. Fairweather even uses it now to hang the rabbits before a day of processing and stew making. Let’s face it, the cats are not to be trusted with anything in the shed.
Soon I will be using it to dry more herbs for storage over the winter. In the past I have dried sage and oregano but I have to say I much prefer these fresh – maybe I should freeze them instead? But to be honest, last winter they were still available fresh on the plant. The plants were growing like crazy in the polytunnel and threatening to take over the bed they were in. I felt my polytunnel space would be put to better use growing plants that really needed the warmth and protection and so in a fit, I decided to move the herbs outside. There was a few sad looking lavender plants languishing in pots that also needed rehoming, and they could join the herb garden expansion. Funds did not stretch to being able to build new beds for my new herb garden however, so I made do with what I had available. The herbs were planted in to old tyres from my failed spud experiment. Not ideal I know, but needs must. I will eventually remove the tyres and build proper beds.
The lavender and sage and oregano are thriving. I expanded to two types of thyme and some rosemary and divided up a pot of parsley I picked up in the local supermarket. The herb garden is looking well. The problem is of course that I want more now. More herbs. Some exotic, some bog standard ordinary herbs. Some for cooking, some for medicinal purposes. But just more.
Of course, it wouldn’t be one of my plans if there weren’t a few hiccups and problems along the way. Why take the easy route? Naturally, there is no money for proper beds and I am still casting an eye around for containers that can be repurposed as large plant pots or small plant beds. I can always use more tyres until there are funds for more permanent, more environmentally friendly structures. In my head the biggest problem is deciding what plants to get and maybe where to source them from. I can easily do chives and coriander. The chives should hopefully self seed. The coriander I will probably have to resow each year. I can live with that. I love both flavours. A friend refers to coriander as the devil’s food and can’t stand the taste or smell of it. I don’t get it, but that’s ok because it’s my garden.
For a caffeine addict, I am quite partial to a herbal tea. My uncle goes out in to his garden and plucks a handful of lemon balm to chuck in to a cup of boiling water when he wants something a little refreshing. I love that idea. So why not some lemon balm in my garden? Or lemon verbena? I’d love echinacea and chamomile but need to be careful with chamomile as to whether I get the Roman chamomile which is a perennial or the German chamomile which is a reseeding annual. Oooo, and mint but am afraid of it getting loose in to the garden and taking over. It may be better in a pot by the kitchen doors.
A friend gave me a bronze fennel plant. It’s not something I have actually cooked with and I have heard that fennel can also be invasive but surely a plant or two semi contained in a tyre should be ok? Or am I just fooling myself. There are lots like fennel, that I feel like I should plant so I have the option to learn to cook with them. You know how I love an old experiment in the garden or the kitchen. I haven’t cooked with dill, chervil or tarragon either yet often see them mentioned in recipes. Maybe I could lob them in too….
Then of course, there are the herbs that I might plant more for the bees and pollinators than for myself: hyssop, yarrow and feverfew. They do love the oregano, lavender and thyme flowers already but I reckon it couldn’t hurt to add in more and spread out the foraging time a bit for them.
It’s turned in to a long list. I can hear Mr. Fairweather’s eyes rolling as he reads this. I am going to have to get creative in sourcing these plants now. If I come for a visit to a garden near you, be warned, I am on the hunt.