SUMMER DAYS WITH THE HERB WHISPERER
Words and Images by Sally Roberts
I hope by the time you read this the summer sunshine has decided to return, and we have long, hot sunny days again. I have to say that all the rain has saved me a lot of watering time, and my new herbs are growing abundantly, but they need the sun’s rays as much as we do……I miss the smell of the herbs in the evenings after a day of heat, it is one of my favourite things.
Now is the season to enjoy them fresh and at their fullest strength, and of course, to begin harvesting them to dry for the winter months. We really can’t eat too many of them, as different herbs make salads sing, and every dish comes alive with the freshness of them – picked just before eating they contain all their goodness.
My first herb for summer has to be mint, and there’s so many to choose from, experiment, and find your favourites. I frequently use it in salads of all kinds, and as well as making mint tea, we can use the leaves in cool drinks too. My favourites for tea are either Moroccan mint or peppermint, and for cool drinks try spearmint or apple mint, they are delicious with all kinds of fruit and flower cordials. Quite by chance, I have discovered that my strawberry plants are evidently thriving with mint growing next to them.
Mint is cooling to our body systems, as we would imagine, and another herb related to the mint family that I wouldn’t be without in the summer, is lemon balm. It grows like mint, so is best contained in a pot, it even looks like a mint. Its musky, lemon scent is wonderful in drinks both hot and cold – it has a soothing, calming effect on nervous tension and headaches. Try freezing some leaves in ice cubes to put in drinks if the heat is getting you. Another herb that is irresistibly pretty in ice cubes are delicate blue borage flowers.
Staying with the scent of lemon for a moment, I urge you to grow lemon verbena – the smell of the leaves rubbed on your fingers never fails to bring a smile – it takes many people straight back to childhood and the sweet smell of lemon sherbet. It is a joyful, uplifting herb, and it also makes a delicious lemon syrup for a drizzle cake or fruit salads. Lemon thyme is another essential for summer cooking, its flavour lighter and fresher than our common garden thyme. Both of these herbs can be dried to make teas or added to a pot pourri mix.
Pot pourri and herb sachets for cupboards and drawers are part of the fun of growing herbs, and brings me to lavender. And rosemary. To me, a garden isn’t a garden without these two plants, but if you don’t have a garden then visit the Jersey Lavender Farm and immerse yourself in the soothing scents, and treat yourself to locally grown lavender products. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.
Look out for wild fennel that grows wild abundantly here in Jersey, plant camomile and creeping thyme to walk on in bare feet, grow pots of summery basil to eat with your tomatoes, find jasmine, honeysuckle and roses to soak up their heady scents, find ways and places to enjoy the sense of abundance the herbs and flowers bring us at this time of the year. Make fresh herb posies for gifts, crystalize flowers to decorate cakes, scatter nasturtiums on salads, savour every moment of summertime.