Behind the Scenes - Blog
Playing the Heirloom Herb Lottery
It’s been a couple of weeks since I planted the last shipment of live plants that I ordered from Apple and Tree Man Nursery in Perth. My approach to choosing what to put in my garden is “The weirder the better”. I ordered culinary plants that are no longer used much. I’d never even heard of most of them quite frankly. I’ve always been a word lover so some of them just stuck out...especially orpine (which to me, sounds like swooning Shakespearean maid, and hottentot fig (which could have been a 1920’s dance). A bit more pre-purchase research would have been handy. I ended up with some inappropriate and downright absurd things just because of their name.
The purple plantain & sweet cicely specimens sadly demised within 2 days of planting. Fisherman husband Jonny was very supportive during this traumatic time, supplying copious amounts of tissues, cups of soothing tea and a large plastic tuba for comic relief.
Results of Carla’s Nursery Herb Lottery
Pineapple Sage smells like pineapple and tastes very green , like grass. Not much like normal sage
Black Peppermint is refreshing but disappointingly (for a chef with her gothic moments) not black!
Variegated Herb Gerard is a kind of ground elder( I googled it too late). We already have lots of unwanted elder rampaging on the croft . It tastes a bit like celery and can be used in soups and salads, and apparently “super green smoothies” something that never sees the light of day in my hedonistic kitchen. I grow celery leaf and celtuce for this flavour profile already.
White Chives. Same problem as the Black Mint. Not white. Like normal chives, disappointing.
Total loss on the Lime Mint and Grapefruit Mint as they both seem to taste and smell, well…. like mint. I already have a half acre of it thanks to an over-zealous applemint that broke the bounds of its pot 20 years ago (and is busy trying to thrash its way to Peebles).
Orpine, also called Live Forever, is my new favourite because of : its name, cheerfully fleshy countenance and saucy sense of humour. The leaves have been used in salads and the roots in stews especially during the Middle Ages.
*It is very small right now though and I think I have a few years to plan recipes for this one. It has a very subtle sweet taste that I can only compare to Butter Lettuce, which was one of my mom’s garden stand bys in the Canadian prairies.
Eastern lemongrass is still alive after a couple storms but is turning purple so maybe it’s too cold for it here.
Sweet woodruff was wilted and dodgy at first, but thriving now with lots of new leaves. It is traditionally used in much German cooking : sausages, wacklepudding, icecream, beers and wines. It has a vivid taste like no other, containing a strange chemical also found in cinnamon.
* I’ll make ice cream and woodruff shortbread
Chocolate Root or Water Avens. The blanched young leaves can be used in salads and the Elizabethans ground the dry root producing a clove-like spice.
It is also known as Indian Chocolate as Native Indians used to make a delicious drink from it.
*I plan to use the powdered root in Vanilla Bavarois and the leaves in a Seafood Cocktail.
Curry plant is one of the few new arrivals I had tasted before. John and I ate lots of tasty bowls of fried curry leaves on spicy noodles during our foody travels in Sri Lanka. It has an earthy curry taste.
*We use it in our Massaman Curry Leaf & Peanut Sauce that we serve with our Mull aged Venison Fillets and in my Paratha bread
The Wild Bergamot ( Beebalm), a member of the mint family is a sweet, fragrant plant and tastes like a cross between mint, oregano and Earl Grey tea.
*I plan to try it as a fresh-picked tea. We currently serve Lemonbalm & Applemint teas on the menu. Jonny daringly dashes outside in his kilt during service, often in the rain, to pick them for our diners. When it blooms I also hope to use the petals in salad dressing.
I also bought 2 Japanese Wineberry plants, 2 Hottentot figs (a minx of a South African succulent), 2 Black Mulberry, and a Marshmallow. I’ll let you know how they do.
Last year we built a granite-walled herb garden built outside our kitchen door. Brimming with the usual culprits like thyme, sage, chives, dill, oregano, savoury, nasturciums, and rosemary it still has a few more spots where I could possibly squish in another plant or two. I am hoping all my lottery winners flourish enough to be used in autumn experiments in the Ninth Wave melting pot we call the kitchen. If not, I’m sure the ineffably Scottish husband will be on hand with suitably unsuitable blandishments to help pick up the pieces.