Monday, February 16, 2015

herbs and spices of life

I now have a jam jar full of coriander seeds stripped off plants from our garden and a handful thrown back on the ground in the hopes that some at least will elude the snails and grow. Just to be sure in the meantime though I have bought some seedlings from the market which have just got big enough to plant out. Snails seem to adore coriander, which is a shame as I do too and whilst I'm happy to share, the snails will just scoff the lot of the seedlings which seems a bit unfair if you ask me. I must remember to harvest plenty of leaves this next time around and freeze them to see me through the winter. Whilst I'm all for cooking with seasonal vegetables having coriander available for curries does improve what you can do with what is around!

We also have various basils, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, lemon balm, chives, garlic, bay, lemon verbena, a couple of varieties of mint, chillies, comfrey, chamomile, curry plant, calendular, lavender, feverfew and lemongrass which along with the kawakawa makes for a goodly selection for cooking, remedies and herbal teas etc. But what has got me excited lately is discovering I can grow turmeric and ginger here too, thus supplementing my home grown spices as well as herbs! I've planted some turmeric and am hoping it copes with the fact that I chose the hottest and driest part of the year in which to do so. The first shoot has broken through the soil so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'll wait for spring to try ginger as I've read up on the best growing conditions and figure under the quince tree is probably my best bet, a space currently covered in trailing pumpkin plants and generally needs a bit more work. Not to mention that falling quinces wouldn't be too kind to young plants! Our quince tree has the bonus of passionfruit vine growing through it this year from NorthTec's horticulture dept next door. A vast improvement on the convovulous that we still haven't quite managed to eradicate from the fenceline between us.

We've also got a stevia plant, which I've dried some leaves from. It can be used as a sweetener, but I've yet to remember to use it as I don't often cook in a way that calls for any these days. I might be best making some extract by infusing it in vodka and then straining it - you only use a few drops at a time, so the alcohol being added to the food is minimal. However I think I'll need more leaves before I can give that a go.

Apparently tea bushes will grow around here, well they do up at Jane's in Diggers Valley anyway. I'm really tempted to have a go at growing it here even though she has promised us a 'picking'. Unfortunately I don't think I'll ever be able to grow my own cacoa, but otherwise I'm getting close to being self sufficient for things to make hot drinks from.

It's really satisfying being able to grow so much in our own garden. I'm getting better at drying, freezing and infusing herbs in oil for use through the winter too. Remembering to do this at a time when I don't actually need to do it to use them is something of a challenge at times, I'm much better at processing stuff for immediate use! But then isn't that like anything in life, it is far easier to deal with immediate needs than plan ahead for the what ifs and maybes, and it is only experience that can teach you what you should've done sooner!

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