Monday, 24 May 2010

Herbidacious!

Parsley the Lion from The Herbs

Since I've had my very own kitchen (shared with The Boy and, if they're lucky, a few carefully chosen friends), I have been revelling in the freedom of it. No flat mates, strangers or landlords to poke through my cupboards and peruse my fridge shelf. Once we were well and truly settled, one of the first personal touches I intended to make was to place a few cheerful pots of fresh herbs on the windowsill. Although I have a larder full of dried herbs and spices (with one or two bay leaves snaffled from my parents garden), I have longed to have fresh basil, rosemary and thyme at my disposal. Fresh herbs, to me, brim of promise and inspire me to try new flavour combinations; I day-dreamed of fist-fuls of basil whizzed into homemade pesto and bunches of thyme stuffed into casseroles.

First stop in fulfilling my herbaceous dreams was the fresh produce aisle of the supermarket. Away we scurried holding our first pot aloft. But alas, my revelry was short-lived because it promptly died despite following my Mum's advice to re-pot it immediately (because they are always sold in pots far too small for them). Deflated I did some research. It seems that supermarket herbs are doomed from the start; they're grown in hot houses to force lots of visible growth which means that while they're bushy above ground, their root-balls don't develop so they die very quickly. They're literally all fur coat and no knickers, which is fine if you're planning to use an entire plant in one go but not suitable for my windowsill garden. So, it seemed supermarket herbs weren't the way to go but garden centre plants don't seem to be much better in my experience - I bought a basil plant from my local a few years ago and it perished from aphid attack within days (despite being kept inside!).
One way that I found as a temporary work-around for the fresh-or-dried issue is to buy up discounted packet fresh herbs when they're about to go all wilty and freeze them in their original cellophane. It doesn't solve my basil cravings but is an easy way to add fresh taste to recipes - simply snip off whatever you need and then pop back in the freezer for next time.
I was in Wilkenson's one day and spotted basil seeds. Growing my own hadn't occurred to me before but getting the seeds, compost and pot for a mere 80p (on offer), I thought I'd give it a go. I wasn't sure if the whole thing would be a complete flop but actually, it's been remarkably easy.

My tender seedlings

So far, so good. All you need do is fill a pot with compost, make a little whole with a finger, pop in your seeds (for basil, put in about half a dozen), pat the soil flat and water. Then stretch some clingfilm over the top to create a microclimate that will encourage them to germinate or use a small germination tray. When they start to get a bit big, pot them up into bigger pots. Whatever whenever the soil gets dry but don't over water. The Boy will vouch for how attached I've grown to my little plants. I've read that I should start to pinch out the new growth but I can't bring myself to! Buoyed by the extent of my success, I've planted rocket seeds in the hope of tucking into my very own home-grown salad sometime soon but my mind is running wild with the possibilities - sage and strawberries grown in pots in the sitting room? Carrots in the carport? Blueberries in the bedroom?

My basil plants, growing strong

1 comment:

The Boy said...

We need a bigger flat...

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