The benefits of cooking with herbs are well documented; as well as the obvious health rewards herbs often add a different taste or complete the taste experience. At Ashridge House we have a heavenly cooperative where our gardeners tend the herb garden and our chefs do wonders with them! Head Chef Paul Patterson’s favourites include Bloody Mary Sorbet with Mint Easter Lamb with Rosemary and Thyme Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes and a classic Moussaka with Oregano.
Maintaining a herb garden takes time and can be a challenge so Ashridge Gardener and herb guru Charlotte Berry shares her top tips on growing and nurturing herbs.
Consider your location – you will be using your herbs whilst cooking so a spot close to the kitchen is great. Most of the herbs we use are from the Mediterranean so a sunny and sheltered spot is perfect.
Consider the size - judge the size of the herb garden by how often you will use them. If you use herbs everyday create a larger herb garden but if you will only use them on special occasions keep it smaller as it will only become another area to look after!
Prepare the soil – herbs require free draining soil so in early Spring dig over your soil and add plenty of organic matter such as well rotted garden compost. This is particularly important on heavy clay soils. It is best not to feed your herbs as this will encourage them to produce lots of lush leafy growth with no flavour.
Choose your plants - make sure you choose herbs that you will use and enjoy! Start with easier herbs before you experiment with more flamboyant varieties. To add colour and interest to your herb garden try adding lavenders which are great for bees or you can plant Nasturtiums for edible leaves and flowers.
Get planting - you can either start by sowing seeds or buy small plants from good Nurseries. Water the herbs in straight away give them some time to develop and grow before you start cutting. Keep them watered during dry periods and make sure you clip the herbs with sharp scissors. Last of all enjoy your herbs!
The weather forecast is good so the Easter weekend seems ideal!