10 Essential herbs
Haven’t discovered the joys of growing your own herbs yet? We asked the experts which are the must-have varieties that everyone should grow.
Often a key ingredient in Italian dishes, oregano is a great “use everywhere” herb, according to Guy Jeffreys, head chef at Millbrook Winery. “It’s a ground-growing herb that requires a decent amount of water and sun, ” he said. To dry oregano, he said to wrap a bunch in muslin cloth then hang it in a warm place, either in the sun or near the kitchen stove. Use it: Use a pinch of dried oregano to add flavour to tomato-based sauces or traditional Italian dishes.
Among the most useful of culinary herbs, rosemary is a hardy plant that is easy to grow in WA, according to The Herb Society of WA’s Vanessa Scotford. “(It) is one of the most versatile plants in the garden, tolerant of drought, frost and coastal conditions, ” she said.
Use it: While commonly used to flavour a variety of meats, rosemary also makes for a great herbal tea. Just be sure to drink in the morning as it can keep you awake at night.
Herbs - Rosemary.
Used for centuries as a medicinal herb, sage is a hardy evergreen perennial that produces mauve-blue flowers in summer, according to Ms Scotford. “Plant in a sunny, sheltered, well-drained position, ” she said. Use it: Combine sage tea with a little cider vinegar to make a healing gargle ideal for sore throats, infected gums and mouth ulcers.
Great to grow in Perth’s Mediterranean climate, Mr Jeffreys said basil was among the hardiest of herbs and required minimal watering and a good dose of sunlight. When harvesting basil, he said a general rule was to tear rather than cut leaves to help retain flavour.
Use it: When drying out tomatoes, use the basil stems as a skewer to infuse flavour into the flesh.
Despite what some might think, said herb expert Kath Bafile, coriander was very easy to grow.
“It prefers humidity which is why autumn through to spring is the perfect time to be growing it in WA, ” she said.
Use it: Add coriander leaves to dishes at the last minute or use as a garnish when cooking so that the flavours aren’t lost.
Herbs - Coriander.
6. ITALIAN PARSLEY
Think parsley is hard to grow? Ms Bafile said rather than grow and harvest from one plant, to grow several at once and harvest between them.
She said flat-leaf Italian parsley had a more robust flavour for cooking than the curly variety. “Harvest the outer stems first, as the new growth comes from the centre, ” she said. “Grow in rich soil and don’t allow it to dry out.”
Use it: Finely chop fresh Italian parsley and sprinkle on to bruschetta or garlic bread.
“This rather old-fashioned herb is enjoying a revival, ”The West Australian food writer Marg Johnson said. “With feathery green leaves it grows easily just distributed through the garden, from where it will freely self sow.”
Use it: To flavour strong fish such as salmon. Dill also teams well with cucumber.
Another easy-to-grow kitchen herb, Swan Valley Nursery manager James Lingwood said chives were a fast-growing perennial that thrived in full sun to part shade. “These herbs will grow well in a vegie garden or even in a pot, ” he said.
Use it: Mix chopped chives with Greek yoghurt and cucumber to make a tangy salad dressing.
An essential culinary herb, thyme is a compact bush that can be easily grown in the garden. “Thyme likes to grow in full sun in a free-draining soil as it doesn’t like wet feet, ” Ms Johnson said. “It can also be grown as a garden plant.”
Use it: Thyme can add a special savoury flavour to all meat dishes, especially chicken. It goes well with oven- roasted tomatoes.
Herbs - Mint.
“Useful in savoury and sweet dishes, mint is a must, ” Ms Bafile said. “Grow in premium potting mix in a large tub so that it doesn’t escape and invade the garden beds.” Grow in part shade and water regularly to keep the leaves lush and flavourful, she said.
Use it: To make mint ice cubes, put a leaf in each cell of a heatproof cube tray, fill with boiling water, then after 10 minutes put it in the freezer.
© The West Australian