Fresh herbs – What’s not to like? Apart from the sticker shock when you pick up one of those miserly bags from the supermarket. But it doesn’t have to be that way as they are so easy to grow from seed, even in small spaces. I read somewhere that 90% of all the nutrient goodness is lost within 10 minutes of picking. Whether that’s true or not it’s so nice to grab a handful of the stuff to add flavour to the meals we cook.
Some of our herbs we grow in raised beds – Chives, Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme & Chamomile. Mint grows in pots as you don’t want to let it loose in open ground!
We grow our herbs in an enclosed aero-hydroponic system. The plants sit in small net pots filled with clay pebbles with their roots growing in the air. A water pump then pumps nutrient rich water through a sprinkler system that sprays the roots. surplus water drains back into the tank and recirculated. Periodically the water and nutrients are topped up, to make sure the growing conditions are optimum. Having said that they seem to grow pretty strongly even if neglected a little once they are established.
At the end of a growing season we empty the nutrient rich water into either our raised beds, garden or use to feed the fruit trees. So nothing is wasted.
Our hydro-aerponic tanks hold 40 small pots, so it is quite large but with everything hydroponic is is very scaleable. There are plenty of DIY hacks on the internet and even small scale windowsill options available.
With a system like this most commercial growers heat the water and provide additional artificial lighting to increase production yields. We don’t do this in the polytunnel , but it doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment even with the off and on sunlight we’ve been having throughout July.
So what do we grow?
- Basil Genovese
- Cilantro (aka coriander)
- Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
We tried growing Russian Tarragon from seed, as French Tarragon is propagated only by cuttings, but frankly we found it had none of the aniseed tones of its European counterpart.
So What to do with loads of herbs?
Here are just a few suggestions…
Nando’s style Macho Peas – Whole peas covered with mashed peas, mint, flat leaf parsley and red chili. Try swapping out the herbs for dill or basil. Our favourite was basil and chili combo.
Always looking for ways to spice up my veggies, I found a recipe for Bakla (broad bean salad) in “Middle Eastern Cookery” by Arto Der Haroutunian. Usually made with the whole young pods and eaten whole, I adapted the recipe for a quick mid week meal as I didn’t have time to follow the recipe to the letter but made use of the main ingredients, broad beans, mint and the aeroponic herbs – Dill and Parsley.
Cook the beans in water with a little allspice
Once cooked, drain and sprinkle the fresh herbs over the beans and chopped scallions
Toss in lemon juice and olive oil and serve.
Salad Dressing to accompany seafood and shellfish
Flat leaf parsley
Squeeze of lemon
Hemp or Olive Oil
Spot of Balsamic Vinegar
Whizz that up in a blender or food processor to toss with crisp green lettuce and french bean salad.