Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Okay, so sempervivums are not strictly considered to be herbs, but if a herb is a plant that is valued for medicinal or culinary purpose, for its scent and flavour and special properties, then that would cover a very large slice of the horticultural firmament.
Of herbs you have probably never heard of: Stevia was used by the Aztecs as a sweetener, and it's 30% sweeter than sugar. The reason we haven't heard much about it, apparently, is that the politics and countries involved in the sugar trade have deliberately opposed its growth. Something to investigate further.
Meanwhile, the little known Meum athmanticum, a member of the carrot family is a native British herb, eaten by crofters in Scotland to stop them feeling hungry. And Tagetes limoniae gives off the most amazing scent from the merest brush of its leaves.
These are just some of the fascinating herb facts I learned at Jekka's Herb Farm. It was a special visit, in my newly freelance capacity, to sample her new range of teas that taste as good as they look - you've gotta love a tea that has blue cornflower petals in it. Jekka is a very generous fountain of knowledge, makes great marjoram biscuits as well as teas and growing all those herbs. I could hardly keep pace, but I'm looking forward to the next pub quiz with a special round on herbs. I will be quite smug about knowing all the answers.
Here are some of the acres of seeds trays at Jekka's, which I love for the geometry. I wish mine looked so orderly.