Home' Outdoors : WAs Best Outdoors and Gardens 2009 Contents WA's Best Outdoors & Gardens 2010 81
Come summer time, basil is one of the most
valuable plants you can grow in the edible garden.
It lends a hand to the happy tomato both in the
soil (by keeping it free of certain pests) and on
the plate (add bocconcini and olive oil -- amazing).
ere are several varieties of the leafy herb
including lemon basil, holy basil, ai basil and
opal basil but the best, according to Carole Fudge at
Benara Nurseries, is "the good old fashioned sweet
basil, a must for salads, pastas, soups and pesto."
Growing basil: Basil gets a little glum when the
air is chilly, recoiling germination as soon as
temperatures are too low. Sow seeds at the end
of spring in a full sunny spot, allowing the leaves
to be ready for picking between early December
and mid-May. ey can grow either in containers
or in the ground, and reap maximum benefits
when planted around the base of tomatoes.
"Basil helps repel unwanted insects such
as fruit fly while adding flavour to the tomatoes
as they grow," says Hilton Blake, group retail
manager for Waldecks Garden Centres. " e
more you harvest basil, the bushier it grows so
don't be afraid to use it."
Having spent many years as an awkward garnish,
parsley is now dismissed as a naff kitchen herb.
But with its fresh flavour and warm undertones,
the friendly green sprig can make a stately
impact on almost any dish. It's beautiful on
a juicy barbecue steak, tastes great in omelettes
and scrambled eggs, and fares just as wonderfully
in soups, curries and pastas. ere are three
main varieties of parsley: curly leaf, flat leaf
and parsnip rooted. All three make great breath
fresheners and can be cut and arranged in a vase
for a decorative touch.
Growing parsley: "Parsley, like most herbs,
needs a sunny spot in the garden with lots
of manure and compost-enriched soil," says
Carole. It's a fairly hardy plant that self seed
so readily, you can count on it being there f
years, providing the conditions are suitabl
A tip from Patrick Coward at the Margaret
River Providore: "Plant six in the ground
leave two to seed. When they're dry, roll the
seeds in your hands and cover with soil for
the next generation. After two years you will
have a fully self-seeding parsley supply."
Fennel is an elegant herb, but one whose
aniseed tones are sadly misunderstood.
We're talking just a hint of liquorice here --
nothing overwhelming. e flavour becomes
milder when cooked as well, so there's really
no need to be afraid. e Italians eat fennel
raw at the end of a meal as a digestive, and
incorporate it into salads (with greens or slices
of orange), risotto and stews. Its seeds can also
be used to make a refreshing tea.
Growing fennel: Fennel thrives in any sunny,
well-drained spot. e seeds can be grown
in spring, but Florence fennel is usually sown
in autumn. You can harvest the plants for their
foliage at any time and for their base as soon
as plants are deemed large enough. Generally,
mature harvest requires between three and four
months of growth. While fennel is quite drought
tolerant, regular watering produces a more
tender, mild flavoured crop.
Like its name suggests, salad burnet is a natural
salad ingredient. e tender young leaves have
the best flavour and can be plucked whole
and sprinkled over greens. "It tastes like light
cucumber," Patrick says. "And has the most
delicate texture. Salad burnet is great substitute
for lettuce in sandwiches and is also used in
vinegars and sauces. e Chinese use it in
medicine; bash it up in a mortar and pestle to
rub on burns or mosquito bites." Try chopping
the leaves and sprinkling them over fresh
steamed veggies to add some zip.
Growing salad burnet: You'll have the most
luck with salad burnet in shady, moist conditions.
e soil can be poor -- even limey, just make sure
there's good drainage to avoid rotting the roots.
Salad burnet is a hardy plant that self seeds if the
flowers are not cut back, growing to a height of
50cm and equally wide across. It doesn't need
a big patch in the garden to flourish and grows
just as nicely in containers. Cutting back the
blossoms of the plant will produce plenty of
tender new leaves.
For a herbal blood cleanser, mix equal
quantities of crushed fennel seeds, ginger
powder, dried catnip and peppermint. Drink
as a tea (using 1/2 teaspoon of the mixed herbs
to one cup of hot water) 30 minutes before a
meal. is old recipe was valued as a herbal
detox and for aiding the liver and gall bladder.
3 cups basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pinenuts
1/4 cup grated
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Roast the pinenuts in a
preheated moderate oven for
five minutes or until roasted
and aromatic. Remove and set
aside for 10 minutes. Crush the
garlic to a paste and process
with the basil, parmesan and
pinenuts. While the motor is still
running, gradually add the oil in
a thin steady stream until well
e thyme plant has fine green leaves, ornate
flowers and a heavenly scent, making it just as
impressionable in the garden bed as it is in a
Mediterranean dish. e best variety for eating
is garden thyme -- an ingredient in bouquet garni
which has long been used for stuffing, stocks and
stews. e herb's strong, pungent flavour also
makes it an ideal accompaniment to meaty dishes.
ere are several varieties of thyme -- each with
their own distinct flavour -- including French,
English, lemon scented and matting, all of which
according to Hilton Blake, "can be used in the
kitchen and make natural insect repellents in
Growing thyme: yme is a 'cut and come again'
herb so the more you harvest from it, the more it
grows. Good, rich soil fails to impress the small-
leafed plant, preferring impoverished gravel or
well-drained sandy dirt instead (we like to think
of it as the hippy of the herb community). It can
be harvested all year round (except in very cold
areas, where it risks dying off during winter),
thrives under full sun and needs to be lightly
trimmed after flowering.
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