AROMATIC HERBS IN A VEGETABLE GARDEN
All of you would have had tomato soup. How many have taken tomato and coriander soup? Eaten a margarita pizza sprinkled with oregano flakes? Plain paratha or rosemary or thyme paratha? A cup of cappuccino with added cinnamon? If you have done so, you would have noticed the difference in the flavor and taste. It is because of the addition of aromatic herbs such as coriander, oregano, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon.
You will find it very interesting to have a herbal garden within your kitchen garden. It can be started with a few herbs, before you establish a full-fledged herbal garden. Several varieties of aromatic herbs have also medicinal value like oregano, hyssop, tarragon, artemisia and lemongrass. Generally, most of the herbs can be grown in pots, with a simple pot mixture, organic manure and in a spot receiving two to three hours of sunlight a day. They also require only a little water and are easy to grow. That apart, the colour and aroma attract bees and butterflies, which in turn helps the propagation of plants.
Even when there is space constraint, herbs can be grown in a vertical garden, on the kitchen windowsill, or a small portion of the balcony. You can even create a beautiful herb garden in a tray or a glass container.
Whatever way is chosen, there are a few essential steps to be taken for any such garden, the most important being:
- Sunlight: There should be adequate sunlight, at least for 2 to 3 hours every day.
- Soil: Choose soil which is not alkaline or clay. It should be porous.
- Manure: Use cow dung manure, a little bit of leftover tea leaves, turmeric and compost mixture. This mixture should be “turned” so as to evenly spread the water.
- Pruning: It is essential to regularly prune the plant for its proper growth.
The plants must be harvested just before the flowers appear. The leaves can be used fresh or dried for culinary and other purposes.
As mentioned earlier, the uses of herbs are many and varied. Certain examples of the different herbs and their uses are:
BASIL is used in garnishing soups, eggs, mushroom and Mediterranean cooking like pizzas, pastas, and chicken dishes. In Greece, the plant is generally not eaten and is a part of the articles of veneration and worship in temples and homes.
ROSEMARY is used as a seasoning in French and Italian cuisine. Rosemary oil is used for massage. Americans use it in the making of biscuits, jams, and custard.
THYME is used as a salad and for imparting a unique flavour to fish and meat dishes. It is also used in making cheese and in cheese dishes like vegetable gratin, lasagna and cheese sandwiches.
LEMONGRASS has a musky lemon aroma. The oil is used for massage and also in cool drinks, salad and egg dishes.
TARRAGON is used in French cooking for imparting flavour to chicken and egg dishes. It is also used for flavouring vinegar and in varieties of dips.
SAGE is a very common herb. It has a slight camphorousflavour and can go with any dish.