At the garden circle meeting the other day, we had a sort of a competitive discussion on how to convince someone who isn’t a container gardener to become one. Well, as you know, we know that we will all do what it is we want to do in the end, and not everyone is persuaded by such simple arguments to change their ways or take advice from others.
Still, we ‘tooed and froad’ with the usual arguments that didn’t do much for the converted – you know, like it is easy, its tastes good, it makes you feel useful and whole and green and so on; and in the end, we decided that the winning formula was to give a gift to the non-gardener in your life, of something that you had grown on your balcony yourself.
That day our hostess served hamburgers and salad with a wicked salsa relish (recipe below) and this is what made it all work. We tasted the outcomes from her gardening. The end result? I determined to grow some different chillies and to try growing my own sweet corn in a container (never done before)and to grow a curry plant again ... and I heard a couple of people saying much the same.
So, the theme for today, is growing an ‘unusual’ herb.
We all grow the popular herbs (basil, parsley, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary etc.), and for very good reasons and we should continue to do so, but there are so many herbs that we miss or pass by, perhaps because we don’t know what to do with them or we think it is too much of a fuss. It’s not any more fuss than growing anything else – so here follows a list of just a few of the ‘other’ herbs you may like to try. Something new in your containers might be a hit for you.
In no specific order, what about trying Borage; Sorrel; Amaranth; Fenugreek; Hungarian Pepper; Golden Rod; Catnip; Bee Balm; Milk Thistle; Pennywort; Winter Savory; Soapwort; Tansy; Ginkgo; Melissa; Echinacea; Bergamot; Epazote; Perilla; Anise Hyssop; Chervil; Caraway; Sweet Cicely; Red Orach or Feverfew.
Ah well! There are many more, and anyway some of these on the list above may not be unusual for you as you may already be growing some. Still you can add your own if they are new, and make notes in your gardening journal as you do. Set about growing something different – not only will it stretch your container gardening experiences but it can offer some new recipes for you to try on your family and friends.
Here is one you could try.
The Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum)
This is a really pleasurable herb to grow, a hardy chap that does not demand too much attention and will often grow in areas that nothing else will grow in. It doesn’t like a lot of fuss, is fairly low maintenance and an easy date; and for these few reasons alone it deserves your consideration. Deer hate it by the way – so if you need to grow a line of pots and train it as a hedge of sorts to keep them away from your garden space, then this is one of the plants you can use. In fact, the Curry Plant is a natural pesticide as bugs don’t like its scent – so it makes a good ‘bookend’ plant too.
The plant has silvery grey leaves that grow to two to three feet high and looks as if it could be a mix between rosemary and lavender. If you trim the top then it will spread out to compensate, but if you leave it to grow, it will wave about in a strong wind so may need to be staked for support. It just depends on where you decide to place your pots. It produces tiny yellow buttony flowers.
The Curry Plant likes full sun and warm conditions (it does not do well in frost) and the soil you use should be loose and well drained. It does need water, but not so much and will do well in a low water garden and in areas of drought and or poor soils. Where others may not grow, the Curry Plant may just surprise you.
This herb is considered an aromatic – and as its name tells you, it has a warm spicy, sweet flowery fragrance that smells like a curry blend. It is gentle on the nose and is enticing and welcoming. Now of course you can use it in the kitchen though much of the aroma is lost in the cooking process. Still, chop it finely and use it to give a nice lift to mild cheese dishes, eggs and white sauce served with fish ... and you can add it to a sweet omelette – it may make the difference in taste you seek.
If you are going to grow a Curry Plant, choose a container that is big enough to accommodate the mature plant, so go for one that is at least 12 inches deep and sturdy. I prefer ceramic, but it’s your choice. Remember to place it in a spot on your balcony that gets plenty of sun and or bright light and protect it from icy temperatures and very strong winds as it is a tender perennial – it grows from seed and can be propagated from stem cuttings. To repeat, good drainage is important and do not over water you plant.
Expand your herb collection by growing a Curry Plant – it’s aromatic and culinary and an ‘easy-grow.’
What do you want your container garden to do?
RECIPE as promised above –
Roasted Pepper Relish
(as mild or as hot as the chillies you choose)
2lbs whole plum (or similar) tomatoes, skin on, tinned tomatoes just don’t cut the mustard for this recipe.
4 sliced red and or yellow deseeded sweet peppers (capsicum) don’t use green ones.
A mix of halved deseeded chillies, say 15 or so, and here you get to choose how hot you want your relish to be. By mixing different chillies, you get a yummy depth of flavour. Habanera? Okay hotstuff!
5 thinly sliced cloves of fresh garlic – leave out anything bottled
I 340gr tin corn kernels (or your own homegrown ones)
¼ cup EVOO with a phat splash of Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted and fresh-ground
2 Tbl of finely cut fresh Curry Plant leaves - optional
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.
Roast the tomatoes on top of the stove in a cast iron pan, turning them now and then, let the skins blacken as best as you can as this will add to the smoky flavour of the end product.
In a second cast iron pan (if you have one) do the same for the peppers – roast them and blacken the skins until they are coming away from the flesh. Add the sweetcorn to this pan when the peppers have blackened – cook along with the peppers. You do not want to add the corn too early as it draws water and will hinder your roasting of the peppers.
In another pan, roast the chillies and when the skins turn dark, add the garlic and cook for around 10 minutes stirring so that it does not burn.
When all done, add everything to a glass bowl and cover – it will ‘sweat’ in its own heat.
Meanwhile roast the cumin and coriander seeds moving them about in the hot pan, and when they start to scent up and darken and you know they are good and roasted, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool. When cool, crush in a grinder or use a pestle and mortar.
Blend the tomato mix roughly (slow pulse) and when all is done, add the ground spices, curry plant, salt and pepper and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stir gently – you should have a thick soupy thick sauce with a salsa mix consistency.
Serve with all sorts of things and use as a dip for a fondue as well. Yum. Keep any leftovers in the fridge – but left overs are unlikely!
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