CULINARY HERBS WORKSHOP
The Culinary Herbs Workshop started with a sensory tour of the culinary herb patch at Global Gardens. Attendees were invited to 'experience' herbs by smelling, touching and tasting.
In the herb patch we have lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, lemon balm, chives, hyssop, fennel and lovage to name but a few.
A lot of these herbs, such as rosemary, fennel were used in the past as natural disinfectants and insecticides. People would scatter them on the floor and the oils would be released as people walked on them
Rosemary used to be burned to purify the air. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal and promotes circulation. It has a piney flavour, which gets more intense when it's hot. Flowers as well as leaves are edible. You don’t need a lot of rosemary of it, and it’s great in slow cooking, roasting, or oil infusing.
We have three types of sage growing in Global Gardens – broad leaved, tricolour and purple. It is another woody and hardy Mediterranean herb that grows well in British climate. Just as with rosemary - leaves and flowers are ok to eat. You don’t need a lot of it, as it’s strong in flavour.
Winter savoury is very similar to thyme, but has pointier leaves and has peppery pungent flavour. It is evergreen and grows well in British climate. It works well with pulses. Boiling beans with it is said to reduce flatulence (a carminative herb).
Thyme is suitable for slow cooking. It can be preserved by drying as it retains lots of flavour . Great in anything pasta, French or Italian cooking, and as tea.
Marjoram is actually a sub-species of oregano. It’s a delicate herb with a sweet, and floral flavour. Because it has a light, subtle flavour, marjoram is best added at the end of cooking.
Oregano has pink or purple flowers, and much stronger, pungent flavour than marjoram.
Lemon Balm is known by other names such as balm, cure all, melissa, bee balm. It has an uplifting quality, and lemon balm tea helps with sleep. It is best used fresh as oils tend to disappear when drying. It easy to grow, but can get a bit invasive. In Spain it is infused in milk in leche perfumada con melissa.
Mint – broadly divided into spearmints and peppermints. Spearmint has pointed leaves, therefore spear-mint and is the one that’s used in cooking more. Peppermint has rounder, darker leaves and more minty flavour. Mint is quite invasive, so it is good to plant in a bottomless pot in the ground.
Chive leaves and flowers are edible, and have an onion - like flavour. You can make a beautiful pink vinegar by submerging a few heads of chive flowers into vinegar. You can sprinkle chive in salads, make chive butter or use with eggs in different ways- scrambled eggs, omelettes.
Chive flower vinegar
Fennel is similar to dill, but has a strong aniseed flavour. It is much nicer and sweeter earlier in the season.
Salad Burnet is a less common, with a mild flavour of cucumber which is why it is great in summery drinks and cocktails, or mixed in salads with other leaves and herbs.
Tip. When making herbal tea, it's recommended to cover your tea while it's infusing. The water will keep hot for longer and will have more flavour in it.
We tasted two types of cold herbal drinks - Salad burnet muddled (gently pressed and crushed with a wooden muddler) with water and lemon balm and mint muddled with water. At the end of the workshop we tasted Global Garden's thyme tea which was harvested and dried the previous year.
We made a Tuscan salt from Splendid tables by Sally Schneider.
· 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
· Scant 1/2 cup sea salt
· About 2 cups loosely-packed rosemary and sage leaves, 50/50
Start by chopping garlic and blending it with the salt. Chop the herbs coarsely and then mix them in with the salt and garlic. Carry on chopping till fine. Spread it on a flat bowl, and leave it on a sunny window for a few days to dry.
We also made a 'herby' salt which I learned to make from an inspiring cook and fermenter Annie Levy. She wrote about herbs salees in her blog here . The herby salt we made included all the different herbs we could find in the garden- chives, chive flowers, sage, savoury, rosemary, fennel, salad burnet, lemon balm, mint, oregano, marjoram. We chopped the herbs finely, then mixed them with salt which was about the 1/5 of the herb weight. Once mixed, we put the salt in the jar and then store it in the fridge. It's good to keep the salt in a fridge for a couple of days and let the flavours mingle. It can be used in any way to add flavour to salads, soups, stews, sandwiches - anywhere you'd use salt. It will keep in a fridge for a while.