May Newsletter 2007


Herbal Haven Newsletter May 2007


Hello Everyone and welcome to the May Newsletter. No complaints about the weather, it has been absolutely gorgeous, and all the herbs have been growing great guns. Means lots of watering in the garden for all the new plants you are putting in, and for anything living in a pot. Everything has moved on season wise due to the heat, so that some of the plants are flowering early for example the French lavenders in our terracotta pots are putting on a lovely display.



French Lavender




Last year we grew some dwarf runner beans suitable for containers on the patio. These seemed quite popular, and Zsuzsa (who has been bending my ear about veg plants since last season) insisted we give some courgette and pumpkin plants a go. We only grew a few trays of each, just to see what the response would be, as they don't hold very long in 8 cm pots. They seemed to be quite popular so, hopefully, next year we will try a few more. It's always nice to try growing new things and so we have sown three new salad type herbs to see what they are like. The first one is Amaranth. This has very nutritious leaves and seeds with high protein levels. It is a tall growing bushy annual growing up to five feet.






The second is Golden Purslane. We get asked for purslane at the shows from time to time and I have vague memories of growing it years ago but not very successfully, which is why I didn't do it again. Thought it might be worth another try. This is also an annual with fleshy leaves and stems. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The last one is Tree Spinach which is related to Good King Henry. It is a tall-growing annual with a red blush to the leaves.


Not many herbs like to be completely out of the sun, but two herbs that are good for a shady site are bugle and sweet woodruff, both of which flower at this time of year. Sweet woodruff is closely related to cleavers, that sticky weed kids throw at each other. It is a strewing herb from the middle ages as when cut it gives off the scent of coumarin, which is the smell of new mown hay and sweet clover. Good, I presume, for masking the rather unpleasant smells.



Sweet Woodruff



It has been used in herbal medicine for improving liver function and as a sedative. It is also soaked in white wine to make Maitrank, an aromatic tonic drink made in parts of France. Bugle has had connections to love in the past but it seems to have been used mainly to treat hangovers and bruises sustained when falling over whilst drunk. I guess with modern pain killers there is no need for such a herb any more.


Bronze Bugle


Another herb that likes living under trees is wild garlic. We get asked for this sometimes but don't grow it' yet! At this time of year, there is lots of it in flower in woodlands. I haven't seen much of it in our part of the world but in the south and west there is loads. You can smell the garlic hanging in the air.


We have two new members to our team this year, Lisa and Emma.



Lisa and Emma



Nice to get the female ratio up a bit. I have been harassing everyone to come up with contributions for the newsletter and Emma has surpassed herself with a recipe for Comfrey and Nettle Fertiliser (both of which there are plenty of this time of year) and Nettle soup.






I love the understated way she describes the fertilizer smell whilst cooking as 'strong'.


The last addition to the team has been Tequila the horse. She has been moved around the nursery where she has done a sterling job at keeping the grass mowed (and she's a lot prettier to look at than John with the lawn mower ).



Tequila The Horse



The only down side, of course, is the need to remove large piles if horse poo occasionally! Oh.. and then there's the time she escaped and galloped happily over the fields for a couple of miles ignoring all efforts of those in pursuit with apples and carrots.


We have a new mint this year, Banana Mint, but we will do a full tea making effort on it this month, as we did with all the others last year, and give you our comments next month.


Have a great May.




Emma's Nettle Recipies



Comfrey and Nettle fertilizer: With it's high levels of potash, comfrey tea can be used as an excellent fertilizer for tomato, pepper, cucumber and potato plants. Nettles are high in minerals. The smell while it is “cooking” is strong. Pick a good sized handful of leaves. Place them in a container with enough water to cover the leaves. Cover and let this “cook” for 4 weeks in cool weather or 2 weeks in hot weather. Then squeeze the leaves to extract as much juice as possible. Strain and use at a rate of 1/3 cup of comfrey juice to one gallon of water. Use as a foliar feed and soil drench around the plants. Put the solid wastes into the compost pile. When comfrey leaves are composted and returned to enrich the soil all these elements are made available to your plants.

Nettle liquid can be used as an insect repellent spray against blackfly and greenfly. Attracts ladybirds to eat aphids. Use to pack fruit preventing moulds from forming. Whole plants prevent fungal attacks on nearby plants



Nettles contain calcium, magnesium, trace minerals, chlorophyll, chromium, cobalt, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, sulphur, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vit A, protein, manganese, selenium, silicon, tin, vit C, sodium, vit D and vit K.




Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 20 mins


75g arborio rice (per person)

1 organic leek - finely chopped

1 pint veg stock

1 half pint young nettle leaves (washed and chopped)

2 leaves garden mint


Sprigs of flat leaf parsley and hyssop

Olive oil

White wine

Parmesan cheese


1. Heat 1 tsp oil and add rice, gently stir and cook until transparent. Add splash of white wine, keep stirring
2. Add enough veg stock to just cover rice. Once half pint of stock used add leeks and peas
3. Continue to add rest of stock, add nettles and gently cook for 5 mins
4. Add generous grating of parmesan cheese
5. Once all stock has been absorbed (but risotto is still creamy) add the rest of the chopped herbs and serve immediately with brown bread and a glass of white wine