September Newsletter 2007

Hello Everyone and welcome to the Herbal Haven September Newsletter. The sun has decided to shine at last which means the thymes and Corsican mint might find the will to live. A heavy dose of rain followed by a few hours in the van and they begin to rot away. Really annoying!

It’s our last full month of shows and so the last month for most of the Herbal Haven team. Geoff and Dragonhiss will be about for the whole of October to help with the autumn clear up. Lisa is going travelling and Ellie’s off to full-time employment. October is also the month that Zsuzsa’s baby is due. She’s like a little barrel now so goodness knows where the next month’s growth is going to fit!


September is the month when the growth of plants starts to slow down. It is a good time to cut back a lot of herbs, especially marjoram, oregano, hyssop and lemon balm which will produce a small bunch of new leaves at the base for use in the early winter. The stems that are cut off can be dried indoors out of direct sun and then stored in an air tight jar. This method can be employed with other culinary herbs that die down during the winter, such as lemon verbena, tarragon and mint. Make sure you gather them on a sunny dry day. Young thymes and lavenders will also need a good prune at this time of year to stop them becoming too woody. Most of the medicinal plants will be coming to the end of their flowering period and broadcasting seed. As with a lot of these are native plants, taking off the seed heads will stop you from having a forest of, for example, evening primrose or feverfew in your garden next year. Seed should also be gathered when the weather is warm and dry and the seeds stored in a paper bag over winter for sowing next year. There are some seeds, such as sweet cicely and angelica, which need to be sown in the autumn as they need the frosts over the winter in order to germinate.

Even thought the daytime temperatures are still warm in September, the nights are becoming cooler and longer. Now is the time to bring in basils before the leaves begin to blacken. They will carry on growing well on a sunny window sill; remember to give them a weekly feed.

I get asked a lot about Vietnamese coriander at shows. I think it is the word coriander that prompts the question, as it is seen as an alternative to ordinary coriander. Its Latin name is persicaria odoratum and it is also sold as Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese basil and rau ram. It is a tender perennial that grows up to half a metre in height. The leaves are long and pointy with a brown ‘v’ shape near the base. When you first chew the leaves there isn’t really a hint of the spiciness that will follow and the older the leaves the hotter they are. As the name suggests it is a herb that is used in South East Asia. I’m not sure about Thailand and Vietnam but in Malaysia it is used in Laksa dishes. A laksa is a spicy soup with coconut milk, noodles or rice and prawns or other seafood. I have a Malaysian cookbook which has different types of Laksa – Malay, Nyonya and Chinese. In this book Vietnamese coriander is called Daun Kesum. There are a fair few other ingredients too and even though there is a glossary not everything is listed, so I had a go at adapting to a much simpler recipe which is at the end of the newsletter. One thing to know when using Vietnamese coriander is it doesn’t take too kindly to prolonged cooking so add it just before serving.

For the last two seasons the Herbal Haven team have made use of some old tyres and grown a herb garden in them. Although this year the slugs have enjoyed the salad plants as much as the growers, Geoff’s personal crusade against them has meant there are some sizeable plants in there now, particularly the tree spinach. Lots of you have asked about this plant so I thought I would show you a photo of it all grown up, along with one or two of the other plants growing there.


Anyway, that’s it for this month. Enjoy the sun.



Chicken or Prawn Soup with Kesum Leaves

Serves 4


        2 tbs sunflower oil
        1 clove garlic, crushed
        2cm piece root ginger, grated
        3 chicken breasts or equivalent prawns
        bunch spring onions, sliced diagonally
        piece lemon grass
        2 tsp ground turmeric
        1 chilli, thinly sliced
        400mls coconut milk
        2 pints chicken or veg stock
        2 tbsp soy sauce
        250g noodles dried
        50g bean sprouts
        bunch Vietnamese coriander (about 40 to 50 leaves), finely chopped


            1.Heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger for a couple of mins.
            2.Add chicken or prawns and cook for a couple of mins.
            3.Add the onions, turmeric, chilli, soy sauce and lemon grass and cook briefly
            4.Stir in coconut milk and stock, bring to boil before reducing the to a simmer for a bout 15 mins.
            5.Add the noodles and cook for 4 mins.
            6.Stir in the beans sprouts and cook for 2 mins before adding the Vietnamese coriander leaves. Stir a couple of times and serve.