Herbal Haven Newsletter October 2013

The temperature has certainly dropped over the last few days – it is back to woolly jumpers and scarves. It has been a fabulous summer this year, once the prolonged cold spell finally disappeared in the spring the sun rarely stopped shining. Brilliant for the herbs which soak it up and great for the humans behind a stall during the day and sleeping in the back of a van at night.

We have had another good team this year and they have worked hard travelling out to shows every weekend. Not that the year has been without its mishaps however. Earlier in the season Rose had a drafty journey home after breaking the glass in the rear door of the van, Simeon tried to park in the same parking bay as another van on the motorway services and Emily managed to find herself trapped in Heathrow airport and did several tours of terminals two and three before she finally found the way out. Very recently Zsuzsa managed to chop a piece of her finger off whilst trimming back thymes – found again - no need to look for body parts in your pots, Tony has managed to pull muscles in his back and just this weekend Stu found himself trapped by the neck when he accidently pushed the electric window button whilst reversing with his head out of the window. It seems Jo has steered clear of catastrophe!

It goes without saying that there have been millions of slugs around this year after the bumper breeding weather they had last year. It has meant some night patrols by John with his barbecue tongs (to avoid sticky fingers) and large pot. They then get relocated to another home. We have seen an increase in the rabbits around the nursery this summer – it means we have had to protect some of the outside herbs. Excitingly though we also seem to have acquired a stoat. He/she doesn’t seem to be too frightened of us (more the dogs) and has been seen a few times amongst the plants, even running through the tunnel one day with a big rabbit wriggling in its mouth. Lots of little frogs hopping about this time of year, all needed to be caught and moved on a tunnel as we have got on with the clear up and disinfecting of each tunnel in turn this month.

This time of year is a good for using up and preserving herbs by freezing for the winter months. The soft and flavoursome annual herbs such as basil and coriander are good for this. The easiest way to do this is with a food processor. Pile the basil into the chopping part first with a little water – enough to keep it moving so the blades can chop it all up. It will reduce right down. From there I put it into the liquidizer and blend it down to a puree, add a drop more water if you need to. It needs to be frozen quite quickly after this to stop it turning brown. It can be spooned into ice cube trays – flexible rubber ones are best so you can peel them off the basil cubes, or dropped in dollops on a flat non stick tray – you simply need to bend the tray slightly to loosen them. Once frozen remove from tray and pop into a freezer bag and put them back into the freezer. They can be used one or more at a time in the winter for all kinds of dishes such as pasta sauces or smeared onto pizza bases before the tomato bit.

Ready for the freezer.


Frozen - the white is frost, not mould!


Most herbaceous perennials (e.g. mints and lemon balm lemon balm) will begin to die off this month, so pick and dry or freeze for winter use. Herbs such as bay and myrtle grown in pots should be moved to more sheltered areas of the garden away from cold easterly winds - basils, lemon grass, stevia, scented geraniums and other tender herbs need to be brought into a conservatory or onto a sunny windowsill before the first frosts.

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That’s all for this newsletter, enjoy the autumn.