My passion for a kitchen garden first came from my love of herbs. Herbs and spices are the magical ingredients that add deep flavours, heady aromas and depth to our cooking. As I wander around my garden, wistfully picking sprigs of rosemary, sage and mint; hot chillies and kaffir, or lemon balm and bay leaves, I am immersed in the tranquil and peaceful ambience. This feeling of being connected with the earth, and the great satisfaction of being able to cook with homegrown ingredients brings me great joy in both my garden and my kitchen.
I have always aspired to being “self-sufficient”, but in my younger years, as a young mum and renting in the city, this was always a bit of a pipe dream. However, I always managed to grow my own herbs- in pots, old saucepans, anything that would hold a bit of dirt. And herbs are so easy to grow- break off a piece of a woody herb, stick it in the dirt.. and whollah! A new plant! And free if you have a lovely friend or neighbour who will let you take a cutting! I’ve planted whole hedges now of rosemary and lavender using this method. For herbs that are multi-rooted such as all the mints, lemon balm and thyme, gently cut off a small wedge of an existing plant, removing roots and all, and plant in a pot or the ground. Remember that while herbs are very hardy once established, they need a bit of love and attention when first planted as a cutting- keep it watered, and use a good composted soil. These days I am lucky to have 3 beautiful acres to grow an abundance of herbs, as well as fruit and vegetables.
There is no supermarket herb, dry or fresh, that can compete with using fresh from your garden. As you crush and chop the fresh leaves the strong and intoxicating scents infuse your senses and the kitchen. The sticky sap sometimes lingers on my fingers, even after washing, so at night I have dreams about garlic and rosemary potato wedges!
My recipes are inspired by my garden and the season. South Gippsland Victoria is a cool temperate area, and while it is incredibly beautiful, green and lush, it is also a wet, cool and often windy place. We use fences and hedges to create north facing rooms and protect plants from the vicious south westerly winds. I make curry pastes, herb mixes, herbal tisanes and an herbal hand scrub. In Summer I hang bunches of rosemary under our back verandah to dry, then blend and store it as a powder. This is beautiful to use in crackers or bread, or to sprinkle over roast vegetables.
If you have always wanted to start a kitchen garden and been a little intimidated- start with some herbs in pots. They are so very useful and rewarding, and just might be the inspiration and confidence you need to continue on your gardening journey.