An easy method to provide a continuous supply of fresh herbs for cooking at the weekend

We really enjoy using fresh herbs in our cooking but if you are growing your own it is so easy to get a glut at times and then nothing at others (just when you want it of course).

Supermarket buying also has its problems with a standard pack of cut fresh herbs usually much more than you need.  It then languishes in the fridge until it becomes rather sad and limp.

However, creating your own supply of growing herbs and salad leaves is really very straight forward as long as you get yourself organised.  If you have a greenhouse or cold frame then all the better.

We use a lot of  coriander, rocket, basil and parsley in particular and grow them in the following way.

Every three weeks fill a small 9cm pot with standard multi-purpose compost mixed with some perlite for better drainage.  Water the compost and then sow a small amount of coriander seed onto the surface.  Water before you sow the seed so it remains evenly spread over the pot and does not all end up in one corner.  Cover lightly with vermiculite (or more compost), label and then cover with a piece of clingfilm until the seedlings emerge.  Uncover as soon as the seedlings begin to show.

We do the same with the salad rocket in a slightly large 1 litre plastic pot.  The seedlings of rocket will emerge in just a few days.

For the basil we tend to use a broader 9 inch wide terracotta pot/bowl as the basil likes better drainage and does not like to get waterlogged.  There are a wide range of basil varieties and these can provide you with both leaves for a salad and for use in cooking.  Once sown the technique is the same.

Just grow these on in the light and very rapidly they will reach a point where you can bring them into the kitchen, place on the windowsill and pick what you need, when you need it.

I am sure the same technique would work equally well for parsley but we find that rather than bring the pots into the kitchen we plant them out in the vegetable garden where they establish quickly and produce fresh green leaves deep into winter.

Remember:  Keep sowing every 3 weeks or so (don’t wait until you start to run out) and you will have a ready supply throughout the year.

A recipe to try:  If you like parsley then you might like to have a go at this recipe for egg, bacon and parsley pie which is a favorite of ours and makes great use of the parsley from the garden.

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Quinces

One of the beauties of growing your own fruit is that you can grow things that you don’t often come across in the supermarket.  Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is something that is well worth growing both for its large, delightful pink blossom in the spring and its large yellow fruits in the autumn.

Quince fruit

The tree in our orchard was planted in 1995 and did take some years to get going but now fruits reliably year after year.  The fruits do seem prone to scab but this only effects the fruits on the surface and does not impact the flesh at all.

Quince flowers dusted with pink

At first glance the fruits might seem daunting being hard and solid and difficult to cut through.  You will need to feel strong to prepare these!  However, peeled and cored and boiled for around an hour in a limited amount of water creates a wonderful, fragrant peach coloured puree that is quite unique.  Mash up (technical term!) with a hand blender and add sugar, lemon and cinnamon and you have the most wonderful puree for use in a wide range of desserts.

The following Quince Crumble Tart from BBC Good Food recipe is one we have done many times and always works well.   The quinces will fill your house with a beautiful quince perfume.

Quince Crumble Tart

Tip: We freeze cooked fruit in large muffin trays.  When frozen tip them out into a bag, label and pop back in the freezer.  You can then take out exactly the amount you need when you need it.  One frozen block fits nicely in a ramekin dish, then topped with crumble mix and placed in the oven gives a quick pud.