Lockdown has given many people more time to get into their garden as well as being more adventurist in the kitchen.
Growing herbs is now back in favour. Looking back over many years in gardening, growing herbs was seldom mentioned.
It was a bit like growing rhubarb. Find a dark neglected area and plant a few crowns then forget about them, but life moves on and now rhubarb is almost at superfood status as we now know all about its brilliant health giving attributes.
Herbs are now an essential part of the kitchen and outdoor barbecue and have a special place in both the garden and allotment plot.
We always grew Lavender and Rosemary as attractive landscape shrubs, a bay tree in a large pot to add interest on the patio, thyme was a popular ground cover plant and there was always a few sprigs of mint lurking amongst the bottom of the apple trees.
Anna had always used a wide range of herbs in the kitchen as she just loves to cook and find new ideas with recipes.
This week, after a glut of cauliflowers all ready at the same time, she created a brilliant roasted cauliflower soup with parsley, nutmeg, garlic and a few other available vegetables.
Over time more and more herbs got planted around the garden, and now with a bit of lockdown, she has even more time to experiment in the kitchen, so herbs are gaining prominence.
Up at City Road Allotments herbs are very popular with a fair bit of swapping taking place.
To get a herb garden started you can buy plants or plugs then pot up or plant out, though some annual and biennial herbs can be grown from seed.
Herbs come in all forms from perennial evergreen shrubs, (Lavender, Sage and Rosemary) ground cover as thyme, herbaceous such as mint which dies down in winter, biennials such as parsley and annuals such as Basil.
However Basil is not very hardy and up north it is best on a warm windowsill. Great in Pesto, pizzas and tomato dishes, and as it is the leaves that are used remove any flower buds as they appear.
Parsley is often used in leek and a favourite in Scotch broth soup adding the health benefits of iron and the vitamins A, C and E.
Herbs are favourite along path edges for frequent and easy fresh picking for the kitchen, and Lavender and Rosemary best in a sunny dry spot.
Rosemary has numerous uses in the kitchen especially for adding flavour to roast lamb, pork, chicken and pasta dishes.
Both have a great perfume and bees are very attracted to them when in flower.
Rosemary may be prone to die off if winters are severe, but these are becoming a rarity.
Bay may also be prone to die off in a bad winter, but it is often grown in a large pot that can be moved into the greenhouse if bad weather threatens.
Another plant for a dry sunny spot is Coriander, a hot spicy herb added to curries and Mexican and Indian dishes.
Oregano, a Greek aromatic herb has been grown for thousands of years, establishes easily from seed and both the seed and leaves are dried off for storing for future use sprinkled over pizza, in soups, marinades and savoury dishes.
It is rich in antioxidants and is proving to have numerous health benefits.
Lemon balm herb is another plant needing a warm dry sunny spot, makes a lovely and healthy tea and often added when stuffing poultry.
Mint has always been popular in gardens, and now we can have black mint and applemint as well as spearmint and peppermint.
Mint sauce is brilliant with lamb and freshly harvested peas. All mints are very easy to grow and control as they always try to grow beyond their allocated patch, so growing them in pots may be preferable.
Both sage and chives, related to garlic are grown as attractive garden plants as well as ingredients for the kitchen.
Wee jobs to do this week
As early crops get harvested such as onions, broad beans, peas, potatoes and salads there will be bare soil awaiting the next crops for picking throughout autumn and into early winter.
Sow some lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket, land cress.
No need to dig over the ground, just hoe the surface to remove any weeds and provide an inch of tilth to help seeds germinate, rake level and sow the seeds usually in rows a foot apart.
I also add some fertiliser to give them a boost. Once they have all germinated they will need thinning out to give them more room to grow.