09 November 2011

Scarborough Fair

I just gave my herb bed its autumn haircut, bringing in the last of the herbs that I was going to preserve. Here's a lovely Scarborough Fair basket, filled with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The last three are now hanging in bundles above the wood stove to dry; the parsley was chopped and frozen, as it doesn't dry well.

I also couldn't resist picking a few more heads of calendula (English marigolds), which were still blooming, and putting them on an old dehydrator rack in the workshop to dry. Poor Man's Saffron, dontcha know. Not that I ever use saffron, really, or calendula petals, for that matter, but I just like having it. I suppose it's like some women and shoes; I always like having yet another herb plant in the garden, or spice in the cupboard. Some of the herbs I don't even bother preserving, as I'd definitely never will use them; I just like growing them.

d is one of them; I don't even know what it's good for, really. I read somewhere that you could put it, sparingly, in pork dishes; but otherwise the only uses for it I heard of is as a strewing herb, and as part of a bouquet of aromatic herbs that judges in Ye Olden Days put on their bench in the court room in order to ward off jail fever which the prisoners would bring with them into the dock (the inconsiderate wretches). Neither one of those is any good to me, seeing as I'm neither a Victorian judge (or a judge of Victoriana, for that matter), and don't have my floors covered in rushes (hardwood or carpeting is nicer, I find, but if you want to put straw on your floors, more power to you. I can let you have some southernwood to keep it nice-smelling). Apparently southernwood is related to wormwood (as in, "bitter gall and -"), which used to be the flavour in absinthe (the drink Van Gogh & Co fried their brains with); its toxicity is the reason that you can't get absinthe any more.

Another herb I like to have in my garden, just to have it, is tarragon. I know you can make lovely tarragon vinegar, and there's lovely recipes for tarragon chicken, and it's a lovely part of a lovely bouquet garni, but really, I don't actually like the flavour. Any of those anise-like flavours, I'm not particularly fond of to eat - anise, tarragon, licorice, even basil... And I'd grow them all, if I could. (Hey, can you grow licorice on the 50th latitude? Or is that a tropical? Hmm, she says, with an avaricious gleam in the eye...) But, anyway, tarragon has one quality that makes it rather vital to have in one's garden: tarragon's other name is Dragonsbane. Truly, it wards off dragons! I haven't seen a single one in my garden since I planted it.

Life, the Universe, and Herb Collections. I think I'll go listen to Scarborough Fair now.


  1. Oh, I'm so like you! I only have a balcony and I had three herbs. Choc. mint is good in tea but I only used it twice this year and never got around to drying any. Just this week I finally picked some of my copious amounts of parsley to freeze and my chives...well they did get used a reasonable amount. Next year I want Lemon Thyme...because it smells so nice.

  2. Oooh, I love lemon thyme! I never preserve any; it's kind of a summer thing for me. But it's lovely on fish! and to just pick and smell.

  3. We had lemon thyme in the garden in town this year and I love it even just for its smell. I potted some up to bring in for the winter and then potted another, and another...and then one more. It really is just a delightful plant to have inside at this time of year. I keep running my hand over it to smell it when I pass by. It is nice in a tea blend.

  4. I do that with my potted rosemary, I pet it. :) Hmm, potting up lemon thyme to bring in for the winter - now you're giving me ideas.