Herbs are not just prized for their culinary benefits, they also make soothing teas and thirst-quenching drinks. Those with fruity, zesty or lemon-f lavoured leaves are best. On hot days, simply pop some fresh sprigs into a jug with ice and water, or make a herb-infused syrup as a base for a cooler. Herb teas are often drunk as a digestive or before going to bed as an aid to sleeping.
Some herbs work better when grown individually as specimens. To make a feature of them, plant them in pots that are the same colour or style. Groupings of three or five pots (or any uneven number) work best. Use different sizes to vary the height.
Rosemary ‘Ginger’ (1) is a neat, vigorous perennial shrub with a noticeable ginger f lavour and fragrance. Keep it compact with regular pruning. Use in energising cold or hot drinks and to f lavour roast meats.
Strawberry ‘Toscana’ (2) is an everbearing variety with dark-pink blossoms and juicy, deep-red fruit. ‘French’ thyme (3) is one of the best culinary thyme varieties and makes a healthy tea. Thyme tea strengthens the respiratory system and acts as a general tonic.
The ‘Fruit Salad’ plant ( Solanum muricatum) (4) bears egg-shaped fruits. It has a slightly drooping habit and needs to be supported. When ripe, the fruit is apricot coloured with purple markings. It has a honey-like fragrance and crisp slightly sweet flesh. Slice and use to flavour cool drinks, add to salads and fruit salads and even slow cook it in savoury meat dishes. The green fruit is poisonous so always wait until it’s fully ripened.
‘Citronella’ geranium (5) is planted with pennyroyal mint (6), both better known as mozzie-busting herbs,
essential when sitting outdoors on warm summer nights. ‘Citronella’ geranium leaves can be infused to make a tea and f lavour desserts, fruit punches and vinegar. The leaves of creeping pennyroyal have a strong peppermint aroma when crushed. Rub the leaves over your skin to deter mozzies.
Growing tips: Herbs in pots do better with morning sun and afternoon shade. They need at least two hours direct sun a day; this improves their taste and they will be better able to resist pests and diseases.
In the kitchen: Make a ginger rosemary fruit cup. Chill 450ml ginger ale and 500ml fresh orange juice. Pick a small handful of ginger rosemary sprigs (the top tips) and put them in a small pot with 1T honey and ⅔ cup water. Bring to the boil stirring. Remove and leave to cool. Fill a jug with ice cubes, add the strained cool rosemary syrup and top up with ginger ale and orange juice.
Lemon verbena is delicious with fish and also makes a refreshing iced tea.