South African Garden and Home - - Patio Herbs -

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.

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