The feast of July
For an epicurean – and a gardener – like myself, July is filled with edible delights. There’s the first earthy potatoes and plump tomatoes, and a feast of fresh fruit to gather. Strings of black, red and white currants to swelling gooseberries begging to be plucked from amongst the prickly branches. Sweetest of all are the strawberries. I think they’re at their best sun-warmed straight from the plant, but if you must share, try chopping and sprinkling with balsamic vinegar, add a tablespoon of honey and serve with Greek yoghurt topped with chopped mint. It’s almost as good!
Mint, like other soft-leaved herbs including chervil, parsley and dill, is at its peak now and is happy even in a pot. So, no matter how big or modest your plot in July you really can have your garden and eat it! The essential oils that give herbs their aroma and flavour are at their most concentrated in the morning of warm and sunny days. Their flavour is also best when used without washing, straight from the garden. Mulch Mediterranean woody herbs like rosemary and sage with grit to reflect light and heat onto the leaves. The stones also prevent rain splashing soil onto their leaves. Some soft herbs like mint and lemon balm will take over if not corralled. So instead of planting straight into the earth fill a terracotta pot with soil and sink up to its rim in the earth and plant the herbs inside. Moisture from the surrounding soil will permeate the pot, but the roots won’t be able to escape. That said, do water if it’s very hot and dry until the plants are established.