Country Living (UK)


Practical ideas and good advice for would-be smallholde­rs


Many plants that provide great seasoning grow well on warm windowsill­s, where they can happily wait until the temperatur­e picks up outside, or stay put if you’re limited on space. As you need only a few leaves or seeds for each dish, you can have a ready-to-pick selection at arm’s reach.


You’re probably familiar with the seeds that form the basis of many curry dishes, but fenugreek’s fresh leaves (above left) also have a delicious sweet, nutty flavour. Scatter the seeds in pots of moist compost now, or sow direct outside when the weather warms up. Treat the leaves as cut-and-come-again and sauté with garlic, add to dhal or steam like spinach.


It’s best to get a head start on sowing chilli seeds early in the year to optimise the amount of fruit and the time it has to ripen in summer. They will germinate best in a heated propagator (28°C) or you can just cover with a plastic freezer bag secured with an elastic band and put on a warm, sunny windowsill. Take off the cover the minute they start to sprout. Chillies such as Apache and Prairie Fire are happy indoors (you’ll need to do the job of bees and pollinate by dabbing flowers with a soft paintbrush), but they’ll survive the summer outside in a sheltered, sunny spot. Try seeds from seasprings­


With more of an aniseed flavour than its Mediterran­ean cousin, Thai basil is great in Southeast Asian curries and soups, but also salads, too. Sprinkle seeds (try chilternse­ over a tray of moist compost, and cover. When they germinate, remove

the cover, and, when the seedlings are big enough to handle, move them to their own pots (three or four per pot). Wait until pots feel light before watering.


This starts to lose its aromatic oils as soon as it’s cut, so is best used freshly picked. Like basil, it is easily grown from seed (use the same technique) – you can even use the ‘micro-greens’ to add flavour to salads. Alternativ­ely, make supermarke­t plants last longer by separating into three or four smaller clumps and re-potting. And don’t worry if the plants start to bolt – the seeds can be used in curries.


You can sprout plants from the fresh sticks you get in the supermarke­t. Simply scrape away the dry outer layer at the base of the stalk and pop it in a glass of water. When roots emerge, plant an inch deep in a pot of gritty compost. It needs to be warm, so is best kept on a windowsill. Although you’re unlikely to get new stalks, the leaves are also fragrant and will add a zing to dishes.

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Grow edible ‘house plants’ – the leaves of kaffir lime have a vibrant citrussy flavour and look attractive, too

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