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This Sunday …

… there will be plenty to plant and sow. If you haven’t put any runner beans in yet there are plants, or you could sow seeds. There are still sweet corn, courgettes and squash, plenty of salads, brassica and leeks.

Herbs on the allotment

Our light sandy soil really suits herbs and they don’t need much attention. Following on from Juyna’s piece on drying herbs last month, here are two herbs that come into their own in summer dishes.

Janet writes:

My favourite herb is French Tarragon – it has an aniseed flavour and goes well with chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Gardening books say that Tarragon is not hardy in our climate, but my plant has been on the allotment for about 4 years and survived really cold winters – but it does die back so I harvest the last leaves and dry them for the winter. As soon as a hint of spring came it was putting up shoots and looking quite cheery. It lives in a sheltered corner which may offer just a little protection.

Try roasting a chicken stuffed with a herb butter made from a tablespoon of tarragon leaves, garlic and 1oz of butter and salt and pepper. You can make a sauce at the end with brandy and cream, added to the meat juices. An alternative to the brandy is vermouth and lemon juice. Or just lay sprigs on tarragon on the breast, and incorporate them into gravy at the end.

Tarragon is also good with mushrooms – try it with parsley in a mushroom sauce for pasta. I use a little pancetta as well, but I’m sure it would be good without the bacon. You don’t need a lot of the leaves – the proverbial tablespoonful will do. Try flavouring a white bean soup with spring onions and tarragon and bay leaves. It also has an affinity with tomatoes – try roasting tomatoes with tarragon and butter. You can add parmesan and cream if you want some richness.

Or make a herb mayo – I use Hellman’s, with finely chopped tarragon, thyme, flat parsley and chives. Pink peppercorns and celery seed are an interesting optional addition. Nice with salads, cold meat and fish fingers.

If you would like a cutting for your plot, please come and see me!

Janet Johnson

Basil

Basil is a wonderfully aromatic herb but it is very tender. While it will grow outside in Norfolk in a good summer, in a sheltered spot, it won’t like the weather we’re having at the moment anymore than the rest of us do! However, it will thrive on a warm windowsill, so why not take a potted-up seedling to grow on at home? We have several different varieties available; just ask in the Big Shed. And, if you can give a hand with the potting up – some seedlings are still in their trays – you could take several different kinds to see which do best.

We have Genovese basil, the variety most supermarkets stock. We have lemon basil, which is lovely added to a pasta sauce. Then there is lettuce leaf basil with large leaves making it ideal for pesto. And purple basil which, when mixed with Genovese basil, looks spectacular on a tomato salad. We’ve planted all varieties in the polytunnel so take a look when you’re passing.

Bridget

Book review

The Nordic Diet – Trina Hahnemann
Quadrille Publishing Ltd 2010

Looking for some ideas for using your salad crops? This book by a Danish chef may be of interest.
The Nordic diet, reported to have the health benefits of a Mediterranean style diet, is based around the traditional lifestyle in Scandinavian countries:
• Eating indigenous seasonal produce (whole grains, root and green vegetables, berries and herbs, fish)
• Enjoying eating by taking time to prepare and share meals with family & friends
The book starts with a section explaining the nutritional basis and philosophy of the Nordic diet. The tone is a bit preachy but factually clear and concise.
Then there are 75 recipes, beautifully photographed. I found plenty of ideas for
• salad combinations e.g. fennel & strawberries
• soups e.g. cold cucumber
• open sandwiches as per the famed Scandinavian Smorgasbord
The book is a well presented, glossy paperback of 144 pages, published at £12.99 and could make a nice gift.

Alison Foss

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