Rosemary, Bay, Oregano, Thyme and Curry Leaf; learn how to grow and care for these fresh summer herbs.
Words: Linda Ross
Hard herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, curry, sage and lemongrass, are perennial plants with woody stems. These herbs need the heat of the sun to intensify their fragrant oils and flavour builds when they lead a hard life, with not too much water or fertiliser to make things easy. A fortnightly application of seaweed extract and a sprinkling of controlled release fertiliser at the end of summer will help them grow strong and ensure that the plants are getting all the nutrients that they need. When growing in pots, choose large containers, and allow only one herb per pot. Though they might start off small, most develop quite large root balls and if they aren’t given room to grow, become stunted and disappointing.
Groundcover, prostrate or upright forms are available. All enjoy hot, dry conditions and excellent drainage. Trim annually in autumn. Strip the needles from the woody stems before chopping and adding to recipes.
This forms a large shrub-tree if left unpruned so is best grown in a pot. Roots will go in search of water so check drainage holes regularly. Commonly used in classic chicken soup, and spaghetti bolognaise, some chefs also like its sweet herbal fragrance in desserts.
This sun-hardy groundcover produces copious leaves. Choose Mexican oregano, with a citrusy note, or the sweet, peppery Mediterranean variety. Try oregano, salt, garlic, lemon juice and oil ‘pesto’ dolloped on steamed green beans.
Trim this sun-loving, low-profile groundcover regularly to keep it in good condition - and provide flavouring for grilled mushrooms, roast chicken, or the carrot salad on the next page.
The curry leaf tree, Murraya koenigii, is closely related to the murraya we know best as a hedge or tall shrub. It’s best grown in a pot to prevent seedling and suckering. The aromatic leaves are a fabulous addition to curries from India and south-east Asia. It’s a good grower in Mediterranean and temperate climates.