Mention Lemon Grass, Cymbopogon citratus, and it immediately conjures up the aromas and magic of the East. Here in the UK only the stems are available from supermarkets for use in the kitchen.
Lemon Grass Stems
It was not until I started growing Lemon Grass at the Herb Farm that I discovered how amazingly useful and flavoursome the leaves are both in the kitchen and for herbal remedies.
Lemon Grass leaf
Lemon Grass is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Records show that the Persians were using it as a tea in the first century BC. The first time I drank it as a herbal tea was when I visited Malaysia, it was served cold, which was surprising, but once drunk, one realised that it was a truly refreshing drink that cleared the palate and helped one unwind after a long journey.
All of us at Jekka’s Herb farm are extremely excited that we have joined forces with the Canton Tea Co to launch a range of Herb infusions, one of which is Lemon Grass.
Lemon Grass tea from Jekka’s Herbs at Canton Tea Co.
Canton Tea are very resourceful at sourcing their teas and this is no exception. I was very pleased to receive from them the following photographs which depicts the Lemon Grass plantation at the Amba estate in Sri Lanka
Amba Estate Sri Lanka
and not only shows the immense care that is taken in growing it organically but also how carefully it is harvested.
Harvesting lemon Grass
Once harvested the grass is cut by hand, which takes time, but ensures a beautiful product. So you can be assured that this is the best Lemon Grass tea you will have ever drunk.
Hand cutting lemon grass
This herbal tea is immensely beneficial, it is a weak sedative and a stomach and gut relaxant, so it is ideal for drinking after a meal. It is also a good antidepressant and helps lift the spirits especially when one is in a bad mood. But whatever your mood I can guarantee it will tantalize your taste buds and lift your spirits.
As we reach March, despite the cold wind, the signs of spring are now quite apparent. The days are slowly getting longer, the birds are singing beautifully. Every morning and every evening I am accompanied, as a walk around the farm, by the most beautiful song thrush whom I am pleased to say has a follower or friend near by. Their song is so breath taking it makes me stop, listen and marvel .
Everyday I can see the signs of spring. The seeds of nasturtiums that I sowed back in November are really beginning to grow away and flourish, they should be ready in time to adorn our retail stand at the RHS Chelsea which, as it is again situated on the main avenue, has to look spectacular. The French Tarragon that I bought into the glasshouse to bring on so that I could start cuttings early is ready.
In our unheated tunnels many herbs are growing well. This Spanish mint has not been put off by the cold, grey weather and it is ready for picking to make a refreshing cup of tea or a mint sauce to accompany a lovely English or Welsh lamb chop. This mint is part of our mint collection and will be able to be seen in the Herboretum at our Herb Fridays, when you will also be able to buy herb plants.
The true signs that spring is on the way is in the garden, many herbs are just begging to emerge, chives, mint and this buckler leaf sorrel which can even be gently picked to add a zing to a winter salad, or pep up a green sauce.
So, with spring in the air, it is time to get sowing, get potting and get outside.
I love early winter, the light levels are still good, the warmth is still in the soil and the seed harvest is finally in. I now look forward to sitting inside in the warmth, cleaning the seed so making it easier to sow.
I never ceased to be amazed by the ingenuity and beauty of seeds.
Szechuan pepper – Zanthoxylum simulans
Talking of 2013 I have already started sowing the seeds for early flowering. The germination has been very good.
Cornflower – Centaurea cyanus
These Cornflowers took a mere 5 days to germinate using a bottom heat of 15C . I have now removed them from the heat. They will grow on in the greenhouse until spring has truly arrived. Hopefully they will be ready and in flower for our display at the 100 th Chelsea flower Show where we will be launching our new Herboretum. I know the tickets for this truly amazing show are now on sale, being that it is the 100 th Chelsea can I suggest that if you are thinking of coming you get a ticket soon.
Painted Sage – Salvia viridis
These Painted Sage, one of my favourite annuals, also germinated quickly and I am 90% certain they will be a show stopper next year . Here, as a reminder of the beauty of this sage, is a photograph I took in the early summer.
On a positive note, for those of you who do not enjoy the winter months, it is only 16 weeks until the 1st of March!
We have passed the Equinox and the nights are drawing in. The bees and butterflies are making the most of the glimmers of sunshine, feasting on the nectar of ivy flowers as they well know that the weather is turning and winter will soon be upon us. I have always been fascinated about the traditional and ancient uses of Herbs.
Ivy, Hedra helix L. an evergreen native herb which, in ancient times, symbolised eternal life, loyalty, devotion and undying desire, for it’s well known habit of attaching itself firmly to a wall or tree.
Bay, Laurus nobilis, was also considered a symbol of eternal life. The Greek generals wore a laurel wreath in the belief that, by doing so, they could cleanse themselves from the bloodshed. . The Romans, adopted the Bay as a symbol of victory. The latin ‘laureate’ means crowned with laurels, a synonym for bay, hence Poet Laureate.
And Myrtle, Myrtus communis, a personal favourite, for it looks good all season long and is so useful in the kitchen. In ancient times, and this tradition has returned, was the symbol of love, marriage and fertility. The Myrtle wreath was often worn by brides and bridegrooms. In Wales it was believed that the destruction of the Myrtle is tantamount to killing love and peace.
So these three herbs, Ivy, Myrtle and Bay when arranged in a vase to brighten the home in winter symbolises happiness, love, devotion and longevity.
Origanum dictamnus, Dittany of Crete
The word Oregano is derived from the Greek oros, meaning ‘mountain’ and ganos, meaning ‘joy’ and ‘beauty’, how right. This is the most wonderful group of plants that not only look stunning at this time of year but are also useful in the kitchen and very beneficial for bees and butterflies.
The leaves of this herb have a wonderful rounded flavour and a tea can be made from the leaves to ease an upset stomach. Sadly this oregano, is now endangered in the wild. To grow it in the UK you must plant it in a very well drained soil as otherwise our wet winters will cause it to rot.
Another wonderful oregano in this group is Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ much beloved by bees.
Origanum ‘Kent Beuaty’
These amazing bracts which surround the small flowers turn an even deeper shade of pink as the flowers fade.
The bracts dry beautifully making them ideal for dried flower arrangements and a wonderful Christmas presents for friends.
Origanum ‘Jekka’s Beauty’
This oregano I found as a seedling growing along side Origanum dictamnus. I propagated it and found that it ran true from cuttings so named it Origanum ‘Jekka’s Beauty’. The leaves of this oregano are also hairy, just like O. dictamnus, and they also have a good culinary flavour.
With all these special, beautiful, Oregano’s it is essential to cut them back hard after flowering so that they make a new crown of leaves which will then help the plant survive the winter months. You will then be rewarded with a spectacular display in the following summer.