A tale of two herbs

A tale of two herbs

chamomileYou’ll remember that I gave the humble leek the plant of the year award. While browsing through the seed catalogue I came across the plant that has to be given the thumbs down award, just looking at the pictures and reading about how wonderful it is fills me with a heavy heart, why or why can’t I grow it here? I’m talking about basil, my top favourite herb along with coriander. Three years I’ve been trying to grow it here in Portugal but each time something goes wrong. The plants themselves thrive, growing under the tomato plants they become enormous, taunting me with their huge leaves. The problem? The taste. I just can’t seem to grow basil any more that doesn’t have a horrid, bitter taste; even as tiny seedlings I can detect the bitterness long before there’s any hint of flowers. I grew basil in Jordan and we had loads of huge plants, both growing in pots and in the ground, that gave us wonderful salads (how can you eat a tomato without chopped basil?) and pesto galore. I used the same seed packet the first year here, and have bought numerous others, but without success. I have to confess at this point that I seem to be more sensitive to the taste than others but it is so bad for me that I have to spit out the offending leaves. If any one reading this can help – please do!

Back to the catalogue: I have decided to try some Thai holy basil, fingers crossed. And also, having gone through all my seed packets, I only need to replace two: buttercup squash and cucumbers. Which means that all the produce we get this year is ‘free’, well, that’s what it feels like! Mind you, many of the packets are out of date a touch but, so far, this hasn’t been a problem. I’ve even managed to get parsnips from seeds a few years old even though the ‘experts’ insist it should be bought new each year…

chamomile2Meanwhile, the olive groves, vineyards and pastures are covered in white flowers. These I have always called ‘daisies’, which they are but after walking over a patch with the dogs I realised they were so much more than daisies. Reaching my nose was the heavy, unmistakeable scent of chamomile. It seems that chamomile is native to Iberia which is why they are thriving here. I have decided these are just what we need in our garden so I have been going out with a trowel and digging up little plants with the idea that, in a year or two, we too will have wonderful white patches of flowers. Plus there’s the added advantage of just popping outside to get the flowers (which can be used fresh as well as dried) for a cup of chamomile tea. Perfect!

3 thoughts on “A tale of two herbs

  1. “how can you eat a tomato without chopped basil?”

    In Portugal we use dry oregano (oregãos).

  2. Hmm. Is it something to do with the soil that you’re growing the basil in? Test the PH levels, it should be around 6 or 7 for optimum basil goodness. Other than that, I’m not sure! I hope you get it sorted soon, fresh tomatoes really aren’t the same with some lovely fresh basil to adorn them.

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