July ~ the perfect month for eating herbs!
Pictured ~ Carrot & radish salad with freshly picked coriander
With June bringing with it gloriously long, warm, and sunny days, most herbs are now growing abundantly. What a joy it is to see, smell and taste them! Ornamental herbs and indeed culinary herbs can of course be left to go wild and flower throughout the summer if you prefer. Herb flowers are particularly attractive to bees and a whole array of insect life, and it is easy to forget when herbs are in constant use for cooking or medicinal purposes that the likes of common sage and mint produce the most beautiful and colourful flowers. One of the reasons I am so passionate about growing herbs is for exactly this reason – they are useful AND beautiful to look at and have a charming way of appealing to all the senses. However, if you are using your herbs for culinary purposes, as a general rule of thumb the more you pick, cut and use them, the more pungent the taste will be and the more abundant the growth.
I have found it is all too easy to use fresh herbs in sparse amounts when cooking, feeling nervous of their potency and the size of leaf compared with their dried friends, but in summer whilst they are growing in abundance there is a lot to be said for adopting a more decadent approach! An omlette aux fines herbes in France is heavy on the herbs, as is pho in Vietnam, literally a plate of fresh herbs is given to you to be added to your broth. Not only does a mixture of herbs add an explosion of flavour to the plainest of dishes, they also provide a splash of vivid green colour to the plate. In these strange times there is also a lot to be said for travelling through your tastebuds (rather than geographically) and herbs along with spices really allow for that. For me, the joy of picking herbs fresh from pots or the ground and eating them, sometimes just moments later, is the same as the thrill of picking homegrown fruit or veg, not to mention the vitamin and mineral content being at their absolute best.
Pictured ~ Common Sage in bloom
My top tips when using most herbs, particularly annuals like basil, coriander and dill is for minimal cooking, eat raw or thrown in right at the end for maximum flavour (with the exception of the evergreen herbs such as rosemary and sage etc.) and where possible grow your herbs as close to the kitchen as you can, I know for me this encourages daily use in meals and drinks. Happy eating!