It’s such a privileged and a treat to be able to head- barefoot- to a herb garden, to pluck a little bit of lovage, a chive head or two, a sprig of marjoram, a fennel frond. The herb garden truly does come to life at this time of year. My sister (Kirstin, Little Trochry Farm) and I had a pretty idyllic childhood. We roamed freely amongst rows of coriander, glasshouses of basil and whole fields of chives. Gran would cover the kitchen table in enough food to feed an army when it came to a family get together- each dish spiked with a different herb- maybe in its full leaf form, or whizzed into a mojo verde or fresh basil pesto. Beetroot with yoghurt and marjoram flowers was one that always sticks in my head. Our grandfather- Robert Wilson- was a culinary herb wizard. He knew everything there was to know about how to grow herbs, and would encourage us into the glasshouse to sow seeds, prick out or pot on. Nibbling bits and bobs as we went. He’s also the one that gave us the advice that a herb garden should be west facing, and you should be able to walk there from your door in your bathies (or barefoot in my case).
I often find that people are a little nervous about using fresh herbs, and one of their main reservations is around the quantity- “how much parsley should I add?”. A less is more approach certainly doesn’t work in my opinion. A more is more approach however…! Handfuls, fistfuls, torn or chopped- just taste as you go, and work out what flavour you’re trying to achieve. You can also drastically reduce the amount of salt you need to add to a dish by adding fresh herbs. So you’re not just getting the nutritional benefit, but reducing your salt intake too.
One of our favourites on Grans table was the mojo verde (it eventually ended up being sold to other mojo lovers!). She served it with beautiful salty baby potatoes, like they do in the Canaries- and it’s definitely something that appealed to older taste buds as it had a bit of a kick. To make it- whizz up a big bunch of coriander, with half a big bunch of parsley (see… not particularly good at herb quantities), about 5-6 garlic cloves, a cup of olive oil (adjust quantity to how liquid you fancy your mojo), a chopped green chilli (again, decide how spicy you fancy it), a decent squeeze of lime, plus a pinch of ground cumin. Season to taste. You want to whizz it up in a blender until really smooth… then it can be drizzled over potatoes, mixed through rice to make a salad, or dunk some crusty sourdough in there. It’s the perfect sauce to go into summer with- as it’s also a brilliant accompaniment to a bbq. I guess a little like it’s green cousins the Salsa Verde and Chimichurri.