More herbs for allotment overwintering

• Usually, thyme just gets on with the job – ours is planted in containers this year, as we are still playing around with the location of paths on plot #103, but next year it will be a plant, along with lavender, that frames the chipping paths and offers an easy cutting location. Many herbs don’t get eaten because they are in a place that’s inaccessible or unpleasant to get to in winter. No point having a bay tree if you have to wade across a muddy patch to reach it, because most of us will just do without the bay leaves! If the weather is truly harsh I drop a little cloche over the thyme when it’s planted in the ground, but as it’s in pots this year, it’s moving into the cold greenhouse as its roots are much more susceptible to damage in a pot.
Sage – there’s a temptation to cut back leggy sage now, but don’t do it! Wait until spring … I lost quite a few autumn-pruned sage before I learnt this lesson, the straggly stems seem untidy but obviously offer some root protection through the winter. Sage is one of our favourite winter herbs and I cut a long stem almost every time we visit the allotment – the leaves are either chopped and added to cheese scones or fried in butter and dropped on top of soups and stews. Either way, sage is great for those winter sore throats that plague some people, and you can just make it into a tea.
Fennel - I cut the heads off the fennel as soon as they brown and turn them upside down in a large paper bag to dry. This is not just so we can have the seed (although it’s great added to bean dishes to prevent flatulence or chewed when you’ve been eating garlic or cumin to cut through the taste/odour and make the mouth sweet again) but to stop it spreading. Fennel will germinate madly once it likes the conditions and I get fed up with pulling baby fennel plants out of the rest of the allotment. When I want fennel seed I just shake the bag and grab a pinch of the seed that lands in the bottom.

Otherwise, this week’s haul is a bit meagre: some borlottis ready to go home and be taken out of their pods, the one and only butternut that made it to maturity (and even that split), a few golden raspberries and a handful of greenhouse herbs to have with our lunchtime cauliflower cheese pie.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, October 6, 2011

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