THE MODERN MINT BLOG
In July we were invited to visit Jekka’s Herb Farm and herbetum, a fantastic nursery just North of Bristol run by the wonderful Jekka McVicar.
It is the first time we had met her, although we bought her book ‘Jekka’s Complete Herb Book’ many years ago now (along with over 1 million other people who have a copy….) and it was an absolute pleasure – she is funny, down-to-earth and interested in how she can help you learn more about herbs, a group of plants that don’t always get the air time ornamentals and fruit and vegetables are allowed.
Here is a small selection of the notes we made and the ideas we learnt from our short visit, but rest assured we will be going again one day, as you should to – a tour of the herbarium is worth it for all the strange and exotic herbs you get to taste!
What We Learnt with Jekka McVicar
Oregano compactum is great for butterflies.
Different mint’s will all taste the same if their roots touch.
Stevia is considered a ‘novel’ food because it has not been used/eaten regularly by the food industry for 35 years. This wonder plant, that will provide a sweet and healthy alternative to sugar, becomes vatable when registered as a novelty food… and so doesn’t get grown and sold widely….
Herbs are plants of the people!
In Ayurvedic medicine an ill person was told to sit in the herb garden, the herbs would be in raised beds and then the people could breathe the fragrance in ‘at nose level’…
Tansy cake (made with Tanacetum vulgare) was eaten as a wormer at Lent. It also stops fleas if you rub it on your dog!
Lovage was used as a deodorant to line your leather boots and stop them smelling.
Sorrel can clear your palate (love Sorrel, a much under rated herb in the kitchen…)
People would make a drink of the most prolific herb – so formerly in London, Angelica, which grew along the banks of the Thames, would be made into gin. Juniper was a luxury item rarely used.
Bitter is a taste we don’t have enough of in our diets, but it is good for the liver and should be sought out – even as food producers try to make our fruit and vegetables sweeter!
Members of the Lamiaceae family need to be pruned after flowering – and there are a lot of herbs in this family…. see mint, oregano, hyssop, thyme, basil…
The scent of rosemary is good for your memory.
Lemon balm is good as a stress -reliever….
Celery seed and cider vinegar in hot water will help arthritis.
Filipendula (which is in our Seedballs) makes a great natural painkiller.
Pot marigold is not that tasty, but got its name from being added to the pot food was cooked in… hence the name pot herbs….
The root of Althea officinalis was used as a carbohydrate before potato. Incidentally, ‘officinalis’ gives you a clue to what the plant was used for – as a medicine.
Flax (linseed) should be eaten every day for good health. So get to it!
Our trip to see the herb farm and meet Jekka McVicar was brilliant and we highly recommend going – she is a treasure trove of knowledge and passion, so go, learn!
Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …
Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.
Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …