Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Selecting Suitable Plants

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Ficus benghatensis proved to be the most rampant grower of all, developing into a considerable tree with many strong branches at all levels in less than three years. Fortunately it does not take unkindly to annual, almost savage pruning. If you have the space and a really dominant plant is required, then this could well be the one.

It is pointless to have adequate heating for 364 days of the year if on the 365th it should prove to he insufficient - one really cold night can put paid to an entire collection of plants. Advice on fitting out the interior can only he general as everyone’s taste will differ and arranging plants and interior decor is very much a personal matter. Whether plants are made permanent features by planting them in beds of compost on the floor, or portable by growing them in pots on raised staging, are also matters for individual taste.

Both these methods have their merits. Planted directly into beds of prepared compost, or with plant pots plunged to their rims in moist peat, plants will usually grow very: much more vigorously. However, left in their pots and placed on staging at waist level one can have the pleasure of rearranging plants, or using them for decoration in other parts of the house whenever required.

Garden Rooms

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

In the garden room a wide assortment of house plants can also be grown in pots suspended in wall brackets. In the living-room wall brackets are only suitable for the hardier types of plant, but the moister conditions in the garden room will allow for the use of many more delicate plants. Columneas are excellent for both hanging baskets and wall brackets, and the delightful Campanula isophylla, the star of Bethlehem, is an essential plant where cooler conditions prevail.

For continuity of colour throughout late spring, summer and early autumn there surely cannot be any plant that compares with the fuchsia. Indoors the indifferent amount of light inevitably results in premature loss of flowers and buds, but it is quite the most prolific flowering plant in the greenhouse or garden room.

Attractive, unfussy plant containers can make all the difference to the elegant appearance of the room. It is preferable to have a few expensive containers filled with well-chosen plants rather than a motley collection of cheaper plant’ containers of all shapes and sizes.

Hardening of Houseplant Foliage

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

General hardening of the foliage colour is also an indication that the plant requires additional fertiliser or potting on. It is, however, very unwise to pot on plants that are unhealthy and producing little or no new growth.

Leaves turning yellow and falling off are an indication, not of need for potting, but that the plant is suffering as a result of root damage. Consequently, any attempt to pot on such a plant will only further aggravate its unhealthy condition by unnecessary root disturbance.

On the other hand, with. many sick plants it will often be found that the compost is at fault and rather than pot the plant into a larger container, it is better to tease away as much of the faulty compost as possible and to repot in the same or smaller container using fresh compost.

There is at least one of these leaf-cleaning products Which is perfectly satisfactory when the temperature is reasonably high, but disastrous when the temperature drops. So it is well to be warned rather than sorry ; it is sensible to test any new product on part of the plant only, allowing ten to fourteen days to elapse before deciding that no harm has been done. It is also of special importance to leaves such as the saintpaulia and platycerium do not have their leaves cleaned by rubbing; a soft brush lightly used is the best way of removing dust.

Public Authority Greenhouses

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

What the visitor to public authority greenhouses fails to understand is that houses open to the public are really display greenhouses. In order to support the display there are usually many greenhouses behind the scenes in which plants are grown in individual environments from where they are chosen to fill spaces in the display greenhouse as and when required. The display greenhouse will have many permanent plants, but the majority will be fly-by-nights that may be in position for only a few days before being replaced.

On cooler days it is an advantage if the door is on the more sheltered side of the room. Opening the door on the northerly, or exposed, side can create havoc in cold and windy weather.

Here again, when stocking a new plant room it would he wise to seek the advice of the plant supplier who will be able to recommend the subjects likely to do best in the prevailing conditions. If the supplier is wise he will not take advantage of the purchaser’s ignorance; it will be to his advantage if plants succeed - any that fail he may well have to replace.

The Origin of Herbs

Monday, March 31st, 2008

The efforts of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, met with greater success when he sailed from Europe round the Cape of Good Hope to the Malabar Coast in 1498, returning to Lisbon with a rich cargo of herbs and spices. On a second voyage in 1502 he reached Ceylon.

In 1524 he was appointed viceroy of India for his discoveries, which enriched Portugal and raised her to the front rank among European nations. In time Portugal had a monopoly on the lucrative trade in herbs and spices, supplying Europe with pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The Mediterranean remained relatively unimportant as a trade route until the opening of the Suez Canal and Venice was replaced by Lisbon as the centre of commerce in herbs and spices.

Portugal’s influence was extended later as far as Madagascar, Sumatra and Java, and above all to Malacca, famed spice port in the south Malay Peninsula. The island of Ternate became the centre of the spice trade and despite the persistent and often bloody defense of the native Muslims the Portuguese gradually gained a monopoly on the world spice trade.

Sweet Basil

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Watercress is a perennial herb up to 80 cm (32 in) high. A native of Europe, it has become naturalized throughout the world, growing wild alongside brooks and streams in lowland country as well as in mountains.

The young leaves have a pleasant taste resembling that of horseradish and are used, chiefly in Scandinavian countries, as a pungent salad rich in vitamins. Watercress was popular in the days of the Roman Empire.

Myrtle is a tender evergreen shrub. It is often grown in pots in the house, conservatory or on sheltered patios because of its ornamental flowers (1), glossy leaves and attractive habit. The flowers of shrubs growing in the wild are followed by many-seeded berries (2), which are green at first, later turning blue. Plants grown in pots, though they flower, rarely produce fruits. It is an old custom for guests at a wedding to wear a sprig of myrtle tied with a white ribbon on the lapel or shoulder and for brides to wear a wreath of myrtle on the head.

Cardamom

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Clove is the dried flower bud of a tropical evergreen tree, native of the Moluccas, which reaches a height of 20 m (65 ft). It was known in the Far East and in India in ancient times and was shipped from there by the Chinese as far back as 400 B.C. For centuries it was used to alleviate toothache and also to sweeten the breath.

It is the seeds of this perennial plant that are used as a spice. It is native to southern India and Sri Lanka and also raised nowadays in Central America, particularly in Guatemala. Cardamom is used mostly by the peoples who grow it as is also the case with many other herbs and spices.

The tender, juicy young leaves may be minced and used the same as chives in sandwiches, in cream cheeses, on boiled, buttered potatoes and as a garnish on cold meats. The ovate seeds, up to 1.5 mm long, are used in Iran, India, Greece, southern France and Spain to make a very pungent mustard.

Rosemary

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The scientific name of this plant is a pleonasm because the generic name Salvia is derived from the Latin word csalvare’, meaning to cure, and the specific name officinalis from the neo-Latin word `officina,’ meaning pharmacy. Despite the fact that sage is an important medicinal plant used by the Romans of ancient times, it also has its place in cookery.

When and how it spread through Europe is not known, but one thing is certain - that it ranked high on the list of culinary herbs in the Middle Ages. ‘How can a man die who has a sage in his garden’ was a common Arabian saying. Recipes for pork in sage sauce and chicken with sage survive from that time.

As a seasoning it is most popular in Italy, France and England, where it is used with meat, mainly mutton, pork and game, as well as poultry, fish, in sauces, soups, salads and pickled vegetables. It is used crushed or ground and added to foods when they arc almost ready to eat, for lengthy cooking would cause evaporation of the essential oil that gives it its fragrance. Rosemary is an excellent seasoning but must be used sparingly, for larger doses may be deleterious.

Garden Thyme

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Garden thyme is becoming increasingly popular and more widely used. Whereas the Egyptians used it as a perfume and for embalming the dead and the ancient Greek scholar Dioscorides, an acknowledged authority even during the Middle Ages, stressed its medicinal properties (the plant’s generic name is derived from the Greek `thymos’, meaning strong or manly), nowadays it is used primarily as a food flavouring. Thyme may be used as a flavouring by itself, but usually it is one of the ingredients of proprietary herb mixtures. With parsley and bay leaf it serves as an ingredient of the traditional bouquet garni. Thyme is practically universal in its uses. It is added to soups, vegetables, fish, poultry and meats (particularly dishes prepared au chasseut), sausage meat, stuffings, salads, pickled gherkins and olives and is also used to make herb butter (often together with tarragon) and even to flavour honey.

The best quality seasoning is obtained from the black truffle which grows in the oak woods of southern France and northern Italy. Of all the edible truffles it is the most prized for its flavour.

Costmary Herb

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

From as far back as the 16th century the roots of this perennial herb have been ground to make a pleasant-tasting, slightly bitter substitute for coffee used in coffee-mixes and liquid ‘coffee’ extracts. Extract from the root is also used to flavour certain refreshing soft drinks.

The most delicately scented spice, however, is a very costly article obtained from the Ceylon cinnamon. Because of its high price, due to the extremely complicated method of preparation, it was slow in establishing itself as an article of commerce. It was not till the second half of the 18th century that the first plantation was founded in Ceylon, home of the parent plant, by one of the Dutch settlers. Whereas in the forests Ceylon cinnamon is a tree attaining a height of 10 m (33 ft), on plantations it is cut down close to the ground so it continually puts out new shoots which grow to a length of 2 m (6 ft) in two years.