Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Herbs by the Sea


Did you know that the ancient Greeks made poultices from the leaves of oregano and used them to treat sores and aching muscles?

What’s more,  traditional Chinese doctors have used oregano for centuries to relieve fever, vomiting, jaundice and itchy skin.

To this day, in Europe, the herb is still used to improve digestion and soothe coughs.

So what else do you do with it other than grow it in the herb garden?
Listen to this….talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

So in medieval kitchens they had dried herbs hanging up around the stove, but not for decoration, but to use in their cooking.

A most versatile herb it almost goes with anything.
Instead of garlic breath, spread some oregano, dried or fresh and make herb bread or herb butter instead using oregano.
Oregano of course goes with strong flavoured rich or fatty meats and carbohydrates,



This weeks Vegetable Hero is Sea Fennel or CRITHMUM maritimum.
In the Family Apiaceae-that’s the same family as carrots.
Crithmum: because this plant looks a bit like Barleycorn, and the Greek word for that is krithe.
Of course you would’ve guessed that maritimum means from or near the sea.
You may have come across this plant in restaurants and cafĂ©’s where they often use it as a garnish.
You may even have seen in in your local garden centre by it’s other name of SAMPHIRE or Rock Samphire.

How did it get that name?
Supposedly a corruption of French St. Pieere, (St.Peter) the patron   saint of fishermen, also known as the rock.
 Why a fisherman saint? Because it likes to grow on sea-cliffs.

Should you ever travel to Germany, their name for sea-fennel is Meerfenchel,
But let’s not stop there because Sea Fennel also goes by the name of Herba di San Pietra (contracted to Sanpetra) its Italian name.

Sea Fennel is quite common round the coasts of Southern Europe and South and South-West England, Wales and Southern Ireland, but it is less common in the North and rare in Scotland.

In Australia, since I’ve started talking about sea fennel, I’m been seeing it more and more in the herb section of nurseries so although it can be a bit hard to find it’s not that rare.

Would you believe that sea fennel is a herb, and has been used in different ways for centuries, from the time of Greeks and Romans, as a food - raw, steamed, boiled or pickled, but it was also used as an medicament due to it's therapeutics and aromatic contents.
Even today it is widely used in modern cosmetics perfumery and medicine.
So what does it look like after all that?
Sea Fennel is a succulent, smooth or glabrous, much-branched herb, woody at the base.

To me it looks like the  stems of Sea Fennel are long and fleshy.
You could say it’s a decorative upright rather sparse looking succulent with blue green stems and leaves.
The stems are full of aromatic juice and when it flowers they look like umbels of tiny, yellowish-green blossoms. Much like other flowers in the carrot family.
Where it originates, it happily grows on rocks and shingles on rocky Mediterranean shores, on cliffs and on the sea-shore moistened by the salt spray.
Sea fennel is the last dry-land plant exposed to strong wind, salt, sea waves, draying sun... it survives extreme weather conditions.
Sea Fennel, or Rock Samphire is a perennial, it’s frost hardy and easy to grow.

The whole plant is aromatic and has a powerful scent.
Some say it has a strong smell of furniture polish, but I like it’s-sort of aniseed like.
Because of where it grows, the best way to grow it at home is on sandy well drained soil, or in a pot.
Grow it in full sun in a warm sheltered position.
If you manage to get one of these plants you can divide in up into more plants next spring or save the seed and grow plants that way.

How can you use this unusual herb here in Australia?
Traditionally in Cornwall, Rock Samphire (or Sea Asparagus) is served simply, with a squeeze of lemon and a knob of butter, lightly steamed.
It's also pretty good with some cracked black pepper and vinegar.
Rock Samphire is naturally salty, so doesn't need any salt!
You can also eat it raw, but it loses its slightly bitter taste after cooking, becoming softly aromatic and delicious.
Rock Samphire makes a great accompaniment or garnish for steamed fish scallops, oysters, and Mackerel. Well, it makes an interesting and appropriate partner for most seafood really! :) 

Where do you get it? The Royal Botanic gardens nursery have this plant-which is where I got mine from. You can also buy it online and I’ll put on link to that nursery on my website.
Why is it good for you?
Crithmum maritimum is a vibrant green edible plant which grows mainly on tidal marshes.
It has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. is a strongly aromatic, salty herb; it contains a volatile oil, pectin, is rich in vitamin C and minerals, has diuretic effects, cleanses toxins and improves digestion.
Sea Fennel as high levels of vitamin C, it’s a diuretic, cleanses toxins, improves digestion and helps weight loss-possibly because of the diuretic part.
I have a recipe for Sea Fennel that I’ll post on the web, or you can write in or email for a fact sheet.
You can use Pickled sea fennel in seasoning for salads, or as a cold relish to round meat or fish dish
Pickled Sea Fennel (Rock Samphire, Motar...)
Gather the young and green samphire beginning of March (in Australia) before it flowers. Break into 2 in. lengths, lay on a dish and sprinkle with dry salt. Leave for 24 hours. Drain, then cook gently until tender in enough vinegar to just cover it, but don't allow it to get soft. :plain vinegar is best for this as the samphire has its own spicy flavor. Seal down securely in hot jars
Hand pick sea Fennel before it flowers. Pick of the small leaves.
Wash them in sea water (fresh pipe water will do).
Cook it in mixture of water and vinegar (70:30) for 15 min until tender.
Leave it to cool and store it in jars filled with diluted vinegar (half water, half vinegar).

If you have any questions about growing sea fennel or any other vegetable, JUST EMAIL ME


with Landscape Designer and Gardening Australia editor, Louise McDaid


This new series came about when Louise and I were talking about the colour green in gardens, and that mostly gardeners overlooked how effective the green in your garden really is.
A one-colour strategy frees you to master the brushstrokes of form and texture. It also allows enough elbow room to for you to explore a single-color palette's potential in pale and deep shades, in fine leaf or large leaf, variegated or not.
The colour green doesn't fatigue the eye.
Let’s find out what this new series is all about.

Single-color gardens show as much boldness and flair as the most elaborately matched schemes.
These types of gardens have an endless varying palette, from true green, gray-green, and blue-green to purple-green and yellow-green. Each has a different impact.
It’ s only limited by your imagination.


Citrus Gems

Did you know that all the citrus that most gardens grow in their gardens came from overseas and it all started with the first fleet?
Yes, they carried oranges and lemons, complete with all the bugs that affect citrus in Australia now.
Some of you might know from various gardening shows on TV, that Australia has always had it’s own unique citrus. But are these citrus up to the mark?

Australian citrus has smaller leaves and even though they are supposed to get the same bugs –orange stink bug and citrus leaf miner, I’ve yet to see it on my Australian citrus, where my two navel oranges have been plagued by both.

Citrus Gems are a group of adaptable, quirky trees, uniquely Australian and tolerant of a wide range of conditions. They are suited to both pot and garden cultivation. All Citrus Gems are grafted onto citrus rootstock. Which ensures plant health, vigour and increases the plants ability to produce abundant crops of fruit from an early age.
Citrus Gems respond well to pruning. Citrus Gems are extremely hardy and tolerant of frost and dry conditions.
There seems to be a citrus for every district in Australia, so why not give it a go?
For more information and where to buy

No comments:

Post a Comment