3 herbs for your next spicy dish
Oregano ‘Hot and spicy’ has chilli-flavoured leaves that add a fiery edge to a dish. Use it as a substitute for chillies if you don’t like too much heat. Because of its high oil content oregano ‘Hot and Spicy’ dries well and has an even stronger flavour. Use half the amount of dried oregano to fresh.
To grow: This low-growing bushy perennial (20cm high and wide) performs well in pots or in a sunny part of the food garden. Pick fresh leaves all year-round, as the plant is frost hardy. Plant it as a companion with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber and peppers. The aromatic leaves act as a pest repellent.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) has a strong scent and flavour that pairs well with garlic, fresh chillies and coriander, all stalwarts of Thai cuisine. It also adds a lemony lift to stir-fries, marinades, curries or other fish, chicken and pork dishes. Harvest by cutting off the stalk off at ground level, slice off the lower, broader part and remove the tough outer leaves so that the yellow inner section remains. Chop that section into smaller pieces and bruise to release the lemon flavour. Add these during cooking but remove them before serving. The inner stalk can also be finely chopped or blitzed in a food processor and added to the dish.
To grow: Lemongrass is a clump-forming perennial grass that grows up to 1.5m high and 80cm wide. Plant it in full sun, in well-composted soil and in a protected area of the garden. Water regularly in summer. It is frost sensitive and should be cut back in spring to encourage new shoots.
Chillies are generally grown as summer annuals, but they bear fruit prolifically, which can be dried (best for red curry paste), frozen, pickled or made into a hot sauce, for use year-round. Chillies vary in heat from mild to ferociously hot. Varieties to look out for are jalapeño (medium heat), serrano, cherry bomb, bird’s eye, cayenne (hot), and habanero and thai dragon (very hot).
To grow: Plant chillies in fertile soil that drains well. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. Plants also grow well in pots but should be watered daily in summer. Plants need regular watering. If they dry out they will drop their flowers. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month.