Perfect Herbs for Pork

If you plan to put pork on the menu, don’t forget about the herbs that go with it, like sage, coriander, thyme, fennel, dill, rosemary, chillies and garlic. Besides using these herbs to flavour the meat, they can be used in marinades, as rubs, in crumbed coatings and as butters for sauces.

Sage is a small bushy perennial with aromatic leaves that have a strong, slightly bitter taste, so it needs to be used sparingly. Besides pairing well with pork, it also complements cheese, butternut and pumpkin.

To grow: Plant in full sun and soil that drains well. Sandy or sandy loam is the best. If you have clay soil, rather grow sage in a pot. Once established, water it infrequently as it really does best with a bit of benign neglect. If you harvest regularly, feed twice a month with a diluted liquid fertiliser.

Coriander has a distinctive, somewhat pungent aroma. The leaves are used in Asian dishes, especially with pork, in rubs, marinades and salsa as well as a garnish for dhal and curries. Harvest the leaves just before using because the soft leaves wilt quickly. Collect and dry the seed, which is a delicious spice.

To grow: Plant it in a position that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, in light rich soil that drains well. Regular watering is necessary. Annual coriander looks and grows like Italian parsley with a height of 50cm and spread of 30cm. Perennial Vietnamese coriander is a different species with the same flavour but a hotter, peppery aftertaste.

Lemon thyme has a soft thyme flavour along with a subtle suggestion of lemon, without any of the bitterness that sometimes comes from regular thyme. It is a small, shrubby perennial that grows to 30cm tall with small, bright green-yellow leaves that are lemon scented, and pale mauve flowers in spring.

To grow: It does best in full sun and gritty soil that drains well. Constant picking will keep bushes in shape, and a drench with a liquid fertiliser once or twice a month is a good idea if you are harvesting constantly.

Chilli pepper adds fire to flavour, with many different varieties that range from mild to volcanic. A happy medium is the ‘Jalapeno’ or the ‘Cayenne’. Asian-style cooking uses chillies with pork, but so does Mexican-style food, and they are a key ingredient in salsa – a great accompaniment to pork.

To grow: Chilli peppers are perennials that are mostly grown as annuals. They do best with morning sun and afternoon shade, in fertile, well-drained soil. Water regularly, especially when flowering otherwise they drop their flowers. Regular picking encourages the production of more fruit. They will appreciate an application of fertiliser halfway through the growing season.

Herb crust recipe:

Pork chops and pork steaks can dry out when grilled or fried, but with herb crust the meat remains moist and tender.

To make: Put seasoned flour in a bowl. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a second bowl. In a third bowl mix together two cups of dried breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (sage, coriander, thyme), and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

Dip the meat into the flour and shake off the excess. Then dip it into the beaten egg and drain off the excess. Finally press the meat into the breadcrumb-herb mix and coat it on either side. Fry the meat until golden on either side; about 3 – 5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the meat.

The Gardener