Originally from the Pacific Islands, basil spread to Asia and then Europe and beyond in the 16th century. It is most widely used in the Mediterranean, where it is an essential ingredient in many dishes, and also a symbol of fertility.
TYPE: Half-hardy annual.
DESCRIPTION: A highly aromatic herb about 23cm tall with shiny, dark green leaves and small white flowers in mid summer which are attractive to bees.
CONDITIONS: Full sun in rich, weed free soil.
HOW TO GROW: Sow in seed trays in early spring or directly in the garden in late spring, then plant out 15cm apart. Cut off flower heads to promote leaf growth.Cut the leaves throughout the growing season. Suitable for containers. If planted late summer, basil will grow into the winter.
HOW TO PRESERVE: Dry or freeze leaves or preserve in vinegar or oil.
MAIN USES: Essential in Mediterranean cooking, basil is used in salads, soups, and casseroles with tomatoes, fish, chicken and lamb.
MEDICINAL USES: As a tonic against rheumatism, to counteract flatulence and ease stomach pains.
Coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, and both leaves and seeds have been used for thousands of years. Some varieties are more pungent.Coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, and both leaves and seeds have been used for thousands of years. Some varieties are more pungent.
TYPE: Hardy annual.
DESCRIPTION: This herb can grow up to 60cm tall and has bright green leaves, fan-like at the bottom and filigree at the top. Tiny lilac flowers attract insects in summer.
CONDITIONS: Sun in a moist soil.
HOW TO GROW: Make successive sowings directly in the garden from spring onwards, then thin out to 20cm apart. Stake up if necessary. Suitable for containers.
HOW TO PRESERVE: Dry ripe seeds. Preserve leaves in oil or vinegar.
MAIN USES: Both seeds and leaves are common in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes such as curries, spicy sauces and chutneys.
MEDICINAL USES: Mainly a culinary herb but considered good for the digestion.