Let the Fringe begin!

We kicked off this year’s Chelsea Fringe [the “alternative gardening festival”] with some herbal tea blending and tasting at the Wilton Estate Community Garden. The green space had received an injection of greenery with lots of planting done by some 50 Give and Gain volunteers the previous day! With the sun coming out and a hoard of fresh herbs to taste, it was going to be a lovely day.

We had a fresh herb collection of feverfew, lemon verbena, calendula, lemon balm, peppermint, ginger mint and yerba buena at the ready. To ease everyone into the morning, we brewed up a first batch of spring nettles and cleavers. It reminds me of green tea but without the dry mouth and caffeinated feeling afterwards. Lovely!

Dried nettle and cleavers brew.

Next we created a more uplifting blend to match the weather of the day, consisting of lemon balm, peppermint and lemon verbena speckled with fantastically bright flecks of calendula petals! A refreshing brew that we suspect would go down well as long, cool iced tea drink. In fact, this blend helped to mask the more bitter undertones of feverfew. We also brewed up a mint-mix which is always a winner!

Nat stirring things up..
Nat stirring things up..

The next herbal tea blend and brew will happen next Sunday [31st May] at Dalston Eastern Curve’s Herbal Health Bar launch so pop by if you’re keen to see what Hackney Herbal have in store that day! If you can’t make it, then don’t despair! We have lots of events in the pipeline for 2015 so keep your eyes peeled for updates that we’ll post on here.

In the meantime…happy herbaling!

Lemon balm, peppermint, lemon verbena and calendula fresh blend!
Lemon balm, peppermint, lemon verbena and calendula fresh blend!

Speed dating, garden style

It’s not often you get invited to go speed dating. But this was speed dating with a difference as the focus was on plants and not romance. This week we joined the De Beauvoir Gardeners’ May meeting which took the form of Garden Speed Dating with various green-fingered experts sharing their top gardening tips. At our stall – Growing Herbs – we tried our best to diagnose some herbal problems and shared some of our top tips with fellow garden folk. A common concern was troubles with growing basil and coriander to which we advised to sow seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill and sow successionally to ensure a constant summer supply. Here are some of the other things that came up throughout the evening:

Pot size – you ideally want a pot that is at least 20cm deep, think the bigger the pot – the bigger and healthier the plant. Although you can grow many annuals like basil and coriander in smaller pots, just remember to not overcrowd smaller pots.

Soil – we recommend a mix of half compost and half garden topsoil with a few handfuls of sharp sand/gritty material to create a nice soil mix with adequate drainage

Herbs in soil – if you are growing herbs in your garden, make sure they are protected from things like cats and foxes that might sit on them and ensure they are getting enough light

Sad herbs – if your herb looks a bit sad and you don’t know why, re-potting it with fresh soil and a larger pot is a good start!

herb bookss table
Our plant wish list for Hackney Herbal tea blends
speed dating
Speed dating with plants
SDgrowing herbs
Our stall, troubleshooting growing herbs

Learning not to get our mints in a twist

Everybody loves a good field trip especially when it involves leaving the city and venturing into the countryside. We took a trip to herbal heaven aka Jekka’s Herb Farm and were delighted to get some top tips from the ‘Queen of Herbs’ herself Jekka McVicar. After taking the scenic route through the fields and nibbling on some tasty bramble tips we arrived at the farm, which is home to over 650 varieties! Jekka showed us some of her favourite tea herbs including a desert mint used for Egyptian mint tea and a very fruity pineapple sage. Jekka brewed us up some forager tea (hawthorn, wild strawberry, nettle and wild rose hips) and told us about the history of the farm. She also shared her herbal wisdom including advice about not planting different flavoured mints together because it will compromise their individual flavours. After a nice chat we then had the hard task of choosing which special herbs to bring home, limited by the strength of our arms. After lots of rubbing and sniffing we picked out our favourites and vowed to come back for the next open day to get more! We spent all our pocket money on:

Mentha x gracilis ‘Variegata’ Ginger Mint

Agastache rugosa Korean Mint Huo Xiang

Monarda didyma Bee Balm Bergamot, Red Bergamot

Satureja douglasii Yerba Buena

Mentha longifolia subsp schimperi Eastern Mint, Desert Mint

Mentha lavender mint Lavender Mint

Aloysia citriodora AGM  Lemon Verbena

Mentha x piperita citrata Orange Mint

Salvia elegans ‘Scarlet Pineapple’ Pineapple Sage

Thymus ‘Culinary Lemon’ Lemon Thyme

Houttuynia cordata Fish Mint, Fish Wort

Following our noses along the footpath
Following our noses along the footpath
Too many herbs to chose from
Samping Jekka's forager tea blend and getting some insider herb tips
Samping Jekka’s forager tea blend whilst getting some insider herb tips