With the rise and rise of television cooking shows, plus the societal movement toward a greener, more sustainable world, there's never been a trendier time to ditch the takeaway and become a home chef. But how can you ensure you're cooking with the freshest produce? The best way is to grow your own, and the simplest way to start is with fresh herbs. They don't require a lot of space to grow, and immediately lift the taste of your dishes when added, allowing you to experiment more widely with flavoursome cuisine from different parts of the world.
Flower Power has just introduced a brand new range of Elite Herbs, cultivated with both home and professional chefs in mind. Bred from cuttings to produce a strong, consistent and reliable flavour, these herbs also provide a decorative aspect to both your home and your meals. With a wide variety of herbs available in the range, now's the time to pop in-store, take some home and get growing.
Why choose cutting-grown ornamental herbs?
There are several reasons that herbs grown from cuttings are superior to their seed-grown counterparts. The first of these is consistency. Herbs grown from cuttings have a reliable and consistent flavour and growth habit every time, unlike seed-grown herbs where these factors can differ wildly. This means when you use a cutting-grown herb in your cooking, the dish will taste just as good every time. Secondly, cutting-grown herbs take longer to go to seed, meaning your plants have a longer lifespan before they need replacing, so you get more bang for your buck. Thirdly, the Elite Herbs range of cutting-grown ornamental herbs are bred specifically to achieve super-strong, unique flavours unfamiliar to users of traditional herbs, both fresh and dried. Elite Herbs are so strong, in fact, that you need use only one half to one third the amount indicated on a traditional recipe to yield the same flavour balance - meaning your herb harvest will stretch further.
Elite Herbs' Chef's Hat Rating System
When selecting which herbs you'd like to grow, it's important to know how strong the flavour is. For this reason, Elite Herbs have created a Chef's Hat Rating System, which features on each herb's packaging. A herb with a one chef's hat rating will be on the milder side, where one with five chef's hats will provide super-strong flavour to your dish.
Herbs every home chef needs to cook with
Basil is a super-popular herb in many cultures, and has a strong flavour. Consider using your fresh basil leaves to make pesto, add to a vegie soup (we love tomato and basil!), drop on top of a freshly-cooked pizza or add a kick to your traditional Italian bruschetta. The Elite Herbs range includes four different basils - Profusion™, a medium-strength Greek basil with a sweet citrus twist; Gusto™ (arriving soon), a strong and zesty Greek basil with the tiniest hint of Italian flavour; Pure Italian™ (arriving soon), a rich, classic Italian flavour with a generous fragrance; and Roman Ruby™ (arriving soon), a classic Italian red basil that adds vibrant flair.
Growing wildly in Italy and Greece, oregano is an essential herb when cooking cuisine from either of these countries. Use fresh oregano leaves to season your roast chicken, bake into bread for a herbed dinner roll, add the finishing touch to a rich bolognese sauce, or add into a vinaigrette to flavour your favourite salad. The Elite Herbs range includes two oregano varieties - OzSuperb™, a traditional Greek variety with a culinary flavour, and Simply Zesty™, which has a strong and unique flavour with an intense aftertaste.
Super-fragrant thyme has long been favoured in Mediterranean cooking, and with good reason - it's delicious! Its flavour sits somewhere between lemon, mint and pepper, and works well with a range of dishes. Try making it the hero of a seafood dish, or use it as part of a dry rub to season meats like pork and beef. Elite Herbs' Sassy™ Thyme is the ultimate in strong and spicy, peppery flavour, and while it may be too strong to use raw in a salad, its aromatic properties release when cooked for a beautiful taste sensation.
Sage is a popular herb, particularly in winter dishes, and is always served cooked rather than raw. Flavour-wise, it's a savoury herb with an earthy taste that contrasts beautifully against anything sweet, like sauces. Use it to create a delicious turkey stuffing, flavour Italian-style potato dishes or mix in with mince of your choice when making home-made sausages. Elite Herbs' Absolut™e Sage is the ultimate savoury herb, with the classic sage flavour and an intense aroma.
Rosemary as a plant is a beautiful addition to any garden, with its pretty blue flowers and its heady aroma. As a herb, it's a culinary classic. The first thing that springs to mind is the Australian tradition of a Sunday lamb roast with potatoes, pumpkin and rosemary, however it also tastes delicious in a stew, and can be used to create a beautiful olive oil infusion. Once you've stripped the leaves, you can also use the remaining woody stems as skewers to make kebabs of either meat or vegetables. Elite Herbs' Robusto™ Rosemary has softer and less chewy leaves than other rosemary varieties, carrying a classic taste with an extra-strong flavour punch.
Distinctive in both scent and flavour, mint is a must for any lover of home cooking. Boil a small bunch of mint with some peas and cool them down to create a delicious minted pea side dish, chiffonade some mint leaves and stir through some plain yoghurt for the perfect accompaniment to a spicy Indian dish, or make your own mint jelly to go with a lamb roast. Hosting Friday afternoon drinks? Why not muddle your own fresh mint for the perfect Mojito? Elite Herbs' RefreshMint™ is beautifully aromatic with the classic mint taste you know and love - but it's bred for an even stronger flavour.
As the name suggests, lemon balm has a citrusy tang and is used widely in European and Mediterranean cuisine. Hugely versatile, the leaves of lemon balm can be steeped in hot water to make tea, added to desserts including sorbet, meringue and cake, or tossed in with leafy greens to make the perfect base for a chicken salad. Elite Herbs' Lemzest™ Lemon Balm has a strong flavour and an uplifting scent that simply can't be beaten!
Tips for growing your own herbs and using them in cooking
- Fresh herbs start to lose their flavour once picked. To get the most out of your herbs, pick only what you need, when you need it. You can always go back to your plant and pick more!
- Generally speaking, the more you harvest from your herbs, the more you'll need to fertilise and water your plants. This is especially true of plants grown in pots or containers, which don't have any external sources to draw from.
- No matter how they're planted, herbs all appreciate some sun exposure - but not all are the same. Softer herbs, for example basil, like partial sun. Other hardier varieties, such as sage, thyme or rosemary, tend to thrive in full sun. A great suggestion is to organise your herbs so the hardier varieties provide a little shade to your soft herbs.
- A great way to start your herb garden is to fill one large pot with a variety of herbs. There are several benefits to this - your herbs don't take up space in your garden bed, you can have them conveniently located for last-minute dish additions, and you can move them to a different position if you find the sun conditions aren't quite right.
Want more tips and hints on successfully growing herbs at home? Click here.