Plant of the Moment – Herbs | Hampton Court Palace Gardens


[Music] The plant of the moment here at Hampton Court Palace have got to be the herbs here in the kitchen garden. This time of year as late spring turns into early summer the growth is lush and fresh and perfect for harvesting. And we really do have an amazing range of herbs here to touch and see and smell and discover. In broader terms herbs are basically just really useful plants that have been used for hundreds of years in foods. They can be used to make tea. They can be added to salads or stews for their texture and flavour. They can be used for the healing properties or even just for their wonderful scent. This is Sorrel or Rumex acetosa, which is different to Wood Sorrel which is a type of Oxalis. These perennial herbs are grown for their tangy slightly sour flavour which is just perfect for adding a real kick to sauces salads or for egg dishes or even to make a classic sorrel soup. John Evelyn writing 1699 suggested as a replacement for citrus in cooking. It’s even been used as a sweet mixed with brown sugar and used instead of apples in baking. From even earlier in the sixteen hundreds. Nicholas Culpeppers book The Complete Herbal suggests sorrel as a treatment for the plague. It also says the sick can be held powerful to resist the poison of the scorpion Sorrel is easy to start from seed or you can save a bit of time and by a ready grown plant and that way you can start to harvest the leaves immediately. We grow a few different types here in the kitchen garden such as this common sorrow which has these long leathery leaves can grow up to one metre high. We also have a French or Buckler leafed sorrel which has a nice citrus tang and also the red veined sorrel which has a beautiful red stripe running through the centre of its leaves. Tansy or Tanacetum vulgare is sometimes also known as buttons because of its perfectly round yellow flowers. It’s a member of the chrysanthemum family and it has these pinnate deeply divided aromatic leaves that when crushed have this scent which is like camphor with a hint of rosemary. It’s all for a herb too with these upright stems which finger up to 75 centimetres high and it produces these clusters of bright yellow perfectly round flowers. The leaves and flowers would be toxic if consumed in large quantities. During Tudor times the wormwood along with Tansy, Dais, Rue and Lavender have been strewn across the floors in order to mask any unpleasant smells and keep away insects. Some of this plant’s historical uses in England include being placed on window sills to repel flies being used as an ant repellent sprigs of it being placed in bed linen to repel any unwanted pests or even as a yellowish green dye for wool. Salad Burnet or Sanguisorba minor is a herbacious perennial plant that has these distinctive pairs of toothed leaflets that form a rosette shape in the young plants. It has these unusual clusters of crimson flowers which bloom from Midsummer through to Autumn which are then replaced by small bird fruit. The leaves when crushed give out a slight cucumber scent and they were traditionally used in salads and as a flavouring. Typically it can be found on dry grassy meadows often on limestone soils it’s drought tolerant and grows all year round. So it’s a good tough plant for an exposed and sunny site in the garden. It’s been grown in Britain since the 16th century when it was planted along the borders of paths so that its scent would rise up when it was old enough. It can be used instead of mint leaves in some recipes or for a stronger flavour mixed with other herbs especially Rosemary and Tarragon. As with other herbs which are used in salads always try to pick the youngest freshest leaves as they are less bitter and have the best flavour. It’s really important to keep cutting this plant in order to encourage new growth. So this unusual herb is called Horehound or Marrubium vulgare. It’s been used in the past in cough remedies for throat sweets. Historically it’s also been used in brewing. King Henry VIII was reputed to have been very fond of a spiced ale which probably included horehound. From the tangy tasty salad leaves of Salad Burnet and Sorrel. To the toxic insect repelling Tansy. These are just a few of the really cool herbs to discover at Hampton Court Palace right now.

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