By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe,
The growing of herbs in Spanish gardens is strongly recommended in our book Your Garden in Spain- From planning to planting and maintenance..
There are many reasons for this including the following.
- The Spanish climate is ideal for many herbs.
- Many evergreen and perennial herbs are drought resistant, and also frost resistant. They can therefore be grown from the coastal plain to well up mountainsides where they grow naturally.
- Annual herbs can be grown from seed through much of the year and over wintered in non frost zones.
- Herbs can be grown in containers of all sorts as well as in the garden.
- Many flower for months or several times a year.
- There are small and large varieties of herbs and many can be trimmed to keep them tidy and compact.
- Herbs are therefore suitable for apartment and town house terraces as well as open gardens.
- In gardens herbs can be grown in a dedicated herb garden, within a vegetable plot, planted in mixed flower beds or containers.
- For the enthusiastic collector there are many forms of some herbs available so collections of mints, lavenders and sages for instance can be an interesting pastime.
- Herbs can be grown for their leaf, flower and perfume effects in the garden and also for their many other recognised uses as illustrated below:
- For adding flavour and aromas to salads, cooked foods and drinks – e.g. sage, parsley, anise, chives, basil, bay, coriander, cumin, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, oregano, pineapple and dill.
- For eating in their own right – e.g. chives, borage, purslane, dandelion leaves, basil leaves, rocket leaves, fennel and garlic .
- For daily dietary or medicinal infusions – e.g. mint, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, thyme, parsley, melissa, nettles, lemon verbena, echinacea, and rue.
- For poultices – e.g. comfrey for fractures and gout.
- For making natural toothpastes – e.g. sage leaves and salt.
- For making potpourris – e.g. bay, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and sage.
- For burning to remove unpleasant smells – bay leaves.
- For distilling aromatherapy oils – lavender flowers.
- For attracting butterflies – e.g. rosemary, lavender and thyme.
- For accelerating the compost heap – e.g. comfrey , nettle, dandelion and borage leaves.
- For preparing ecological fertilizers – e.g. nettle, horsetail, and comfrey leaves.
- As insect repellents – e.g. pots of basil and rue.
- To prepare natural insecticides – e.g. garlic, thyme and nettles.
- To flavour vinegars – e.g. tarragon, garlic and rosemary.
- To flavour herb based liquors.
- Lavender and rosemary flowers soaked in a liquor make excellent chocolate centres.
- As a natural disinfectant – lavender.
- As a natural fungicide – horsetail.
- To clean and flavour snails collected from the garden or countryside prior to cooking– feed them fresh rosemary for two weeks..
- To feed rabbits – e.g. thyme, and dandelions.
- As a lawn – dwarf thymes and camomile in wetter northern provinces..
- In general herbs are easier to grow than vegetables or fruit.
So with a little planning your Spanish garden can be the source of many useful traditional products as well as looking beautiful.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2007.