Summer herbs for summer salads

The past few months have been the best ever for gardeners, with everything (including weeds) growing at a breath-taking rate while we just stood by and watched!

Fortunately, there is still a lot of summer left and if your veggie garden has grown itself into exhaustion, think about sowing quick-growing summer herbs for salads and light meals.

Herbs require full sun and well-drained soil, although coriander and basil prefer afternoon shade in midsummer. The benefit of growing herbs from seed is that you can sow as much or as little as you want directly into the soil, in a seedling tray or into pots.

Fire up your taste buds

At the top of the list is rocket, that is a peppery, leafy herb which is delicious on sandwiches, in salads, and even as a pesto.

Kirchhoffs has garden rocket that can be sown quite thickly directly into the soil and you can start harvesting it as a baby leaf, while those that you miss will develop bigger leaves.

It is quick to germinate, sprouting within a few days and it doesn’t seem to mind how it is treated. Plants can be cut back and will sprout again or thinned out and used as baby leaves.

Older leaves are spicier and can be added to stir-fries, egg dishes or soups, at the end of cooking. Use the flowers as an edible garnish or add to drinks.

Everybody loves basil

When it comes to basil, a gardener is spoilt for choice. There is the traditional sweet basil that everyone grows, but in addition to that Kirchhoffs have four more varieties: purple basil, basil Genovese (the traditional pesto basil) lemon basil and basil Siam queen.

Try these

Basil Genovese has larger green leaves than Sweet basil, is slower to bolt in extreme heat and the leaves are less likely to become bitter with age. Use the larger leaves as wraps
Purple basil has spicy scented deep purple oval leaves with clusters of pink flowers in summer. Make sure it gets plenty of sun, to bring out the colour of the leaves. The leaves add colour to salads, stir fries, vegetable dishes, pasta, and rice dishes
Thai basil ‘Siam Queen’  has a strong, spicy liquorice flavour and can take the high heat of stir fries. It is used to flavour green curries. It is a very attractive garden plant, growing up neatly to 60cm with very aromatic leaves and clusters of purple flowers.
Lemon basil has a light, lemony fragrance and flavour that goes well with seafood, especially grilled fish, vegetable dishes, soups, and as a herbal tea.

Space basil plants 30 cm apart but if sown thickly the thinned plants can be used as baby salad greens, letting fewer plants mature.

Italian all-rounder

Origanum is generally known as the pizza herb, and features in any Italian- style tomato sauce. It’s a robustly flavoured perennial herb that grows quickly.

Origanum can be sown year round. It germinates within 7 to14 days and the first leaves can be harvested within 120 days. Space plants 25cm apart.

The cutting edge

Chives  and garlic chives can be snipped over salads and cooked dishes, adding a milder, but no less tasty, flavour of onion or garlic. Harvest the leaves by snipping them off at the base. New shoots emerge quickly. Feed with liquid fertiliser at half strength once a month and they last well for two to three years.

Chives may take up to three weeks to germinate, so be patient.