Herbal Travels: Spending the Day with Jekka McVicar

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You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog http://lemonverbenalady.blogspot.com.

In the second part of my visit to Jekka’s Herb Farm, located outside Bristol, England, we had lunch catered by Berry Blue using recipes from Jekka’s Herb Cookbook. I had the Beef Kofta Tagine, Jekka’s Bergamot and Couscous Salad, and pita bread with her Mint and Yoghurt Dip.

I enjoyed a few of Jekka McVicar’s recipes at lunch with The Queen of the Herbs.
Photo by Nancy Heraud

It was very flavorful, and as you can see a beautiful presentation made it that much more delicious. Then my English herbal companion and I each had a cupcake made with orange sponge cake and topped with basil frosting. We couldn’t share–I wonder why!

Orange Sponge Cupcake with Basil Frosting.
Photo by Nancy Heraud

Another reason to splurge on Jekka’s new cookbook is because of its beautiful illustrations, which have been done by her daughter, Hannah. The clean, crisp illustrations wedded with delicious comfort foods is the perfect match.

We then took a class that taught us how to maintain our herbs over the winter. Jekka talked about taking cuttings of plants to bring indoors for the winter and about the importance of using good compost for the tiny plants. Her compost has been recognized by the Soil Association in England as being great soil to grow herbs in. That’s a huge step forward for Jekka’s herb farm. The photo below illustrates how Jekka showed the class how to take a cutting of a buddleia mint, one of three herb plants of which we took cuttings. 

Jekka instructs herb enthusiasts how to maintain their herbs over the winter.

Photo by Nancy Heraud

Here are the tiny herbs after we cut them up and put them in Jekka’s magic compost mix.

Wild strawberry, chamomile and Buddleia mint nestled in Jekka’s compost.
Photo by Nancy Heraud

We got to keep wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca). You can eat its early leaves in salads, and of course the small sweet red fruit can be eaten throughout the summer. We also go to take home double flowered chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’), which grows double white daisy-like flowers in summer. It also has sweet smelling foliage that is good for your lawn. The chamomile flowers can also be used in salads and teas. Finally, we also got to keep Buddleia mint (Mentha longifolia), which has long, grey, green-toothed leaves. It grows purple flowers from summer to autumn and attracts butterflies and hoverflies, one of my favorite beneficial insects. It is also great in flower arrangements.

Before you ask, my English herbal companion and I shared our baby plants with her family in Exeter, England because my English herbal companion lives in Spain and I live in the United States. But it was a great day at Jekka’s farm. I’m very excited that Jekka will be the keynote speaker next year at the national Herb Society of America meeting here in Pittsburgh, June 23 to 25, 2010. All of the herb society members are looking forward to her visit.

If you have herb questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail me at lemonverbenalady@hotmail.com. Talk to you soon.

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