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Gardening

From ginger to lemon grass: How to grow and use herbs for the braai

Outdoor cooking in SA means one thing: a braai. Jane Griffiths shares her tips and tricks on how to grow and use herbs to add fabulous flavour to the fire.

06 March 2022 - 00:00 By Jane Griffiths
Up your braai game with the addition of fresh herbs.
Up your braai game with the addition of fresh herbs.
Image: 123RF/vicushka

HOW TO GROW

Mediterranean herbs: Thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary are hardy and unfussy plants once established. Most of the flavour and beneficial qualities of Mediterranean herbs are found in their oils. These are produced in greater abundance when the herbs are in full sun for six to eight hours a day. Although they can be sown from seed, they are easier to propagate from seedlings or cuttings. Drought-tolerant and perennial, they don’t require much feeding other than the addition of a balanced, organic fertiliser in spring. Trim back in late winter or early spring to prevent them from becoming straggly. Use the trimmings fresh or dry for later.

Ginger and turmeric grow in warm temperatures in dappled shade. In late spring bury fresh roots just below the surface of the soil and keep moist until they sprout.

It’s best to wait until the second year for them to become well established before harvesting in autumn when the leaves have died down.

Sage is a hardy herb that is easy to grow once established.
Sage is a hardy herb that is easy to grow once established.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton
A variety of herbs for the braai.
A variety of herbs for the braai.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

Chives are easily grown from seed or seedlings. Varieties include thin-leafed onion-flavoured ones to flat-leafed, garlic types. The flowers, which attract beneficial insects, are pom-pom shaped, from white to pinky-mauve. They prefer full sun and moist soil but can handle dry weather. They do a good job of protecting vegetables from many harmful insects. Every couple of years, divide in spring by lifting and splitting  into new plants.

Lemon grass likes well-drained soil and a hot climate. It benefits from being trimmed back as this encourages new growth.

Bay trees can grow up to 8m tall unless pruned to suit a smaller garden. Grow from seedlings or take cuttings from an established tree. Evergreen, they like full sun and are quite drought tolerant. If a tree requires trimming, do it in early spring. Young trees will need protection from frost until they are well established. In addition to making good skewers, their long flexible branches can be used to make fences and small tripods, while the leaves, added to the garden, make a good insect-repelling mulch.

Chives are easily grown from seed or seedlings.
Chives are easily grown from seed or seedlings.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

HOW TO USE

HERBS FOR HEALTHY FEASTING

  • Add fresh sage to stuffing before roasting meat, or chop it up as a rub. Sage combines well with pork and other rich foods as it helps our system to digest fatty foods.
  • To add delicious flavour, use rosemary, lemon grass or bay stalks as kebab skewers.
  • Include herbs in marinades. Oregano has a warm, citrus flavour and when it comes to cooking chicken over the coals, you can't go wrong with the classic combination of fresh oregano, lemon and garlic mixed with oil in a marinade.
  • Rub fish with chive butter and wrap in turmeric or ginger leaves before baking on the fire.
  • Wrap fresh herbs in aluminium foil, punch some holes in it and place next to the coals — the herb-flavoured smoke will infuse the food on the braai. Use robust herbs such as oregano, thyme, lemon grass, rosemary and bay.
  • Mix chopped fresh or dried herbs together with spices and use as rubs. Robust and aromatic, thyme pairs exceptionally well with quickly seared or slow-cooked beef. For a twist, add lemon or lime zest.
Anti-mozzie incense in an oil burner.
Anti-mozzie incense in an oil burner.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

Tip: Nothing destroys a feast as quickly as a pesky mosquito or three. Make a delicious-smelling anti-mosquito incense using lavender and rose- and citronella-scented pelargoniums. Chop up the leaves, dry them, then mix with crushed frankincense and a neutral oil. Place on top of an oil burner. 

• Jane’s Delicious Superfoods for Super Health. Jane Griffiths. Published by Sunbird Publishers

janesdeliciousshop.co.za


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