Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Indigenous Herbs

Lavender and other fragrances
There was so much lavender this year from our 40 plus bushes that I had to dry it on the floor on top of sheets. Soon I shall thresh it, so to speak. Lavender is happy in these hills although I have not yet found it growing wild.

Many aromatic plants do well here, both because they love the conditions and because they survive the deer who hate anything aromatic.

Some time after arriving at Le Ripe we found nine recognizable, indigenous herbs. Perhaps some were originally planted by the farmers  (the mint and the lemon balm?).

Here's the list:

wormwood (artemisia vulgaris), one of the main components of absinthe and a strange aroma, not to everyone's liking.The locals used to wear it under their clothes against worms;
catmint (nepeta cataria) which when trodden on releases a delicious scent;
thyme, not sure of variety, but it has dark pink flowers and turns red in winter and spreads beautifully;
wild fennel, which grows very tall; uncharacteristically, there was only one specimen which was eventually bulldozed over by the builders, so I collected some seeds elsewhere and planted it in our little herb patch where it is flourishing. I hope it spreads elsewhere;
curry plant (helichrysum italicum) has a lovely spicy smell;
camomile, a very prolific daisy: it was already growing wild in the field but when a farmer brought us a load of manure, so many camomile flowers sprouted in the vegie patch in spring that I used to grumble that instead of manure he had brought me a field of daisies;
lemon balm (melissa officinalis): it took some time to realize what it was, but the lemony fragrance is unmistakeable once you crush the leaves;
origano - seems to grow wild only in the lower meadow but we now have it in the herb patch as well;
peppermint (menta piperita), found growing wild in one place only, so perhaps planted by the farmers originally...

In addition, the herb patch and garden boast sage and rosemary (like the lavender wonderful plants for our conditions, but I have yet to find them growing wild), tarragon (two sorts: the spectacular but tasteless Russian variety and the more modest fragrant one); lemon thyme; santolina which is a hardy, silvery shrub but whose yellow flowers are frankly stinky for a couple of weeks in the year; and savory which resembles thyme but has another fragrance and blooms gloriously in May.  

ps We 'threshed' the lavender in the photo above  and it came to about 7 kilos of dried flower heads! Now we have to decide what to do with it. Perhaps I shall start a cottage industry in lavender bags...

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