The best Italian cookery uses the freshest ingredients and herbs plucked directly from the plant to enhance the flavours and make the mouth water. In the UK, it’s no surprise that Italian food is our favourite cuisine and one we try to replicate often in our own kitchens.
For those who try to mirror our dishes and enjoy the combinations of herbs that are synonymous with the sun blushed provinces of Italy we can show you how. Every Italian herb can be grown beautifully in the English garden so you can enjoy a taste of Italy all year round.
Here are the most popular herbs we use and how to grow them:
Basil is a favourite of Italy as it is capable of enhancing the flavour of almost any dish. It can be used fresh in salads, with the larger more mature leaves providing a delicate flavour, or younger shoots can be added to sauces to give the sweet taste that softens the tang of tomatoes.
In England we can only grow this in the garden from May, as it does not take kindly to frost. Some like to plant out their basil at the same time as their tomatoes, in the same patch as the tomatoes are porous and absorb the flavour as they grow.
We recommend growing basil in terracotta pots with plenty of drainage, then you can bring the bushes in when frost threatens (as we may yet get snow in June) making sure your plant is protected whatever the weather.
Oregano tastes like a delicate herb however it is very hardy and perfect for the English garden. If trimmed every autumn it will come back to life every spring with fresh new leaves that are perfect for cooking. Choose a sunny patch and make sure drainage is good, leave a lot of space as it can grow quite fat. It also flowers if left and these look amazing sprinkled on top of your favourite pasta dish.
Rosemary has hardened so much over the years that many gardeners view it as an English evergreen, yet the young shoots are ideal for use with meats, whether roasting or slow braising. Although it will withstand many temperatures, many have died back due to the harsh frosts of this winter so it’s worth protecting with a cloche until the threat of frost has passed. In the garden, rosemary will also flower with pastel blue petals which are a delight for any dish. Choose a semi shaded spot and resist the urge to over water. Trim back a little in autumn but if you want it to grow tall, leave the leader branch (the tallest shoot) alone.
Fresh herbs can of course be bought from the supermarket and they will last a week or two on the window sill, however these have been forced in unnatural temperatures. Nothing beats the feeling of harvesting your own and they also make any garden look amazing too!