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Aussie Sweet Basil (Ocimum spp.). Top-pick herbs for the kitchen garden

Basil (Ocimum sp.) Basil is a winning herb: it is available in a smorgasbord

of classic and worldly flavours and brings a smile to all who inhale its summery aromas. Most basil varieties start easily from seed, germinating quickly so long as temperatures are 21 C and warmer. The seedlings grow-like-mad when basked in light, and remain productive for three-to-nine months indoors. The reigning champ for indoors is Aussie Sweetie Basil, a non-flowering selection (thus no seeds, cuttings only) with delicious classic flavour and a wonderful growth habit for containers.

Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) A little like a parrot... bay laurel can be a life long compan-

ion when potted and wintered indoors! Bay thrives on bright light but handles the change of seasons easily making it well suited as a kitchen herb. The fresh leaves are a world apart from their dried counterparts. The plant is a very slow growing, so young plants can be harvested a half leaf at a time, while established plants can be snipped regularly. Bay plants are best purchased from a nursery due to specialized requirements for propagation. There are several named vari- eties of bay, and all are equally tasty and grower-friendly.

Galangal Ginger (Alpinia galanga) For anyone who has ever fallen in love with south Asian

cooking, galangal is a serious charmer. It is one of the few herbs that thrives in any exposure and does exception- ally well as a decor plant on a coffee table or on top of a book shelf. This is one good looking herb. The leaves are edible and can be used for chai tea, simmering with rice, and seasoning soups. Root pieces are a special kind of Thai ginger, and can be harvested once mature. But not to worry, roots can be harvested without killing the entire plant - just dig out small sections and tuck the remainder back into the pot.

Oregano (Origanum sp.) When choosing an oregano, start by nibbling; there are

dramatic differences of flavour and zest among oregano cultivars. The most flavourful have white flowers, and selections from warmer climates out perform perennial types by leaps and bounds when grown indoors. The most outstanding variety for kitchen gardeners is a chef’s treasure called Cretan oregano. It has an authentic south- ern Mediterranean flavour with kick, and thrives in the windowsill garden.

Galangal Ginger (Alpinia galanga).

Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis).

Oregano (Origanum sp.). Early Spring 2015 • 23

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