Growing autumn herbs and spices

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CURRY PLANTS: Not as easy to grow as some other Mediterranean herbs.

AUTUMN changes our routines as summer celebration, holidays and hot days pass and cooler weather approaches. It’s more pleasant to work in the garden at this time of year. When the rain does fall in the Spanish autumn, the garden greens up like a second spring. Even the roses have a new flush of blooms while the carpet of green meadow grasses and wild flower plants emerge in the countryside.

It’s a great time to set out herbs in smart pots near the kitchen or in the garden where you might enjoy to stroll before dinner time. It’s always best that they’re handy if you use them often. Once established, herbs usually need little care through winter, if they receive enough rain. 

The Mediterranean climate allows easy growing of commonly used herbs and spices. It’s great to have them fresh and they can be used for herbal teas if you like a variety of tastes.

A Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) is a good example of an easy to grow flavoursome tree for pot or garden that will give you and your neighbours all the bay leaves you could need for the seasoning of your cooking.

Most nurseries and community markets will have a wide selection of herbs available now that will enhance any gardeners cuisine with aromatic scents and flavours. It can include parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (especially for Simon and Garfunkel fans) as well as marjoram and oregano.

There is one herb however often sold by well meaning nursery people in Spain which is very misleading. The curry plant is as mysterious as India. 

The commonly sold curry plant (Helichrysum italicum), of the daisy family that looks similar to wormwood plants, smells like curry powder but has a bitter taste and is not a culinary herb. It’s used more for essential oils than in the kitchen. 

The more true curry plant (Murraya koenigii) is a native of north India to southern China and is used for flavouring but is still not really the curry used in Indian or British cooking. The origin of the yellow powder we mostly know as curry is a mixture of various herbs and spices that can vary in content. 

The herbs and spices include cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, capsicum, fenugreek, allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, mustard, fennel, mace and more. The word curry is apparently derived from the Hindi word kari which means sauce. It appears to have adapted into English as curry. In India, curry is called masala. So it is all a mystery.

Before you start showing off your curry plant, make sure you know what you have and what it’s for. The curry of India is shrouded in family secret recipes and ayervedic guidelines on its use and is not an easy to grow herb like many of the Mediterranean garden.

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