Harvesting herbs and produce straight from our garden destined for our plates is one of those completely satisfying gardening activities. It goes with out saying that intentionally growing plants for our evening meal can certainly add some great variation to our favourite recipes.
One of the easiest to grow and most versatile culinary and medicinal plants is “Mother of Herbs” (Plectranthus amboinicus). A native plant to South and East Africa. This dry hardy perennial with an oregano-like flavour makes an excellent ingredient for any dish where you would normally add dried mixed herbs.
When seeing this plant people will often rub the leaf remembering the distinctive fragrance from their Mother’s or Grandmother’s Gardens. A traditionally grown herb, this wonderful plant is really making a come back in gardens today as an easy to grow and useful herb.
Have you ever used fresh “Mother of Herbs” straight from the garden rather than reaching for the mixed herbs bottle? Perhaps you’ve added a couple of finely chopped leaves into some mashed potato? an old, popular and well tested recipe. Also a tasty stuffing ingredient for meat and poultry and for adding flavour to beef and lamb dishes. Last Christmas I used the leaves to make a fancy chicken stuffing with bread, onion, smoky paprika, cashews and orange juice. Experimenting with your flavour combinations usually provides a few good taste sensations and many people have lived to tell the tale of my experimental cooking.
Some medicinal uses of “Mother of Herbs” leaves include adding a couple of leaves to boiling water to make a calming tea. Drink hot or chilled depending on your preference. I have spoken to people who use it to relieve coughs in drink form. Traditionally the plant is used to help people relax and sleep and rubbed on the temples to treat headache.
I use “Mother of Herbs” as a culinary herb in omelettes cooked with tomato or will add a couple of leaves to rissoles. I find that Italian style dishes especially Spaghetti Bolognaise really benefit from this flavoursome plant. Tolerant of part shade or sunny positions Mother of Herbs has long mauve flowers which are attractive to bees with the variegated form having beautiful two toned leaves of white and green.
With food growing and sharing produce in home gardens being an important feature in todays gardens it is wonderful to enjoy the flavour of herbs grown in the past. What is your favourite way to use “Mother of Herbs”? Happy Gardening, Romaine
Pictures by Romaine Undery
Image 1 The green form of the “Mother of Herbs” plant is an easy to grow useful plant.
Image 2. The variegated form of “Mother of Herbs” having beautiful two toned leaves of white and green.