Last week I was busy at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, demonstrating recipes and giving visitors a delicious Taste of Wisley.
I was particularly keen to tell people how easy some of our Herbfest dishes are to make at home, and took the opportunity to whizz up a range of freshly made herb oils. These were delicious served with hunks of the Wisley bakery’s Zoli sourdough and new courgette and basil bloomer, plus the delightful fresh cheeses of High Weald Dairy in Sussex. The gardeners came along to explain the best ways to grow herbs at home, whether that be in pots, a vegetable patch or an elegant walled garden, making each session really informative for attendees, as well as tasty.
This year Taste of Wisley Herbfest is focusing on different varieties of the most popular and versatile herbs. At Hampton Court I made our Greek-style salad with heritage tomatoes. For that we use traditional dried oregano but also add the small-leaved Greek variety of basil, which intriguingly is not used widely in Greek cooking. This bushy herb with its warm flavour is great with fresh cheeses like feta, ricotta and mozzarella. And it is dramatically different to the clove-scented ‘Dark Opal’ variety of basil with large purple leaves that we are using to make red basil lemonade and pannacotta at Wisley. If you are a fan of fresh mint tea, do try making a tisane with the ‘Dark Opal’ basil and hot water – it is delicious.
Visitors to Wisley this month should be sure to check out our Herbfest displays where we invite you to run your fingers through the leaves to release their scent, then compare and contrast. Come into the Food Hall or Glasshouse Café for a meal and you will also appreciate just how versatile some herbs can be. I think lemon variegated thyme is (until now!) an unsung culinary hero: its citrus taste is perfect with fish as you might expect, but we are also using it to roast beetroot and courgettes, and in lemon thyme cupcakes. What is your favourite way with thyme?
Don’t forget, you can see these herbs growing at Wisley. Take a look at the herby bedding scheme in the Walled Garden East, behind the Loggia and Canal. And remember to explore the Herb Garden, sponsored by Witan Investment Trust at the top of the garden. It’s a truly inspirational place, not to mention well scented!
More from the RHS
RHS advice on growing herbs
Recipes from the Herb Garden at RHS Garden Wisley
Eating and drinking at RHS Garden Wisley