Herb growing Ireland – How to grow herbs – Herb growing workshop – Gretas Herbs Annascaul, Dingle

West Kerry Magazine End April 2015 May 20, 2015

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 10:23 am

seedlings  in hand

We seemed to have missed out on spring and were propelled straight into a false summer! The recent heat wave though enjoyable has increased the gardener’s workload with constant watering from dawn until dusk. Young plants in the poly tunnel which have an underdeveloped root system will dehydrate in minutes and die instantly therefore I have to remain on constant vigil! Working inside under melting plastic in this intense heat can only be endured for short periods of time and is not for the faint hearted. Most of my potting up is done late evening when the sun is low. I am under pressure and moving with the speed of light – squinting in the poly tunnel in the half-dark is an exhausting exercise.

Transplanting trays of vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and peas is again best done in the evening as the cooler night air will allow them a soak time. Dill is a herb which dislikes root disturbance so it is not a suitable candidate for pot sales even though it is in high demand! It needs to be sown directly into its growing position outside. I like to mark the seed drills by filling with compost as this defines where the seedlings emerge and makes them easier to identify. Sowing every two weeks until the end of June will ensure a lengthy supply of this delicious herb. Coriander is another splendid herb; growing lush in the cooler temperatures of April and May – after that it tends to run to seed and then basil takes priority in the heat of the summer. These three mentioned are annuals so regular sowings are necessary to provide a continuous supply!

Seed sowing now creates a fever like madness in me: I have so much to sow before the end of May deadline. After that it is too late as most herbs take at least ten weeks to mature. For most perennials, April is the month for sowing – I need to make final sowings of lupins, oriental poppies and hollyhocks. Many of these may not reach the sales shelf until next year but they will over-winter successfully as young potted plants. In my previous article I mentioned that I was testing the organic compost ‘Living Green’ for seed sowing. Unfortunately it has proved inconsistent, certain seed such as lettuce and rocket did not succeed whereas other varieties such as spinach and parsley thrived. I therefore can only advocate using it for potting up and planting out! It is a rich growing medium for these procedures but use a multi purpose brand for seed sowing.

Most gardens now should have undergone a complete makeover of pruning, weeding and clearing. The rains have descended so now is a perfect time to plant out once temperatures remain mild. I recommend delaying planting out tender varieties such as cucumber, courgette and tomatoes until mid May as anything can happen with our weather system. Troops of slugs are now imminent! This heavy rainfall has created a high tide in the garden and they will quickly surf and slide to reach all your delectable greens! I try my best to plant things they dislike and I am blessed that herbs do not excite their palate. Most of my frog spawn has mysteriously disappeared and sadly all I can see are a few lonesome tadpoles swimming aimlessly. I hope these strong survivors will grow legs quickly and realise their mission in life – to take a great leap out from the pond and gobble up some slugs! My goldfish as yet have made no appearance and I sense perhaps a heron thief has enjoyed a gourmet meal at my expense!


West Kerry Live Magazine April 2015 April 6, 2015

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 10:23 am

Greta’s Herbs

 frog eating slug

March crept in softly but blew out quickly in a whirl of wind and rain. My resident wild rabbit who has spent many days nesting from the wet and cold has begun dashing about as mad as any March hare! I too like him have been racing around the garden – so much has to get done. The recent dry spell occurred at just the right time for cutting back everything hard- particularly scraggy mature herbs such as lavenders, fennel and cotton lavenders. Weeding had to be done in haste before the rains returned and another generation of weeds burst forth. This year I am top dressing all my plants with a mix of compost and wood ash from the stove. This ‘potash’ will be superb for flowering and fruiting plants, I am just putting it around everything.

I have had to diligently examine certain plants in pots for signs of the dreaded vine weevil. These nasty little maggots eat the roots of certain plants and some of their favourites include strawberry, mint and primula. They get cast into the pond as tasty snacks for the goldfish. I am delighted to finally observe massive clumps of frog spawn which has taken several years to colonise. I know the fish will also enjoy munching on these but hopefully some froglets will get to escape and go find their own slug snack! Then the cycle of prey and predator will have been established and harmony will prevail!

Seed sowing has begun in earnest in the polytunnel and every few days I sow at least another half dozen varieties mainly of herbs and vegetables. It is important to sow seed in batches at ten day intervals to maximise success: do not sow the entire packet at once. Leftover seed may be stored successfully in a biscuit tin and placed in a cool shed or room for at least one year. Exercise some caution at the moment when planting out as temperatures remain erratic. Purchased plants should be left outside in their pots for at least one week to allow them to develop a strong root system before transplanting.

At the end of last season I did a trial run on using the organic compost Living Green and was happy with the results. This year I am using it for sowing and potting up all the herbs and vegetables. It is on sale at Foxy John’s, Dingle and Miltown Organic Store alongside my herbs! It is made from worm casts and has a lovely texture. I am hoping it will live up to my expectations.

April is the month I concentrate on the ornamental perennials such as lupins, poppies and aquilegis. I have finally sown the plant Centaurea macrocephala which I have been meaning to cultivate for several years. I have come across it on rare occasions and it has always grabbed my fancy.  Its common name is giant knapweed but I prefer its other more descriptive name Armenian basket flower. It is a wild plant from the Caucasus which is a mountainous region on the borders of Europe and Asia and it is listed as hardy. This herbaceous perennial (many years) produces impressive yellow thistle-type flowers and can reach a height of five feet. It will grow in any well drained soil; excelling in full sun but also tolerant of partial shade. The shaggy blooms attract an abundance of beneficial insects and can be elegantly used in fresh or dry floral arrangements. Similar to teasel but perhaps not quite as prickly – the unpicked flower heads can provide a winter supply of seed for hungry birds. It has germinated easily so hopefully it will transplant successfully and create the vision I anticipate!


West Kerry Live Magazine March 2015 March 7, 2015

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 1:33 pm

       Greta’s Herbs

Bank at entrance

The Passing of Time

Now spring has arrived I can wander out of my den. I have spent the last two winters in almost total hibernation writing a book on herbs. Finally it has gone to the publishers and hopefully it should hit the bookshelves later this year. Excitingly it will contain a collection of inspiring images from the gifted nature photographer Rob Beighton!

In recent days I have swapped keyboard for potting bench and once again feel liberated in my polytunnel: I have star-trekked back to my planet and plant production has begun. The first seeds I have sown are lettuce mix, rocket and the hardier oriental greens such as mizuna and pak choi. Each year I try to limit my growing to approximately 50 varieties. I could easily get sidetracked into growing obscure, non-saleable oddities: and I hate waste. Keeping stock over winter here is not very successful as high rainfall can cause many plants in smaller pots to rot. Temperatures have recently plummeted back down so I will delay further sowings until the thermometer creeps back up to at least 10ºC. New introductions this year will include red veined wild rocket and chicory! I also have a few surprises for the flower and bee garden!

There is a misconception that the herb kingdom is a small, select group of plants-however it is in fact quite the opposite. It is a vast dynasty encompassing all kinds of individuals. The herb growing community is no less diverse. One of my first student friends in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin was a girl called Ziggy. She was an extremely colourful character in both manner and looks. Her passion for herbs was infectious and she was forever leading me into the herb garden. My knowledge back then on herbs was sparse; I had just begun my journey as a horticulturist. I remember her vividly, swinging basket in hand obsessing about herbs. Today I understand that obsession for it has infiltrated my gardening world.

Being very much a plant person my own interpretation of a herb extends beyond the dictionary’s definition which says that any plant ‘used in the making of medicines or in cooking’ is a herb. After three decades of growing, studying and exploring I have come to the conclusion that any plant containing hidden properties which may be utilised can be called a herb! Such examples include Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium which forms the basis of the organic pesticide pyrethrum and Anthemis tinctoria aka Dyer’s Chamomile which does as its name suggests.

We cultivate herbs unknowingly in our gardens. Many are extremely decorative, often producing aromatic foliage or fragrant flowers, sometimes a combination of both occurs as in the case of French lavender! We plant lupins and aquilegias in our borders, violas and nasturiums in our hanging baskets, and we deck our walls with roses and honeysuckle. Apart from the cultivated species, we are surrounded by the wild ones, the super-seeding dandelions in our lawn, the abandoned briars in the hedge and the banished nettles in the ditch.  Finally we remember the old friends of the forest: the oak, holly and birch.  All of these plants I have mentioned are herbs, and, if you look more closely you will see their secrets have been unveiled and their hidden properties revealed and fervently used down through the centuries!

Greta’s Herbs will be on sale shortly at the following outlets: Foxy Johns, Dingle, Keanes Garage, Lispole, O Donnells Shop, Annascaul, Miltown Organic Store and Mace Camp.

Greta McCarthy-O’Brien qualified in Amenity Horticulture at Botanic Gardens Dublin in 1983 and has been growing herbs in Annascaul for over 10 years.

www.gretasherbs.com  email:gretasherbs@yahoo.com    Phone: 0863169716









West Kerry Live May 2014 June 27, 2014

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 11:35 am

tomato in pot

Solanum lycopersicum
Every gardener should grow a few tomatoes – there is such a diverse selection of plants now available. The traditional varieties such as ‘Alicante’ and ‘Moneymaker’ still retain their popularity however hybridization has led to the development of hundreds of tempting varieties. Many of these require lower maintenance and are more disease resistant so can easily be cultivated by the domestic grower.

My father produced tomatoes under heated glass on half an acre in east Cork before the oil crisis hit in the 70’s. He was retired by the time I showed a dedicated interest in horticulture and unfortunately died just days before I received my graduation from the Botanic Gardens. I have one photo of me as a little girl lost amongst hundreds of tomato plants in the glasshouses, oblivious to the fact that my future grew before me! My dad’s tomatoes were renowned for their sweet flavour but I have yet to recapture it!

The tomato fruit has an interesting history, first originating in South America and carried back to Spain during the days of the conquistadores. In its natural habitat it is a perennial plant which grows wild but possibly does not resemble our cultivated varieties which have now adapted to a completely different climate. Its strange relative Tomatillo aka husk tomato is used a lot in Mexican cooking and forms the base for salsa verde and other chili sauces. I have grown it out of curiosity! Both are in the Solanacea family cousins of the potato but also relatives of that black enemy ‘deadly nightshade’ which of course is seriously poisonous.

Tomato varieties are best listed into groups in an effort to understand their individual qualities:
Classic/Traditional; This is the simple tomato as we all know it. These are often referred to as cordon varieties and all of them require staking and side shooting. The tip should be removed after the plant has produced 6-7 trusses (bunches) of flowers to ensure the plant directs its energy towards ripening. Although they can be grown outside in a sunny, sheltered position they are more suited for indoor culture. My specialty this year is an unnamed heirloom variety I got from an ardent gardener in Jersey Island. The young plants look incredibly strong with broad leaves and I have been giving them to friends to try. Another variety I grew was a yellow tomato called ‘Golden Sunrise’. Unfortunately I rarely get to taste all the varieties I grow from seed so I have to rely on my customer’s feedback.
Plum: Last year I propagated an heirloom tomato called ‘San Marzano’ and it has proved a great success. It is revered in Italy and – evidently – by gourmet chefs worldwide as the best tomato for cooking. As the story goes the King of Peru gave the seeds to the King of Naples as a royal gift; no doubt a similar gesture to our president presenting shamrock!

Beef: I have also produced plants of the variety ‘Marmande’. It may prove difficult to ripen in our short summer but could definitely be used to make chutney!

Bush: These dwarf plants which produce full-size tomatoes have been bred for outdoor production. I have not grown them for many years.

Cherry: These come in two sizes the upright such as “Gardeners Delight’ which again requires staking and side shooting, and, the dwarf cherry which is my ultimate favourite. Varieties such as Minibel, Tiny Tim and Tumbler can be grown in large pots or hanging baskets. They require no side shooting or staking just basic liquid feeding and diligent watering. I would recommend these for the beginner and also children love them. The extra advantage is the pot can be moved inside to a sunny windowsill in autumn to aid ripening process.


West Kerry Live April 2014 April 21, 2014

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 11:36 am

Greta’s Herbs

Papaver orientalis

Papaver orientalis

The Ornamentals
There are numerous beautiful flowering plants which we may not readily associate with the herb category. Many medicinal herbs are very decorative and the more lavish varieties tend to be cultivated relatives of their plainer counterparts, such an example is Tanacetum parthenium ‘Tetrawhite’ (double flowering feverfew). This is a cousin of common feverfew (T. parthenium) which has golden foliage and single daisy flowers. But beware it has a self-seeding nature!
The annual salad herb ‘Chop-suey greens’ is actually a Chrysanthemum. The young leaves should be harvested when they are 2” to 3” long. They have a strong, unique flavour and can be added sparingly to salads and oriental stir-fries. An extra bonus with this plant is that later in the season it produces startling yellow daisies on sturdy stems. These are ideal for cutting and can also be used for salad/plate decoration.
The well known medicinal St John’s wort belongs to the Hypericum genus. This has many showy relatives such as the shrub H. hidcote and the invasive creeper H. calycinum (Rose of Sharon). All produce plenty of yellow blossoms throughout the summer and are often semi evergreen.
One of my favourite groups is the delightful poppy family. The medicinal Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) which has been the source of morphine has many ornamental relatives, all producing impressive flowers and decorative seed pods. I once grew the Hungarian blue seed poppy whose violet flowers are really beautiful. The seed is treasured by bread makers and the pods can be used as seed shakers. There are lots of other varieties producing a rainbow of colour. The Oriental poppy and the Iceland poppy are the two most recent I have enjoyed growing from seed, and they have served me well.
A selection of thymes will provide lots of colour. Many are mat forming and produce stunning flowers from pink to red. These can be used to edge pathways, containers or rockeries. Their aromas will up-lift the spirit of the garden and increase honey bee activity. These herbs enjoy full sun in a sandy soil. Thymus citriodorus varegata ‘Aurea’ aka gold variegated lemon thyme is extremely pretty and has a reputation for being hardy hence it is often referred to as ‘winter thyme’.
To create a themed herb garden, boundaries may be inter-planted with honeysuckle and roses. Pathways and low borders can be enhanced with lavenders, hyssops or sages.

‘I know that if odour were visible, as colour is, I’d see the summer garden in rainbow clouds’ Robert Bridges.


West Kerry Live March 2014

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 11:31 am

Greta’s Herbs

The last two months have been a litany of toppled trees, torn tunnels, ripped roofs and endless floods: some sort of Armageddon! I am writing this in the flickering candlelight; imagining the blackouts during war time, waiting for the sirens! In my four decades of gardening I have never endured such violent weather. Nature with all it’s beauty has a dark side too.
Now without my polythene tunnel I am prone to lamenting- February is usually the month I eagerly commence sowing. I have not enjoyed the annual burst of excitement on receiving my seed catalogues. Spring has never felt so bleak. Luckily some kind friends are allowing me to use their glasshouse to start my seeds. I have retained several varieties from last year: many are in opened packs but have been stored carefully in biscuit tins. Regardless of all else these little gems of hope have survived. Once the temperature rises above 10ºC, I will sow the hardy varieties such as: Lettuce, Rocket, Mizuna and Purple Sprouting Broccoli. New additions I plan to grow this year include Wild Garlic, Red Pak Choi and Purple Pod Mangetout Pea.
I have made numerous attempts down through the decades to source my favourite Lettuce- ‘Suzan’ a beloved variety from my childhood. It was the very first vegetable I harvested to sell to our local shop in Cloyne, East Cork; all under the guidance of my father. On a recent visit to my friend in Tipperary who is studying organic gardening and was eagerly browsing the online seed sites, we spotted it. She added it to her order and promptly posted it to me. It makes me nostalgic; I finally get a chance to grow Lettuce ’Suzan’ again. If my memory serves me right this butter head variety has a soft, gentle texture and a very large white heart!
There is endless tidying up to be done outside. Fallen trees and shrubs which have their root system intact may be replanted, staked and braced once the storms have passed. The earth is saturated so I will not be surprised if some of my herbaceous perennials such as Lupin or Poppy have rotted.
To my great delight my goldfish produced lots of tiny babies late last summer. Unfortunately the water table rose rapidly; lifting the pond liner. Alas, I reckon many of those little ones may have escaped and gone swimming down the field. The original adult gold fish have doubled in size and seem to thrive in the nutrients added by the constant rainfall.
The other positive thing about this harsh weather is the cleansing factor. Hopefully every pest and disease will have been wiped out or drowned, including those nasty vine weevils that lurk in our pots nibbling the roots of our precious plants.
I am expecting the season to run late, crushed daffodils may still bloom. I await the arrival of wind-borne migrating birds, the fittest will survive. Nature may catch up, as for me: well I can only try!


West Kerry Live August 2013 August 27, 2013

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 9:47 am

Holly Hock

The long awaited summer blissfully swept by and now autumn sadly is fast approaching. Most plants thrived in the garden if kept adequately watered during the dry period. Recent chores include dead heading and weeding. Continue liquid feeding tomatoes, courgettes, salad plants and most other kitchen garden crops. Once the temperature begins decreasing around September stop feeding everything outside. Anything indoors may be fed until active growth ceases later that month.

To ensure some edible produce for the winter month’s make late sowings of rocket, lettuce and salad herbs such as Mizuna and Red Mustard Greens over the coming weeks. Many of these oriental herbs are very hardy, tolerating cool temperatures and yielding a generous supply through the winter. They dislike high temperatures so unfortunately many bolted this summer. Basil may still be grown on a sunny windowsill and should continue until late September and even into October. Careful watering early in the day is essential and always harvest from the tips, this encourages further bushy growth.

I like to remove all dead flower heads of herbs such as Fennel and St John’s Wort before they set seed otherwise they will take over your garden and become an unwelcome weed. In Autumn I usually prune back by approximately a third leaving some bulk to protect them through the winter, then next spring it is machete time and everything gets cut back to ground level.

The main planting season is over but great bargains can now be captured when purchasing perennial (grows for many years) herbs and other plant varieties. They may appear scraggy in the pots due to hunger so plant out or pot on. If they have a well developed root system they should grow vigorously next spring. Remember Thymes are best retained in sandy soil in pots throughout the winter and planted out next year, ideally into a raised bed or larger container. Mints must be restrained, but unlike Thymes prefer a rich, moist soil. Indeed my flowering treasure this year turned out to be a massive almost jet black hollyhock. It was the weakest of the mixed batch I sowed last year. I half heartedly planted it late last autumn, forgetting all about its existence until it demanded my attention with a bold statement this year. It then got its fair share of T.L.C. and its stunning stems of black beauty rewarded me with weeks of pleasure.


West Kerry Live June 2013 July 1, 2013

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 1:40 pm


 calendula & Mint

Mentha species; this fantastic group of herbs belong to the extensive Labiatae or Lamiaceae family. Some of its relatives include Lavender, Basil, Lemon Balm and Oreganos, all with extremely pungent flavours but none as persistent and diverse as their mint cousins. There are hundreds of varieties which are often difficult to identify as mints interbreed readily. Usually the best way is by simply smelling but even that can be confusing at times. Their origins tend to come from all corners of the globe and mint is used abundantly in worldwide cuisines. It gets plenty of mention in Greek and Roman mythology and there are also biblical references. It has been regarded as a symbol of hospitality and adornment by many cultures and its many uses range from deterring insects to scenting our bath water.   I recently enjoyed reading this reference to Mint ‘Eau de Cologne; ‘I live on a farm with pigs etc., which attract a great number of flies and wasps. Since buying the Eau de Cologne plants they have grown and spread out. I just pinch and rub the leaves to release scent and wait. The flies and wasps after a while get a drunk effect and then drop down dead, truly amazing, seeing is believing.’


Mentha spicata which is spearmint is the main variety for mint sauce. It is also the mint used in mojitos, toothpaste and confectionery. Strangely enough Mentha aquatica (watermint) which grows happily in my pond is a parent of  many varieties and a cross between it and Mentha spicata created the wonderful hybrid Mentha x piperita (peppermint). Again this variety exudes a glorious aroma and flavour which makes it ideal for desserts and teas. The chocolate variety of this is M. piperita f. citrate which excites everyone especially children. All mints love rich, moist soil in partial shade and are ideal in our climate. They need to be restrained as their underground rhizomes spread everywhere and it can become a proper nuisance. Either grow it in containers or line your planting hole with a sheet of thick polythene, slightly pierced to prevent water logging. Mentha suaveolens (Woolly or Applemint) is a very decorative variety and has lovely pale, mauve flowers which attract bees and butterflies. There is also a variegated version and again a host of relatives, my latest addition is ‘Grapefruit mint’.


When discussing the mint clan we must not forget one of its major contributions to chemistry which is ‘Menthol’. This organic compound is derived from peppermint and other mint oils. It has an incredible array of uses, especially in dental products such as mouth wash hence giving that cool, refreshing sensation which is also slightly anaesthetic. It can also be used in a marvelous array of cosmetics and toiletries even though I suspect modern science now allows artificial compounds to dominate.


West Kerry Live May 2013 June 20, 2013

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 10:26 am

 Greta’s Herbs: Coriander


Coriandrum is the genus and sativum the species. It belongs to the Apiacea family which also includes Parsley and Celery and so is also referred to as Chinese Parsley. The latin word sativum means cultivated. There are lots of plants with this attachment to their name, often determining their edibility e.g. Crocus sativus (Saffron), Ribes sativus (Red currant) and the more controversial Cannabis sativa.

The entire Coriander plant may be utilized in cooking. The flavour is powerful and many people find it nauseating but I like it a lot, even in salads. It is important to make a distinction between the herb Coriander and the spice Coriander. The leaves are often called Cliantro but this is merely the Spanish translation for Coriander even though the variety I grow for its foliage is called ‘Cliantro’. The seeds when dried and crushed are the spice which is used worldwide especially in Indian cooking. I have collected and ground some in recent years however I am resigned to the fact that the Irish summer cannot give this spice that alluring Indian flair. In this damp climate the leaves are a more reliable source of flavour. It is also a vital herb in Mexican salsas and guacamole so has a wide spectrum of cuisine uses.

It is quite easy to grow from seed in a poly-tunnel or on your windowsill from Feb to end May. It is also much hardier than one would imagine and can be planted outside from April on, either in the ground or in containers but requires a sunny position. It will bolt too quickly if it does not get plenty of feeding and watering so lavish it with attention and you will be rewarded. Cut frequently to encourage more foliage and store leaves in a plastic container in your fridge just like parsley or freeze in ice cubes if you have large quantities.

Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect. It has many medicinal qualities and has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iran. It can however produce an allergic reaction in some people, so if you feel repulsed by the flavour, take heed, you may be one of the unlucky ones!


West Kerry Live April 2013 May 9, 2013

Filed under: Published Articles — gretasherbs @ 12:50 pm



I must have been a rabbit in a former life because I just love fresh leafy salads! It is a real joy to wander around the garden and collect not just lettuce but the ever increasing salad herb selection which has become more popular and more available in recent years. These add flavour, crunch and colour to any salad, and a few leaves go a long, long way. Flavours on many such as Red Mustard are very acute and may be hot; so use sparingly. They are best added to lettuce which will create a subtle base for these enlivening flavorants. Many have their origins in Asia such as Chop Suey Greens (which is really Chrysanthemum coronarium). The Japanese use the leaves in tempura and the Chinese garnish soup with the petals from its pretty yellow and white/yellow two tone flowers.  I use it in stir-frys along with Mizuna! Anyone can grow these edibles quite simply in the open ground, raised bed or window box. If growing in containers, mix soil with compost and granular fertilizer. To ensure a plentiful supply, liquid feed weekly. There are many good, organic liquid feeds on the market. Salads should be featured at some stage of a meal, either as an appetizer to stimulate the appetite or after the main course to cleanse the palate and settle the stomach. Of course here in Ireland the salad is more often a side accompaniment munched along with everything else!

If space is limited, use the cut and come lettuce varieties. My favourite is Red and Green Salad. Just harvest the leaves as you require them but do not massacre the plant. Interplant with a selection of choice Salad Herbs: most are available as plants or mixed seed packs. However, for a novice the latter can prove too daunting – plus you may not be able to identify the various individuals and flavours can be extremely distinctive. Most provide cutting for approximately six to eight weeks, so I recommend planting or sowing every few weeks.  I like to grow in a location which gets half sun and half shade. Otherwise many bolt (go to seed) far too quickly as summer approaches. Everyone knows Rocket but the Wild variety is far superior – it has a strong, pungent flavour and has the added bonus of being a perennial (lasts for more than a year). If you get it to over-winter you will enjoy a continual harvest. Salad flowers are also trendy and fun, adding a touch of artistry to the dinner plate. Simple to grow; try Borage with its sky blue flowers, Chives with its pink ones and Old English Marigold and Nasturiums for the more brash reds and oranges.

Each year I try to grow and sample a few new varieties. This year it is Mizuna Red Knight with its colourful leaves, Tatsoi a ground-hugging member of the pak choi family and Mustard Greens Ruby Streaks which has attractive red serrated foliage but to my astonishment does not taste at all like a  Mustard. And, as the children in Scoil Bhreac Chluain cheerfully exclaimed: “this tastes like potato” – and how right they are! Next year hopefully I will try the Snow Pea Plant  (Pisum stivum), the tendrils and top few leaves are an important ingredient in Shanghai and Vietnamese cooking. They can of course also be added to Salads!