Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Basil and Dill

lia-june-700x468Little by little the greenhouse plants that have been sewn, potted on and juggled about for the last couple of months are finding their way outside. First they have to look sturdy and healthy, and to have produced a few leaves, then they get a week on the back steps – a gentle sunny and sheltered introduction to the outdoors – and finally they get planted out. And so the greenhouse slowly but surely empties out, leaving behind the detritus of the busy season: lines of spilt compost, abandoned labels, the pots of blank compost where germination failed.

The last to leave the propagating party are predominantly herbs, for varying reasons. Basil will stay here all summer, and in fact it is cheat’s basil. This is a supermarket pot of herbs designed to be chopped, eaten and chucked. I have watered it and teased apart its many plants and then planted them in a wide terracotta pot, cut them back (yum yum) and let them sprout again. They look like I grew them myself, but I didn’t. I always fail to grow good basil plants, and this seems like an ok compromise. If there is one thing basil hates it is cold nights, and so this pot stays tucked up in here each evening, when others are out there braving it. In fact the evenings feel warm enough now for them, but with my terrible track record with basil I am going to leave these right where they are. They look happy, and that is not something I can often say of basil.

But very much destined for the plot and a life out of doors are plugs of parsley and dill. The parsley is looking sturdy and very nearly ready to go, only requiring its week on the back step. The dill is looking like it will never be ready to go. Delicate and feathery, it has drawn itself up and flopped itself over, and the ends of the fronds turn crispy at the slightest provocation. This is annoying as I am a huge fan of dill and I was certain this year I was going to grow rows and rows of it. Perhaps a bit of tough love in the form of a quick move outside will shake them up. I’ll direct sow some too this week.

Should I eventually have handfuls of dill at my disposal I will almost certainly get through the lot in a few salads. Im a fairly recent discoverer of dill, and I have the passion of the new convert. While I get its association with fish, it is in salad dressings that I most love it. Try putting three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of white wine vinegar in a jar along with a pinch of salt, the same of sugar, and a few grinds of black pepper. Finely chop a small bunch of dill, add it to the jar and give it a good shake, then pour it over a salad of small lettuce leaves, softest avocado, and crispy fried still hot halloumi cheese. So delicious it can barely be called a salad.

But in addition to the heaps of dill I imagine I will have, I am also growing a great number of mini white cucumbers (currently on the back step) and my plan is to make enough cucumber and dill pickles to satisfy my pickle loving family, which wont be easy. Cucumber and dill love each other as much as we love them and I can’t wait to put them together. Let’s hope both come good once they are out on the plot.