Herbs According to Richters’ Scale

By J.J. Strong

The Richters 2011 herb and vegetable catalogue follows its usual style, with 74 pages full of seeds, plants, plugs, books, herbal oils, etc., as well as dates of many events and lectures.

It also contains many interesting items this year.

Richters has started “SeedZoo,” a project to preserve traditional and indigenous food plants from around the world.

Here’s a description:

“Teaming up with botanical explorers and ethnobotanists, we are searching for rare and endangered food plants that home gardeners can grow and enjoy, and help to preserve.

“Of the 7,000 or so species of food plants known to man, only 140 are cultivated commercially, and of those, most of the world’s food depends upon just 12.”

They are searching agricultural areas with small farms, jungles and small villages.

They have been to Borneo, Japan, Italy, and Africa and are planning to visit India, Vietnam and other places.

Herb of the year

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia, takes top honours as Richters’ herb of the year.

Most readers will associate it as a condiment with roast beef.

“It’s not a radish and has nothing to do with horses.” This is a very old and sturdy plant that, like most herbs, has reputed healing powers.

“To the Greeks, horseradish was worth its weight in gold because it could cure,” the authors write.

As a child, I can recall it at herbalist shops in back alleys in England. Today they are more accepted.

There has always been, since time immemorial, differences in opinion between the medical profession and herbalists of the healing powers of herbs. This was again brought to my attention with the TV program “Doc Martin” this week.

The leaves are large, coarse looking and not eaten. The value lies in the roots. There are primarily European and Japanese varieties.

Site and soil

Most garden sites will be fine, with sun, or part shade, providing it does not have complete shade. Dig the soil to a depth of at least 30.4 centimetres and incorporate manure, compost or leaf mould at that depth, as it likes deep, rich soil.

Planting

Any pieces of root, as short as 4.5 cm can be used. They are planted vertically in 25.4 cm holes, similar to crow bar holes. If the root has a bud at the top, only one should be left and the others removed.

If the roots are broken, the top should be cut across, level and a bud will form after planting. Plant with buds uppermost and replace soil in the holes. Water in dry conditions.

European varieties are hardy to Zone 3 and the Japanese are less hardy and will require protection.

Aftercare

Keep weed-free, but beware when hoeing not to break the roots. They are like, or worse than, perennial weeds. If the root is broken when lifting for harvesting or weeding, every piece left in the ground will sprout and form new plants and can eventually spread or invade the garden. Planting to harvesting takes two years.

New for 2011

There are [two new] English lavenders in Richters.

Folgate LavenderLoddon Blue Lavender


Folgate lavender, a deep dark mauve lavender, was developed at Folgate Nursery in England before 1924.

Loddon Blue lavender has mid- to dark-blue flowers and was introduced in 1959 by Lodden Nurseries in England. (Incidentally, it is near where I was born and I remember using seed from Loddon’s when I was gardening in England.)

Growing herbs is an interesting and important part of gardening for kitchen supplies.

To obtain your Richters Catalogue, write Richters, 357 Highway 47, Goodwood, Ont., L0C 1A0. Phone 1-800-668-4372 or 1-905-640-6677; fax 1-905-640-6641.


J.J. Strong is a longtime member of the Newfoundland Horticultural Society.

Originally published in the Corner Brook Western Star (Jan. 13, 2011) and the St. John’s Telegram (Jan. 15, 2011).
 
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