Tag Archives: Lemon verbena

Nijntje Jellies

Making jelly is a simple way to encourage little people to become interested in herbs and provide them with a different way to eat some useful ingredients.  The jelly eater that these were made for, selected the herbs herself from balcony pots.

You can use many combinations of fruit and juice, whatever you have fresh to hand really.  Apple juice is very useful to sweeten up a more sour juice and yoghurt adds more substance.  I like to add a dash of rosewater here and there but it is not essential.  Many herbs are unsuitable to children so be cautious, adding only a little of herbs you know are very safe for children.

Gelatin is an animal product.  Agar agar, dervied from seaweed, could be used in place of gelatin as a setting agent.

Nijntje Orange, Peach & Mint Jelly

5 leaves of gelatin
Juice of 2 large juicy oranges
Apple juice
1/2 fresh peach or nectarine (peeled and chopped)
A few clean, finely chopped leaves of fresh garden mint or lemon balm
Dash of rosewater
Bunny shaped food moulds (or food safe plastic cups)

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes before draining and squeezing out the excess.
2. Pour the squeezed orange juice through a seive into a measuring jug and top up to 250ml using apple juice.
3. Pour the fruit juices and dash of rosewater into to a small saucepan.
4. Add the soaked gelatin and chopped herbs. Heat very gently, not allowing to boil, stirring constantly until all the gelatin dissolves.
5. Add the chopped fruit and stir well to combine.
6. Pour carefully into the jelly moulds and allow to set in a refrigerator for a few hours.
7. Serve from the moulds or remove firstly.

Nijntje Carrot & Yoghurt Jelly

10 leaves of gelatin
125ml carrot juice
125ml pear juice / apple juice
250ml yoghurt
2 whole canned pears chopped
A few clean leaves of lemon verbena or mint or lemon balm, finely chopped
Pinch of ground ginger
Bunny shaped jelly moulds

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes before draining and squeezing out the excess.
2. Pour the juices and yoghurt into a saucepan, whisk up a little to combine.
4. Add the soaked gelatin, chopped herbs and ginger. Heat very gently, not allowing to boil, stirring constantly until all the gelatin dissolves.
5. Add the chopped pear and stir well to combine.
6. Pour carefully into the jelly moulds and allow to set in a refrigerator for a few hours.
7. Serve from the moulds or remove firstly.

Thyme (NL:Tijm)

Evergreen hardy perennial Thyme (Thymus spp.) originates from the Mediterranean, has a great number of medicinal and culinary uses and is easily grown in containers, making it ideal for the Urban Herbologist.  It is a strong herb containing volatile oils and should be avoided by pregnant women and used sparingly by others.

Growing Thyme in Containers
There are a vast number of Thyme varieties, each having a slightly different scent, appearance and flower colour. Thymus vulgaris is the Common Garden Thyme. All Thyme varieties have relatively shallow woody roots and form a soil covering carpet.  A healthy plant can be easily “split” to give you many new plants for free.  Being a Mediterranean herb, it does well in poor soil and should be allowed to dry out between waterings.  Thyme will quite rapidly use up the nutrients in soil, so do re-pot every year or so to encourage healthy growth. The leaves of Thyme  develop a more intense flavour and scent when grown in strong sunlight although dark leaved varieties can thrive in fairly shady locations.

This year I am experimenting with Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus) grown in a container, around the base of a Lemon Verbena.  I bought one small pot of organic Lemon Thyme from my local garden centre and split the plant into four before re-potting.  Lemon Verbena is quite a tender deciduous shrub so drops its leaves in winter and needs to come inside to survive. Thyme is winter hardy but has the same watering requirements as Verbena so they should do well together.  I’m also hoping that Thyme’s shallow roots won’t out-compete the Verbena, when spring arrives.

Historical uses
Since ancient times Thyme has been prized for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  It was used widely in combination with other herbs for; embalming, temple incense, nosegays to ward off disease, room purification and even to induce visions of fairies.  The Romans used it to add an aromatic flavour to cheese but generally ancient people used it medicinally.

Culinary uses
These days Thyme is best known as a culinary herb, it has a strong, pleasant flavour and reportedly has good antioxidant properties. Many stews, salads and sauces are enhanced by adding a little Thyme. Chicken and fish dishes are particularly well suited to it. Because of its strength I far prefer Thyme as a culinary herb, adding it to food more regularly when the cold and flu season is upon us.  If you like the taste of lambs liver, try cooking it with a simple sauce made from softened onion, garlic, chopped tomato and thyme.

Thyme remedies
Some people find Thyme tea a useful hangover remedy but it is more widely used as a throat gargle or mouthwash to help with sore throats or gum infections.  Thyme has expectorant properties so Thyme syrup or honey may be useful as a cough remedy.  However due to the strong volatile oils in this herb, it shouldn’t be used regularly as a tea, syrup or in any other concentrated form.

Thyme tea
To make tea from Thyme simply add a few fresh or dry sprigs to a 2 cup teapot (maximum 1/2 teaspoon of dried chopped Thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped Thyme), fill with boiling water and leave to steep – but only for a short time.  Check the taste and appearance after just five minutes, that should be enough to release some oils and impart a good flavour.   If you cannot seed oil droplets on the surface of the tea then you may like to leave it to steep a little longer, perhaps another five minutes but be cautious with this herb.  It is strong and the volatile oils are unsafe in concentration or when used regularly.

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