At the Stornoway Trust Nursery in the Castle Grounds we have been working on cultivating crops that can be used in our Woodlands Centre Cafe as we try to be more food miles aware.
We hope that some of these crops will also be of interest to the wider community.
We have identified several very exciting herbs, two of the most appealing for their novelty and potential are Samphire and Stevia.
Samphire will be familiar to many people from the veg aisle or if you have a keen interest in culinary trends.
Samphire propagated from cuttings
Samphire or Marsh Samphire has a crisp and salty taste which makes it an ideal accompaniment for many fish and lamb dishes. It also makes an interesting drinks garnish for a refreshing Gin and Tonic!
Whilst it does grow wild, particularly along the east coast areas of Britain, the main commercial production region is in Israel, where it is grown on sandy areas and irrigated from overhead.
Growing this herb has presented several challenges for us. Whilst the literature states it is easily grown from seed we have not found this to be the case. Our current plants have been propagated from cuttings which we have found establish readily. To ensure it provides the wonderful flavour you expect from the plant, we have been irrigating them using sea water. We hope to start supplying this plant soon for use.
Another highly exciting crop we are growing is the wonderful Stevia plant [stevia rebaudiana]. This plant is a native of Paraguay where it has been used for over 1500 years.
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It is familiar to many as it is used in the production of a sugar substitute. However the dried leaves of the plant are incredibly sweet and some cultures use them in cooking and fruit drinks. Stevia has many fascinating characteristics, the sweetener it contains has Zero calories and is up to 200X sweeter than cane sugar. Reputedly it can be consumed by people with diabetes, is high in anti oxidants and is valued as a healthier option by many people in various parts of the world.
One of the exciting thing we have on our aspirations list is to look into the possibility of producing herbal tea blends that could maybe be supplied to the Woodland Centre.