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I did my garden training in a garden in which the owner allowed a beekeeper to keep hives. The gardens were vast with different areas for roses, fruit trees, wild plants, woodland, unusual plants - all sorts. A real variety of pollen and nectar for the bees. Yet... the beekeeper decided to have the honey analysed to see what range of forage the bees had taken advantage of. And while there was some evidence of a small amount of wide ranging forage, most of the honey was from one favoured spot and in particular one type of tree! All those options, which they tried, but they stuck to what they liked! I have a feeling that the bees I look after are the same. Somebody has been nice enough to grow beans and that is what they will forage on. Forget the other bounty of forage around! We are told that monoculture is bad for bees (vast swathes of rapeseed for example) but the bees know what they like! They gorge on what they like.
On the other hand, I watch the hens and ducks in our garden. They love trying new things and unlike the bees, they add those new foods to their existing favourites. They enjoy not just melon (they do love melon!), but cabbage, lettuce, cold spaghetti, and annoyingly pretty much any herb I plant in the ground. This year, the ducks excelled themselves by adding my sweet peas to their broad ranging diet....
Which are you? Do you try new things because you think you ought to but prefer to stick to your bog standard herbs - the one flavour of Rosemary, the one flavour of Thyme, maybe two flavours of Mint (but that's pushing it...) and perhaps a bit of Curly Parsley? I know many folk who do. They know what they like and, whilst they will try new things, they always go back to their favourites. Or are you the sort of person who likes to change your favourites? You keep your old favourites of course but you add to them all the time.
I am the latter. There is a massive world of flavours out there - especially of herbs. You know the saying '80% of folk live just 20% of their potential'? Well I think it is the same with using herbs in cooking. Most of us use very few of the herbs we could be using.
This month is my favourite month for herbs because it is when my 'International Herbs' are ready! Papalo, Quillquina, Pipiche - great alternatives to Coriander which folk will insist on growing for Summer and then realise it is not a hot weather herb! Huacatay, Vietnamese Coriander, Lemon Grass, Thai Mint, Korean Mint. Such fantastic flavours which, during the Summer months when we don't want to be stuck in the kitchen, are so great added raw at the last minute to all manner of things for a scrumptious hit of flavour - drinks, BBQs, grilled food, salads, even ice cream. My friend Kirsty and I had a great time last year using them. You can check out our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdpTryRX_Jc&list=PL6TMvA4H9UqevGZTLFo-XsnbK3-EhPKee&index=7. (I approach making a YouTube video in the same way that I do with the Herbs - go for it, have fun, don't get too stressy about being overly professional!)
And just look at this photo. Salmon. Tomatoes. Chives. And then for the most amazing flavour you will ever taste (do I exaggerate? I think not...) Papalo! Raw. Scattered on top.
So - can I challenge you? Just dip into a herb book/go online. Look for a herb that is often used in a different country from your own. If you can grow it/buy it, go for it! Go on... There's a vast world of flavour out there. Try something new. And perhaps add it to your favourites...