If there is one person to credit for the interest in herbs in this country, and the ever-growing range available for South African gardeners, it is Margaret Roberts, who has devoted herself to discovering all there is to learn about these fascinating plants, and to sharing her knowledge (and her plants) with us. Nowadays she does likewise with the healing plants or superfoods, so essential to our jolly good energy and vitality.
In this series she teams up with her daughter and business partner, nutritionist and chef Sandy Roberts, to bring us a weekly update from their busy farm near Hartbeespoort Dam that includes delicious wonderfood recipes plus tips on how to get the very best from the superfood garden.
Our early winter plantings of cauliflower and broccoli are coming into their full glory, and the baskets of pickings from the kitchen gardens are absolutely mouth-watering for on-the-go soups and stir fries.
Sandy is perfecting her art of stir frying into delicious, varied, quick lunch dishes, and this includes some of her exquisitely combined spicy herbal mixes. These meals are a marvellous break in the middle of the busy day, with a view into the garden – or sitting in the winter sunshine on a comfortable garden bench and enjoying every mouthful.
Cauliflower and broccoli really liven up the kitchen plantings and are beautiful enough to have as table decoration. Add florets to soups and stews, served steamed with lemon juice, Himalayan salt and a dash of Cayenne pepper, and keep away winter colds and flu.
Recipe: Cauliflower and Broccoli Stir Fry
- About ¼ cup olive oil- start with a little and add if needed
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- Juice of a lemon
- 1 cup chopped onion
- Himalayan salt
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 tsp finely grated ginger mixed in to ½ cup honey
- 2 cups of coarsely grated sweet potatoes
Stir fry the onions to lightly brown them, followed by the cauliflower, stir fry well and then add the broccoli. w add the juice of ½ a lemon, a grinding of Himalayan salt, and about ½ a cup of water. Now add ½ a cup of chopped celery, and then ½ a cup of honey into which 2 teaspoons of finely grated ginger root have been mixed. Stir fry gently. Finally add 2 cups of coarsely grated sweet potatoes with the other half of the lemon squeezed in – stir fry all the time. When tender and ready to serve grind over the stir fry a dusting of this tasty mixture of herbs and spices…
Recipe: Sandy’s Tasty Tantalizer
- 1 tbs coriander seed
- 1 tbs fresh rosemary
- 1 tbs sesame seed
- 1 tbs fresh thyme
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 2 tsp fenugreek seed
Grind everything together and sprinkle a little over the bubbling stir fry. Taste and add a little extra if needed. To really get the tastes combined, cover the pan with a large lid to literally ‘steam’ the vegetables and spicy flavourings for a few minutes. Serve piping hot with extra lemon wedges, spooned over a bed of rice.
Now is the time to plant Fenugreek. It is the most delicious annual and ‘spice mix’ plant and does particularly well with curries, and stir fries. As a sprout and as a salad ingredient it is delicious, as its leaves are filled with flavour, and it is easy to grow
A pot of fenugreek in the kitchen garden will have you running outside often to pick its flavour-filled leaves. Leave it to mature to reap your own fenugreek seeds, and as a sprout it is so packed with that curry taste you’ll find yourself growing it throughout the year. And fenugreek is a much loved medicinal herb too, as a digestive, and as a flavouring nothing quite touches it – try sprouting it on wet cotton wool for your stir fries. We post fenugreek all over the country – with instructions, and sprouted organic seed is worth its weight in gold.
Calendula is a colourful winter annual, and in the spring garden it is a beauty. But more importantly, its bright-orange petals are the most effective skin healer, softening, smoothing and soothing very dry skin, skin rashes, inflamed areas, problem skins, even acne and inflamed bites, spots and scratches.
Calendula Healing Cream
In a double boiler simmer together:
- 1 cup of good aqueous cream
- 1 cup of fresh calendula petals
Press the petals down well in the cream and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a new sieve (keep the petals to use, tied into a cheesecloth square, in the bath as a massage over dry skin – specially the heels, and hands, then discard).
Into the calendula-infused cream add:
- 2 tsp of vitamin E oil
- 2 tsp of grapeseed oil
- 2 tsp of avocado oil
Mix well and spoon into a sterilised screw-top jar. Use on scratches, chapped dry skin, massage into cracked heels, rashes, and onto rough flaky patches, and use as a face cream.
Recipe: Calendula Biscuits with Flaxseed Tea
Recipe for Flaxseed tea
- ¼ cup flax flowers and 1/2 tsp flaxseeds
- 1 cup boiling water
- A squeeze of lemon juice.
- 1 tsp honey to sweeten if needed
Calendula Biscuits (gluten free)
- 125g butter
- 1 cup gluten-free, all-purpose flour
- ½ cup castor sugar
- ½ cup fresh calendula petals
- 1 egg
- 1.5ml baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
In a mixer, cream the butter and the egg with sugar and spices until light and fluffy. Lastly add the dry ingredients and calendula petals, mix well and form into a roll. Cover with clingwrap and chill for 2-3 hours in the freezer. Slice into rounds 6mm thick and place onto a well greased baking tray. Bake at 180° for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
For more info
Note: Margaret Roberts has a fine selection of plants and seeds available from her nursery.
Words: Margaret Roberts
Styling and Pictures: Sandy Roberts