Generally speaking we are at odds with the biological imprint of plants that we grow to harvest their leaves.  The plant is programmed to produce the seed for propagation of the species. We are trying to obtain as much of the accessory product as we can get by stripping, to some extent, this requirement of the pant to grow and produce progeny. The plant needs to grow enough to generate enough of the energy factory to successfully maintain its own viability with enough energy for seed production. 

Plant growth is dependent on a few things. Air which generally is not an issue,light,  water, and some essential elements such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Water is supplied by rain or by careful watering of the ground around the roots. We know that plants enjoy a well drained medium that allows a rapid passage of water past the roots and away. It generally won't tolerate a continuous bathing of water around its roots and in fact this is more likely to harm the plant rather than help or be of no significance.

Nitrogen is a material needed to be supplied to the plant root  Sometimes the soil environment is naturally able to provide this element. Plants such as legumes have an amazing property of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere and converting it to usable nitrogen in its own roots. When the Nitrogen fixing plant dies the Nitrogen produced, stays in the soil and other species are able to access this. Nitrogen is required for protein production of all kinds including the leaf material, the flower substance and the root material.

Phosphorus is required to produce many of the energy requirements used to transfer materials against concentration and energy gradients and for "simple" metabolism and growth of the plant itself.

Potassium is required to allow plants to pump materials around and into the plant. This generally is associated with Sodium requirement but sodium is ubiquitous and rarely is required to be added as an element for plant growth. There are few situations where sodium is so low as to be needed as an added nutrient. A notable exception would be in hydroponic growing fluid. Potassium is most notable in the production of flowers and is added by plant growers to hasten this aspect. There are other elements required at generally less abundant levels and most are naturally present in soils. Elements such as the trace elements and elements that may be required to buffer extremes of pH. These aspects are more specialised and beyond the scope of this basic presentation.

As mentioned we are acting to frustrate the plant and stimulating its need to succeed. Actions like removing flowering parts or the growing tips of plants stimulate the plant to produce more of these parts. Along with this we observe an increase of leaf material, generally the stuff we're after. If the plant beats us to flowering we observe two things. A change in the quality of leaf material and the amount plus the flavour of the leaf material itself. This irreversible for this part of the growth of the plant. If the plant is an annual the processed has finished and we must grow new plants to be able to continue on our quest.

If the plant is perennial then we are a little luckier as the plant will again transform in its natural cycle to produce more of the herbaceous stuff we're after. Remember that to gain maximum material for our need we need to prevent the plant from flowering while maintaining he conditions required for active growth. Light, moisture, Nitrogen Phosphorus, a little potassium and stop the flowering of the plant if we wish to harvest the leaves.  

Ways of supplying the plant the essentials of growth artificially.

Nitrogen can be supplied in one of three ways: Adding well composted humus as extra material to the plant. The compost can be produced by a simple but time demanding process of creating a heap of vegetable matter. this should be well aerated and moist. It shouldn't dry out and it must be turned frequently to allow diffusion of oxygen for the digestion to occur. If the compost is added too early to the growing plants it can have an effect opposite to that we require. The Nitrogen is not yet available and in fact the growing plant can be precipitated into a nitrogen deficient state. The humus is utilising the soluble nitrogen by the composting bacteria. This will reverse when the compost is mature. The solution is to add soluble supplement of nitrogen. The single most available source of nitrogen is agricultural urea. 

An easy way to add Potassium is to add ashes from burned wood or paper to the soil. The Potassium is immediately available and will be used by the plant rapidly. Phosphorus is most easily supplied by the addition of "Superphosphate" this is a semi-synthetic product made from calcified bird droppings treated with acid and made availabe as a powdered material.

The three elements can be added as garden quality fertiliser. The levels of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are genrally marked on the pack. Simply follow the instructions. It is best and recommended that plants grown with fertiliser be cycled through different soils for  plants rather than using the same soil for successive years. This is because of soil salt build up and condition plus the potential for plant disease to get a hold. Perennials are best repotted if this is the method of plant nutrition to be used.

A more natural way is to add compost. This must be well decomposed to be effective without the need for secondary supplements. Suggest material that has been composted throughout a whole warm seasons period.

The third way is to grow the plants hydroponically. This is a specialised technique and requires reasonably expensive materials to start up. Hobbyists and production horticulturists are the sources of info on this method.

Adding water to the plant should be carefully controlled. Plants shouldn't be over-watered. Deep soil checks are the most reliable method to determine the plants need for water addition. Occasionally there are plants which require specialised atmospheric moisture. Two methods come to mind. 9a) Surround the base of the plant with water but do not place the plant in water. Most easily done with potted plants in still air environments. Place a layer of pebbles around the base of the pot-plant and add enough water to this base so that the level does not impinge into the base of the pot. (b) Cover the plant with a plastic bag. this will maintain a high humidity but be careful of over-heating the plant by placing the plant in early morning sun and protect from middle day hot sun. This can cook the leaves.



(Zingiber officionale)


Select a root from your grocery store’s produce section and get growing!

Ginger root is sold in a clump that’s often called a “hand.” You’ll want to choose a hand that’s fresh and firm with as many “fingers” as possible. To get as many plants as you can, cut or break the fingers off the main root. Each section with a growing tip will become a plant. Be sure to allow any cut surfaces to dry before planting them in moist soil.

The tubers generally are seen at the surface so don't bury the tuber to any extent. A light covering of potting mix to maintain the moisture will do .

Planting is easy : Simply pick a pot that’s at least twice the diameter as the length of your root section. Fill it ¾ full with standard potting soil, and place the small root sections on the soil surface. Water it well. Your plant will survive dry spells, but to get the most consistent growth, keep it damp at all times. Place your ginger pot in a spot where it’ll stay warm. There’s no need to find a sunny spot on your windowsill. At this stage, your ginger actually grows better without direct sunshine.

Galangal: Greater galangal
(Alpinia galanga)


Once again you can start the plant with Galangal purchased at the fruit market or grocer's. Plant the tuber with at least two eyes.
Galangal requires warm-temperate to subtropical conditions, and grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soils.
Galangal is an annual crop, grown by seed or from rhizome segments; cut them so that each segment contains one or two buds. Keep the soil moist. Rhizome rot is the principal problem.
For fresh culinary use, dig up the rhizomes in late summer or early autumn, usually after the leaves have yellowed off. Replant a sett or two for subsequent harvests.

Galangal can be planted on ridges, usually about 30 cm apart and with 15-23 cm between plants. The crop is planted by setts (small rhizomes) with one or two buds. Plant in spring, after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed up at a depth of 5-10 cm. Galangal grows well in pots. It is a perennial herb, between one and two metres in height, depending on variety. The leaves are 25-35 cm long, rather narrow blades, prefers rich, moist soil in a protected, shady position and is drought and frost tender.

Lemon Grass:
(Cymbopogon citratus or C. flexuosus)


Go to an Asian food market or where you can buy lemongrass that is in whole stalks. Look for as much of the root bottom as possible, but even ones with even a portion of the heel left on will root. Put your selections in a glass or jar of water. In a few days they start sprouting roots, but some may take much longer.
Transplant directly into your pot or soil and give it good light.
Grow in a frost-free place in full sun or light shade. The herb likes moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. It grows best in warm, humid conditions. It can also be grown in a container or in the greenhouse. If you move your plant outdoors for the summer, allow it to acclimatize over a number of days, first placing it in shade, then moving it to part shade before giving it full sun. Both of the common species are fast growing perennials that grow to 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. They have long, light green leaves and inconspicuous flowers. Lemon grass is hardy in zones 9-11. In other areas it is grown as an annual or brought indoors over the winter. The leaf edges are sharp and can cause cuts.



Easy to grow from seedlings or seeds. Need fertile organic rich soil. Well drained. Temp min  (Zone 9 or 10) , Fertilise regularly with liquid fertiliser during the growing season and when fruit appears and matures it is important to remove the fruit, other wise there will be an inhibition of fruit production. Chillies can be sun-dried or frozen for delayed usage.

Ideally the plant will grow in an 8 to 10 in pot. When the plant reaches 6 in in height, pinch off the growing tip, This will stimulate peripheral branching. Water a couple of times a week and avoid flooding the plant. Begin the planting in later winter and keep inside until the autumn days have warmed reliably. Transplant the seedlings at about 6 inches.

The Thai basils:

There are 4 varieties of basil used in Thailand:

1. Thai (sweet) basil, horapha [โหระพา], Hung Que (vietnamese), Ocimum basilicum, Thai purple basil. => Aniseed flavour.

2. (Thai) sacred basil, (Thai) holy basil, krapao [กะเพรา], Tulsi or Tulasi (india), Hot Basil, Ocimum sanctum. =>Little bit furry. Religious

use in India, culinary use in Thailand.

3. Thai lemon basil, hoary basil, manglak [แมงลัก], Ocimum citriodorum. => don't know it,but it's supposed to have a nice lime flavour.

4. Tree basil, Ocimum gratissimum. => don't know it. (This is a hot basil used in some so called jungle curries)

Attribution:  for the images and information above

There is a great confusion around Basils used in Thai cuisine. This is mostly due to the Aniseed flavoured basil, Horapha. There are 250 different cultivars of this basil type and only one that is the Thai Sweet basil. It is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum. If you look at the image on the left the first column is a front and back view of the Thai sweet basil, Horapha the cultivar of Ocimum basilicum  used in many Thai dishes such as green Curry chicken.

The Holy basil or Sacred basil is a spicy edged basil used for basil fried with pork dish, Phad Grapow Muu. This is possibly the most well known lunch dish in thailand. It's a dish that travellers are often introduced to and many like it so much that they rotate their meal selections around, Green Curry Chicken, Phad Thai and Phad Grapow Muu. The third column is the most commonly used basil in European cuisine. It also is a cultivar or Ocimum basilicum.

Thai Basil (Horapa):

(Ocimum basilicum cultivar)


Thai Basil, is one of the very few perennial basils, while most other varieties are annuals, which you'll have to plant year after year. 
Start seed indoors four to six weeks before last frost. Fill flats with equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Press soil slightly to eliminate air pockets. Dampen soil.
Drop one to two seeds into each container. Cover lightly with soil.
Cover containers with clear plastic kitchen wrap and leave in a sunny window. Remove plastic wrap when plants emerge. Water lightly twice daily.
Once two sets of leaves have formed, basil can be planted into the garden or permanent containers. Basil does not tolerate frost so don't plant out too early.
Make plants bushy by pinching off the top two pairs of leaves once a stalk reaches a reasonable height. The more you do this (without overdoing it), the more new shoots the plant will send out, becoming bushy instead of tall and sparse. You end up with more plant overall.
If you're depending on a basil plant for cooking, don't let it bloom! When you see flower buds, pinch them and two pairs of leaves under them off. Flowers blooming create a hormone change which dramatically reduces the flavor of the leaves, as well as reducing the amount of foliage which grows.

Holy Basil (Kra phao):
(Ocimum tenuiflorum variety)


This can be grown from seed or as potted seedlings. Similar conditions to Thai basil.

(Trigonella foenum-graecum)


Fenugreek sketch

Trigonella is a genus of half hardy annual herbs that reach from 30 to 60cm in height. If growing for culinary use then seed pods should be cut off the plant once they have ripened; allow the Trigonella seed pods to dry in the sun, then remove the seeds and store in a dry and airtight container.
It is best to sow Fenugreek seeds outdoors in the herb garden. Sow them at about 6mm deep into a warm soil in the middle of spring. It should only take a couple of days for the seeds to germinate; if germinating Fenugreek indoors then give them a temperature of about 20 to 25 º Centigrade.

Ideally Fenugreek (Trigonella) should be spaced at about 10cm apart and grown in an area that has lots of sun and a well drained soil that is rich and slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6 to 7). The plants take little looking after, give them a splash of water if soil becomes dry. If you require more Trigonella plants then it is best to grow from seeds.

(Antethum Graveolens)


Dill is a member of the Parsley family, and grows from 18 to 42 inches, depending upon variety. The most popular varieties are 24-36 inches. Dill are grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden in the spring. Sow seeds early in the season, and cover lightly with soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 9" apart, in rows 12 inches apart. Dill is easy to grow. They prefer full sun and a well drained soil. They will do well in average soils, and tolerate dry soil conditions. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week.Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.

The dark green leaves are called "Dill Weed". Harvest leaves at any time. The young, tender leaves are best for flavor. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed, and the flower head has died. Tie a group of stems together and hang upside down to dry. Make sure to have a container or bag under them to catch seed. Once they are dry, shake out the remaining seeds.

Laksa leaf; Rau Ram:
(Persicaria odorata)


Easy to grow herb. There are many suppliers of the plant as a potted seedling. Seeds themselves are available but it seems as if you need to locate a specialist seed supplier.

The plant likes a warm humid environment ( tropical origin) . Simple to grow, rau ram requires regular trimming, part shade and more water than it should given the emptiness of our dams, but as a salad herb, it’s delicious and that alone justifies its presence . Given the right moist, healthy conditions rau ram, like mint, quickly becomes invasive. Keep it potted instead and vow to use it regularly. Amazingly, it roots easily if a sprig is placed in small a glass of water and left on the windowsill. It will die if the temp falls below 0C ( 32F) so it's a bring indoors winter plant. In the growing season water regularly in a rich open soil. Use Nitrogen fertiliser freely. At the end of the season it will probably need re-potting or at least dividing.  It rarely sets seeds and for this reason the seeds are not commonly available. Fallen stems will simply strike and that's the natural propagation.

(Crocus sativus)


Growing saffron is very easy, it is disease and insect resistant, and it requires little attention year after year. Its requirements are simple: Plant the bulbs (technically they’re corms) in the summer, harvest the stigmas in the autumn and if you get around to it, divide the plants every four years or so.

A standard “starter kit” of 50 saffron bulbs will cost around $30, and will produce less than a tablespoon of seasoning the first harvest. Each year, though, you get more blossoms and more spice from these bulbs, increasing from one or two blooms per bulb the first year, to eight blooms or more by the third year.

Plant the corms 6 in. apart and 3 in. deep in rich, well-drained soil. Using your 50 bulbs, this will create a saffron bed about 2 ft. by 5 ft. As a bonus, you may plant this bed with summer annuals, while the saffron is lying in wait beneath the mulch for its autumn growing season.

Fresh saffron threads can be used immediately for cooking, or they can be dried and stored. Drying the saffron threads is a simple process of placing the strands on a paper towel for several days in a warm, dry place. You should then transfer the dried saffron to an airtight container and keep it in on a cool shelf.

(Coriandrum Sativum)


  The plant is called Cilantro, while the seeds are called Coriander. It is also called Chinese Parsley...yes, it's a member of the Parsley family. It has parsley like leaves, and produces a profusion of small, white flowers the second year. Seed have a pleasant odor when ripe, and are sweet tasting. Cilantro grows up to three feet tall. Cilantro plants are grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden after all danger of frost. Cover lightly with fine garden soil. For a jump start, sow a few seeds indoors in containers for transplanting later. Thin plants to 6" apart. Cilantro grows well in full to partial sun and a well drained soil. They will do well in almost any soil, and is tolerant dry soil conditions.

Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.

Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Extract seeds and dry them in a cool, dry location. Tip: If growing for seeds, replant every year for a continuous supply. Harvest the Coriander seeds in the second year, after the flower head has died. Cut the stems and tie together. Hang them in a cool, dry place to dry out. Make sure to place a container under them to capture falling seeds. When dry, place flower heads in a bag and shake to harvest seeds. Make sure seeds are completely dry before storing.


(Cuminum cyminum)


Grown from seeds. It is successfully grown in places like Norway so it does grow well in the north  :) The plant is frost-tender, can take up to 4 months from seeding to harvest, and likes warm to hot growing weather. The general rule for herb and spice plants is that their soil needs are not demanding, save that the soil must be very well-drained: few herb or spice plants can stand "wet feet". The soil should not be particularly rich, most especially not for flavoring plants we grow for their seed (or fruit), common mis-advice to the contrary notwithstanding: a rich soil will lower the concentration of the "aromatic oils" that give the seed its characteristic flavor, which is the very thing we are growing them for. Plants that are very slightly nutrient-stressed (which doesn't mean starved!) give better-tasting seed.

Let the seedlings stay quite close together, as that lets them support one another as their relatively heavy seed heads develop. Water very well: cumin likes a damp climate (but, as almost always with spices, not "wet feet"). Cumin is said to be "intolerant" of long periods of dry heat,  misting could be wise in such periods.

The availability of honey bees as pollinators will usually improve cumin yields.

Cumin "seeds" notoriously ripen unevenly, so you need to keep a close eye on your crop and harvest plants individually, lest the heads shatter prematurely. Let each plant grow till its first set of seeds dries enough to crack when pinched (it can take up to 120 days to produce mature seed; at that time, cut the plant. Hang cut plants to dry over a catch-cloth; when they are thoroughly dry, dump them into a holding bag (which you will later use for threshing them).

When your crop is fully harvested, thresh the lot: beat the holding bag in which you have collected them against a hard surface to dislodge the seeds. Sift the loose seeds through a 3-inch mesh hardware cloth to remove the chaff. Make absolutely, positively sure the seeds are thoroughly dried before putting them away for storage (in the usual manner for dried herbs and spices: an airtight container stored in a dark place, preferably a cool one).

Curry (tree):
(Murraya Konegii)

This plant is well documented as causing a severe rash to some hypersensitive individuals similar to that seen with poison Ivy and Ruus leaf reactions.

Family:Rutaceae. Common name: Curry leaf. Native to India. Large shrub to small tree (2 to 5 meters). Pinnate leaves are used in many South Indian curries. Full sun or light shade. Fertilize with palm or citrus fertilizer to promote leaf production. Grows well in containers. Use a well drained potting mix. Can be grown outdoors in Southern California, South Texas and South Florida. Protect from freezing. Cover seeds 1/4 inch. Keep warm (above 75F). Seeds are fragile so handle with care. Seeds are shipped in moist peat-moss/coir mix and should be planted immediately. Some plant nurseries have these available occasionally so it may well help to speak to them and see what information they may have for availability. 

There are a lot of anecdotal writings on this plant and it may be worth your while doing a search on the web to see what has been lucky or otherwise.

Thai aubergines
(Solanum melongenum; S. xanthocarpum)


In the Northern Hemisphere, (spedifically Europe and the USA), Thai aubergines will probably be the most difficult and finicky of all these exotics for cultivation. Still quite possible but requires extending the warmth for fruit production so that you can provide 15 weeks of continuous "warm weather". This requires production of seedlings then a subsequent transplant of the seedlings. The most scientific reviews suggest a 4 to 6 week period as seedlings followed by a nine week period of outdoor planting. In the northern hemisphere this corresponds to a seed planting at mid-May. Transplanting into the beds on the 1st July. 

In the USA and Europe, the beds should be prepared on the 15th June. prepare using large amounts of organic material so that the beds are raised, rich in humus and well drained. The best recommendation is to cover the beds in black plastic mulch.  You need to keep the bed warmth up and tips for this include the use of plastic milk bottles filled with water and set up amongst the seedlings. For watering the plants the University of Louisiana recommends drip irrigation as the plants are sensitive to water stress. Plant spacing of 18 inches is recommended. 

The fruits should be picked as they become ready, judged by size as the fruits are relatively heavy. A suggestion is no more than four fruit per plant to ensure good development and proper ripening. It may be good practice to support the branches of fruit bearing shoots.

      The Purple aubergine pictured above, is not one of the Thai kinds. This in fact is a Chinese variety

Pea aubergines: (ma khuea phuang) มะเขือพวง
(Solnum torvum)


These may also be known as Turkey Berries. Presumably a US regional colloquial name. If anyone has information on this plant I would be most grateful for your input.

( Little I can locate on this variety specifically. It seems that it grows wild in some parts of north America and possibly in semi arid regions? I would be tempted to follow the recommendations for Thai aubergines. )

(Curcuma domestica)


Turmeric needs rich moist soil, ample water and a warm, sunny location. In cooler climates it can be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory. It needs generous feeding, preferably with animal manure. Plant the rhizomes in spring and lift them around 7 months later or when the lower leaves begin to yellow. Choose pieces of rhizome with healthy buds to replant for next year's crop.

A large-leafed tropical plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) family that grows from a brown rhizome with bright yellow flesh. The plant grows to about 1m tall and bears white to pale yellow flower spikes. The yellow tubers are the source of the pungent spice

(Pandanus amaryllifolius)


Unless you live in a sub-tropical to tropical region then you will have to source you Pandanus through a nursery. They can grow in a pot successfully but the critical temperature cut-off is  zone 9 or 10. They must be kept above this at all times so it means either bringing them inside or placing them in a green-house. They shouldn't be waterlogged and should dry between waterings. Winter watering is minimal. Transition from winter inside to summer outside should be done cautiously because of leaf burn. They need some time to adapt.

c. elettaria, c. amomum


Cardamon sketch

May be grown indoors in pots. It is possible to grow from seed but difficult. Seeds from from those supplied as spice are not fertile as they are harvested when unripe and dried.

Fertile seeds need to be pretreated either by scarification or by gentle nitric acid hydrolysis.

The most successful method is by plant division and re-potting. The potting soil should be predominantly compost as normally the plant is a jungle ground plant.

The plants doesn't like drafts or temperature change. For home cultivation your best choice is to grow them in a warm, humid and shady place. A bathroom may approximate this. It is recommended to grow the plant set on a bed of pebbles in some water. The pot should not be in direct contact with the water it is a ploy used to maintain high humidity only.

Feeding is recommended during the active growing period using a high nitrogen, low potassium fertiliser. The plant is not susceptible to pest infestation. Brown leaves is almost certainly a sign of over-watering. Watering should be limited to twice weekly maximum.

(Piper nigrum)


Black pepper is a tropical vine with attractive heart-shaped leaves, which needs to be grown indoors in the UK. With patience and good cultivation you can grow this as a houseplant to produce your own peppercorns.
Pepper will not survive out of doors even during the summer in non-tropical climates. Usually propagated by seed. Sow the seeds in offsets from an established plant. The plant needs several years growth(? 4) before it will be mature enough to fruit. Pepper doesn't seem to be prone to pest attack so it's usually healthy. Even aphids dislike the taste of the leaves.

Seeds and plants are available from a few nurseries.

Keffir Lime Tree
(Citrus hystrix)

The Keffir lime tree is a dwarf citrus so size-wise ideal for indoor cultivation or green house growing. Best grown indoors in temperate climates. Cultivation from seed is unreliable so you are encouraged to find a supplier of a grafted tree preferably a year old.
Pot up the plant into a 16 inch plastic or foam pot with a good drainage bed,. Potting soil should contain ~25% compost mixed well with approx half a cup of slow release fertiliser. Bury the roots completely with the soil mix. water in well. Place the plant near a window but not over heating/cooling vents. Good air circulation. Check soil moisture regularly and don't over-water. Misting of the leaves is recommended. The plant requires acid soil so to maintain this you need to add 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom Salts  (Magnesium Sulphate) dissolved in a quart of room temp water and add this to the soil every two months. The plant is not noticeably pest problematic but be vigilant and keep the tree away from other mite or scale infested plants.

To set fruit from blooms your best bet is to take the plant outside when flowering and let the insects do their work. of course if you are passionate and skillful then you can pollinate adjacent flowers with a soft mini-brush.

Garlic (Thai):


Thai garlic is a cultivar. It is smaller in size with multiple segments covered in a purple skin. It's easy to eat Thai garlic fresh and has a milder flavour than many of the European and other Asian varieties. The growing of Thai garlic is the same as for other varieties. Sadly Thai garlic is being replaced in it's own country by cheaper imported varieties because of FTA agreements with China and is causing some economic hardship to the farmers in the north who traditionally grew this crop along with tobacco. Now both reducing in their demand. 

Unfortunately emotive and unsubstantiated statements from peoples like  Kingkorn Narinthornkul na Ayudhaya of FTA Watch. "Thai garlic is better in taste and medicinal properties, such as preventing cancer"... . Do nothing to help the crisis in fact probably turn people away.

There are a bout 600 cultivars of garlic some naturally occurring and some through millenia of cultivation. Just try growing the plants from the sections as you would any garlic and see what happens. If unsuccessful suggest you use commercial garlic.

Star Anise:
(Illicium verum)


Can be propagated from seed or layered cuttings. By seed it does not require pre-treatment and can be sown in early spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold over the winter for the first year or two.

Prefers a light, moist well-drained loam and a sheltered position, a humus-rich lime-free soil. Succeeds in sun or semi-shade. This species is not very cold-hardy, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c and requires a very sheltered position or the protection of a wall when grown in Britain. The plant typically reaches a height of 3 m in the UK but 8 m in it's indigenous grounds. The seeds are harvested in October in the northern hemisphere.

Chinese Celery


There are a number of cultivars of Chinese celery and the flavour is considerably stronger than "normal" celery. The plant is smaller with thin hollow round stems and the leaves look like cilantro. Often the roots are sued as well as the stems and leaves. Celery has a very high allergic reaction and is well documented for causing anaphylaxis in the sensitised individual. Chinese celery grows best in a cold climate, 60-75 F. Plants may need shading if grown in warm summer season. Seeds are very small and seed generation can be erratic. Several unique characteristics are observed for the seed germination - germinating best in cold condition (50-60 F) but poorly in higher temperature; germinating best with seeds uncovered and in the light. Soil should be kept moist during the seed germination and seedling growth stage.

(Nigella Hispanica)


Fennel is  easy to grow and very hardy, lasting well after the first frost. With bright green, fern-like leaves and aromatic yellow flowers, this plant will grow three to four feet tall. Foliage and seeds have an anise-like flavor. Fennel are grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden as early in the season as the ground can be worked. Sow seeds early in the season and cover with 1/4" of soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 10-12" apart, in rows 18-24 inches apart.Start a new planting in mid summer to harvest in the autumn. They prefer full sun and a well drained soil. They will do best in rich soils.Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.

Harvest leaves as at any time. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Extract seeds and dry them in a cool, dry location. Harvest bulbs when they reach tennis ball size or bigger. Pull every other one out as needed to allow those remaining to grow even bigger. Do not pull these plants up in advance of the first frost. They are very hardy and should continue to thrive and grow, even after a number of hard frosts.


(Carum Carvi)


Caraway does not produce flowers until the second season. Once it does bloom, the flowers are loaded with seeds for drying. You can use the leaves as soon as the plant gets big enough to produce enough to meet your cooking or garnish needs. Caraway grows about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Caraway are grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden and cover lightly with soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 12" apart  in rows 12 inches apart. Caraway prefers full sun and a well drained soil. They will do well in average soils and tolerate dry soil conditions. Water them during dry periods, once a week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.Plant these biennials in an area of your Herb garden where they will grow undisturbed, and not be in the way when it is time to plant your annual herbs next spring.

Harvest leaves as soon as there is enough to meet your needs. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Cut back stems and tie together. Hang them upside down to dry with a bag or pan under them to catch falling seeds. Shake the bundle to extract remaining seeds.


Watercress Herbs


Watercress is a dark green, leafy vegetable with a zesty pepper-like taste. It is an aquatic type plant and is related to the Nasturtium family. Watercress is grown along creeks and stream-beds. Plants grow partially submerged. Watercress produces small white flowers all summer long. Watercress grows in rich soil along stream-beds and creeks. Plants grow partially submerged in shallow water. Plants should be in full sun. Cool weather is best. Watercress is grown from seed. Start plants indoors in rich seed starting soil. Keep soil moist. Transplant seedlings outdoors along slow flowing creek-beds.

Harvest leaves and young stems before the flowers bloom, as it becomes too bitter and pungent to eat. Cut leaves,wash and dry them, and store in the refrigerator.

Anecdote: I have successfully grown this in the tropics in both a sealed terracotta 8 inch pt and an ice-cream container. The only maintenance is water top- up with rain-water if available and tap-water in the dry season and an occasional thinning.

(Wasabia japonica)


There are other species and various cultivars of the one species. Growing requirements are fairly similar.

Wasabi can be grown in our own gardens. It is successfully grown in the US for commercial application. The best Wasabi is grown from direct water feeds from clean mountain streams without any addition of fertiliser or other additives. Having said that hydroponics is now being used for commercial production to increase the output and the economics of production. Tissue culture has been used for a few decades very successfully and is a very effective way to prevent disease spreading throughout the genome. Seed cultivation is used on a cycle every few years to maintain disease freedom and genetic integrity. It's a very well studied plant both scientifically and industrially.

Home gardeners can certainly grow the plant by hydroponics if they are set up for this. Seedlings are available as tissue cultured specimens and thus are guaranteed disease free so easy to import. Seeds may be available from people in the know and if this is something you wish to pursue there is the internet resource and searches for who has seed supplies, the other less obvious resource may be your Japanese restaurant or store proprietor or family. It may be worth the effort to inquire.

As a native to Japan (hence the name Japanese horseradish) these tubers can tolerate most conditions but prefer shaded, well-drained areas for success. Yet while light isn't a big factor in their growth, water is. So, if you have any damp, shady areas within your vegetable patch then you've found the ideal tenant. It generally requires a climate with an air temperature between 8°C (46°F) and 20 °C (70°F), and prefers high humidity in summer. Since it is quite intolerant of direct sunlight, Wasabi is typically grown under shade cloth or beneath a natural forest canopy.

Wasabia japonica plants are slow growing perennials with a rooted, thickened stem (rhizome), long petioles and large leaves. All parts of the wasabi japonica plant, including rhizomes, roots, stems and leaves are harvested, processed and valued for use. The rhizome serves as storage for the plant’s nutrients (similar to a potato) and is where the flavors tend to be most concentrated. The appearance of the wasabi rhizome is similar to a "brussel sprout" stalk after the sprouts are removed. The long stems (petioles) of the Wasabia Japonica plant emerge from the rhizome to grow to a length of 12 to 18 inches and can reach a diameter of  up to 40 mm (1 ½ in).  They terminate into single heart shaped leaves that, in optimum conditions, can reach the size of a small dinner plate.

It can take  18-24 months or longer before the root is of a size worthy to be dug up.

The preparation of the wasbai for eating is to grate it with an ultra fine grate. In the picture above they have used a steel grater but the purist uses a shark skin grater which is believed to give a more homogeneous product. The grated material can be dried but the flavourings are very volatile so you lose a lot of the tang when dried like this. Commercially wasabi is available as a pungent powder which you mix with water to produce the edible pate. The production of the powder is a carefully controlled process and does give a product identical to fresh wasabi. There are however a lot of faux wasabis in the market place probably simply replacing the wasabi paste with horseradish and an appropriate colourant.

(Ferula assafoetida)


Asafetida is a giant fennel native to Afghanistan and India with a notoriety to match its size. Actually, the plant itself is a rather attractive ornamental in the garden; it’s the nasty smell of the oleoresin harvested from the roots that probably gave rise to its alternate name devil’s dung. (Asafetida and assa-foetida mean “stinking resin”; Ferula simply means “giant fennel”.) This unlikely “food of the gods” was esteemed by the Romans and is today highly regarded in India as a condiment, thought by some to stimulate the brain. Only a tiny piece of the resin or a speck of the powdered form is needed to flavor a batch of pickles or a dish of vegetables or dal. The penetrating, rancid, garlicky-onion smell (which becomes overwhelming when the resin is ground) and sharp, bitter taste are mellowed and made more palatable by frying the ground asafetida in oil, and in that form it is often used as a substitute for onion or garlic. To avoid contaminating other foods with the odor, store asafetida in resin form in a tightly closed glass jar. It will keep for years.

The herb is hardy at least to Zone 6, making a striking clump of robust stalks up to 6 feet tall. Give it plenty of room. The leaves are ferny and fennel-like. The flowers, in numerous small umbels, are yellow. A purchased plant may bloom the first year; plants grown from seed may take a couple of years to flower. For good germination, sow fresh seed in deep pots in autumn, and winter them in a cold frame or refrigerator. Germination is usually low and may take three to four weeks, so be patient. Asafetida grows best in moist, fertile soil in full sun. Plants have long taproots, and large specimens are thus difficult to transplant. Mulch well and water during dry periods. In cold regions, mulch the crown thickly in winter. The asafetida resin is obtained by slashing the roots of mature plants before they flower in summer, waiting a few weeks for the milky sap to ooze out and harden, and scraping up the resulting reddish resin.

(Sesamum indicum)


Sesamum is a genus of half hardy annual herbs that reach from 30 to 90cm in height. They bloom in the summer carrying tubular flowers of violet, pink or white. Some of the common names for members of the Sesamum genus include Sesame and Benne.

How to grow Sesame:
The seeds of Sesame, Benne and other Sesamum should be sowed outdoors at a depth of 6mm about 25cm apart. Do this towards the end of spring when temperatures remain above 15 degrees at night. It should take about a week for the seeds to germinate once temperatures reach 20 to 30 degrees. Ideally the sesame plants should be grown in a sunny area that is well drained; the soil type is not important.
If you plan to start indoors then sow about 2 months before due to be transplanted outdoors (end of spring).

To harvest Sesame seeds, the stalks should be cut off when the top seed pods have turned green, but before the bottom pods have opened (try to cut the stalks when it will result in a better harvest). The sesame should then be put into a paper bag and allowed to air dry. Rub the bag to release the sesame seeds, and store them in a resealable container..


Poppy seeds.
Papaverus Somniferum)


It is illegal to grow Papavera somnifera poppies anywhere in the world for the purpose of producing opium. In many countries it is illegal just to cultivate the plant. The control schedules are country specific.

Poppy seeds for culinary purposes are seeds from P somniferum grown with permit but have been sterilised by radiation. These seeds are commonly available for purchase through many retail food outlets. Dried poppy heads for decoration are available by mail order through a number of outlets online.

Generally speaking growing opium poppies can be grown anywhere. As poppy seeds are very small it can take anywhere from four days to three weeks for apparent germination. The soil showing the best germination and growing aspects is an acid non-compacted soil.

The poppy seed can be sown several ways, including broadcast (tossed by hand or special shaker); and dropped by hand into small shallow holes dug with a special "dibble" stick. Prior to planting the soil must be loosened. Non fertilized soil with last year's crop most probably needs to be amended with organic fertilizer typically 1 year aged cow, horse or chicken manure. As a rule of thumb, one acre of soil requires 1 lb of seed.

Dry climate a
reas need water on a regular basis. Although seeds come in many colours, the colour of the seed does not specifically relate to the color of the flower or pod. Beans, cabbages, cotton, parsley, spinach, squash and tobacco are crops that can typically be planted with the poppy. Because the seeds are so tiny some farmers use fine sand to mix in with the seeds so as to space out the seeds a little more.

The best time to start growing opium poppies and plant the seeds is right after the last snow melts or in the first part or March (in the northern hemisphere and September in the southern hemisphere), whichever comes first. Alternately planting half the seeds in the late autumn and half the seeds in the early spring. Although the optimal germination temperature is about 14 Celsius or just below 60 Fahrenheit, the seeds will germinate at temperatures both lower and higher. After the growing opium poppies are first seen and the sprouts begin to grow, the best tim
e to water is in the afternoon or morning. Due to their roots being very small and weak,
professional spray watering system is the method of choice. The soil moist but not too wet. Simply put poppies like as much sun as possible, so they are cultivated in an open field where they will get maximum sun.

The growing opium poppies prefer their soil to stay slightly on the acidic side. For fertilizer a good miracle grow 30-10-10 mix once every two weeks will work well. When the plants are ten inches the fertilizer is ideally switched to a liquid fertilizer, such as a fish fertilizer. When the flowers are about to bloom, a standard 10-30-20 fertilizer or a special blooming enhancement fertilizer for extra vivid colours.

Growing opium poppies without a permit is illegal in most countries and if not illegal to grow certainly to harvest the resin (opium) is. You are not likely to be able or eligible for a permit to grow opium poppies for any reason. In many countries growing opium poppies without a permit is a very serious offence and you almost certainly would not be allowed to grow it for domestic culinary use.

(Tamarindus indica)


The tree can grow to a maximum height of 25m and a crown diameter of12m. It is a big tree when mature but it tends to be a slow grower. It can be successfully grown as a fruit producing bonsai. Tamarind can tolerate 5-6 months of drought conditions, but does not like fire, frost or waterlogging. There are different varieties of tamarind, e.g. cultivars ‘Sithong’, ‘Piyai’ and ‘Jaehom’. The varieties can be divided into ‘sweet’ and ‘sour’ types. Thailand grows the sweet type for culinary use. Other countries around tend to have the sour varieties. Seed propagation involves the collection, preparation and direct planting of the seed into soil/compost. This method is very simple, however the quality of the new offspring cannot be guaranteed (not true-to-type) and the time taken for the tree to reach bearing age is usually longer than for trees propagated using vegetative methods. Seed propagation is very simple. Plant the pre-soaked seeds in an open mix and allow to germinate. When large enough transplant. The tree itself is cold intolerant and will die if affected by frost. Vegetative propagation is the most reliable way of growing the tree it requires specialised skills. Nurseries may carry small trees suitable for your growing either as bonsai, potted or planted.

Rice Paddy Herb
Limnophila aromatica (synonym: Limnophila chinensis var. aromatica)}


Rice Paddy Herb  likes two things, high humidity and heat. It will wilt down and die quickly if it does not have a high humidity at all times. This is the secret of growing this exotic and wonderful addition to your food. Pot the herb up in rich moist, but not wet potting soil. Keep it where it receives indirect light and a large clear plastic bag over the pot will assure the high humidity the plant requires

The Rice Paddy Herb  can be obtained from many oriental markets that caters to Vietnamese and/or Cambodian customers. A piece placed in half a cup of water in a plastic bag will root easily within a few days. Transplant the herb into a pot as described above and soon you will have more herb than you can use. When you cut the herb for use, be sure to move the harvested herb around in a large pot of water to remove grit and dirt. Do not just rinse the herb under the faucet as this will not remove the grit that seems always to be lodged deep in the swirl of leaves.

Mustard Greens and Seeds
(Brassica nigra; Brassica juncea; Brassica hirta/Sinapis alba)


Sowing Mustard Seeds:
Sow mustard seeds 5mm - 6mm(1/4 to 1/3 in) deep, and 7 cm (3") apart. Thin seedlings to 12 cm - 20 cm (5" - 9") apart. Separate the rows, 30 cm (1 foot) apart.
Sow seeds early in the spring and a second crop in the early fall. They prefer cool weather, so leave the middle of the summer for the heat loving vegetables. The plants mature within 45-50 days

How to Grow Mustard:
Mustard plants grow well in most good garden soils. They prefer full sun and cool weather. Planting successive small crops, separated about a week apart, results in a continuous supply of greens.
Mustard plants should be grown quickly. Use plenty of water, and ample amounts of fertilizer, to promote fast growth of tender, green leaves. Water plants during dry periods. Keep the plants well weeded, so weeds do not compete for water and nutrients. It makes harvesting easier, too.

Mustard greens are eaten raw, pickled or cooked. Harvest leaves while young and tender. Pick individual leaves, or the entire plant. Leaves get tough and have a strong flavor during hot, dry weather. Mustard seeds should be harvested  when the plants begin to yellow. You want to leave them on the plants as long as possible, but before the pods burst open and spill their seeds.

Insects and Pests:
Aphids and cabbage worms are common problems.

Mildews can affect the plant. Promote fast growing, healthy plants, so they will be less susceptible to disease. Allow proper spacing to increase air circulation. Avoid watering towards evening.

Plants grow best in cool weather.

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