Waterwise Gardens bark

10-Mar-2015 - Herbs in the Algarve

I would like to say a little something about herbs this week. It's a great group of plants and many of them are fabulously easy to grow in the Algarve. Some of our most useful kitchen herbs come from the Mediterranean - have you ever wondered why? 

The sap of many plants in the Mediterranean climate is actually specifically adapted to deal with heat and drought. Instead of being thin and watery, Mediterranean plants have developed oily sap which is more resistant to evaporation under the hot sun. As a nice bonus for us, these oils often have fragrance and flavours which we can use in cooking or perfumes.

Did you know that the sap of the sun rose, Cistus ladanifer, is a vital component for the perfume industry? Something to think about next time you catch that lovely scent rolling down off the hills.

So what do we need to know about growing these treasures in our gardens? Most usefully, let's remember that they are Mediterranean natives, so they don't need water once established. Lavender, rosemary, sage, curry plant, marjoram, oregano, bay laurel - all of these thrive with no irrigation. They do in nature, so why not in your garden? The harder your grow them, the stronger those oils will become, giving you fuller flavour. 

But won't softer herbs need summer watering? Yes: parsley, dill, coriander, mint and the like do need some water, but try to reserve one area for irrigated plants, and another for drought tolerant natives, that way all the plants will be happy - and your water use will be minimal.