Image above: Mint Apple (Mentha suaveolens)
Who knew there were as many as 40 different types of mint? I discovered this talking to Catherine and Neil who run Pepperpot nursery, one of the traders who will be at the launch of the Chiswick Flower Market on 6 September.
They just sell herbs. I say ‘just’. That still gives them a range of 200 or so vatieties that they grow at their nursery at Alton in Hampshire, including between 30 and 40 different types of mint.
The one pictured above is Mint Apple (Mentha suaveolens) – a very popular mint whose leaves can be used for mint sauce, jelly, fruit salads and drinks – but in general you will find that the common spearmints are better for food while the peppermints are better for drinks. Catherine’s favourite? Pineapple mint.
Images above: Neil & Catherine; Rock Hyssop; African Blue Basil
Catherine joined her partner Neil in the business in 1998 when she was made redundant from a job in banking. Neil studied horticulture and had always intended to run his own business selling plants, but over two decades they have built up their business, mainly supplying garden centres.
What you get when you buy from Catherine and Neil is specialist expertise. They can tell you exactly what variety of herb to buy to grow in your garden: not only how and where to grow it, but how best to use it in cooking or how best to complement the other plants and attract the bees.
Images above: Thyme Archers Gold, Thyme Carraway, Thyme Common
Thyme for example can be grown to creep along the ground and plant between paving stones or to grow as an upright bush. Which is the best one to use in Italian dishes? A particular broad leaved plant which is easier to use and has a lovely taste. Catherine’s favourite is a lemon scented plant, but there are dozens of different varieties, each with its own unique appearance and flavour: Doone Valley is one with a lovely lemon scent, Peter Davis has pretty purply foliage.
“A lot of people like us because we specialise. That’s all we grow and people like being able to talk to someone who really knows about the plants” she says.
Occasionally they are caught out when a TV gardening programme or a famous chef uses a recipe with a particular herb and everyone rushes to buy it, but mostly I’d say you’d be hard pressed to think of a herb that they didn’t have.