The old fashioned principle of “waste not, want not” works well for us at The Country Cooking School on Te Puhi farm . We try to “waste not” in all we cook, buy in and make. We also aim to be sustainable in our gardening and farming practices.
Before Christmas, in early summer, I cut back the herbs so they can have a second or third flush of growth before Winter.
It’s a great discipline to get into, as the plants respond splendidly with fresh growth if they’re cut back hard (to the first bud, close to earth) on a regular basis.
What herbs I don’t need for the kitchen I chop into finger length pieces and use as a mulch around the veggies. With the summer heat these cuttings soon wilt and breakdown and act as a mulch. They enrich the soil and hold moisture when the gardens are watered or it rains.
We crutch the sheep (to remove the “dags”) before Christmas and before the flies hatch in large numbers too. This helps to decrease fly strike in the sheep which can be debilitating for them and messy for us to clean up. The “dags”, or poo-caked wool, are reused on the garden around the plants as a fertilizer-rich mulch. They too slowly break down and enrich the soil and builds its texture.
I look forward to cutting back the Tarragon before Christmas to get a further flush of leaves into the autumn. I make Tarragon Vinegar with the herb trimmings. Tarragon Vinegar has become an essential ingredient in my cooking as it works well in salad dressings, pickles, and slow cooked red cabbage.
5L apple cider vinegar
French tarragon stalks, washed
Pour out the cider vinegar from its 5L container into a jug and hold it to the side.
Stuff the tarragon leaves, stalk end first, into the bottle of cider vinegar. Use as many as you can or as many as you have available. Pour cider vinegar in to the bottle to cover the tarragon. Screw the lid on and place the bottle on a sunny window sill for a couple of weeks. Shake the bottle occasionally as you pass by. Store in a cool, dark cupboard at the end of this time as it’s now ready to use.