The rockery is a feature that's rather fallen out of fashion in recent years. Time was that no self respecting home owner would dare do-without a wonderful collection of alpines and heathers nestling between a carefully arranged pile of boulders. My rockery had been rather neglected. A mass of rampant bulbs and weeds had overwhelmed the structure and the rocks had sunk to a rather disappointing scale. So last summer I decided SOMETHING had to be done. Rather than do-away with the much maligned feature I thought I could give it a new lease of life with a rather more useful purpose. I tore it apart with my bare hands, disposed of all the weed-roots and reconstructed with a more stately arrangement and some lovely new compost.
And thus the Herbockery was born. I'm sure you can guess that the new purpose of my rockery was to house my collection of herbs (sadly I don't have a pic of it in it's summer glory so you'll have to use your imagination!), including 4 types of mint, lemon balm, chives, rosemary and borage.
The first thing you learn about mint is not to plant it directly into the garden. It's a rather rampant person and soon ran rather wild! As such I had a bumper harvest of delicious home-grown mint to grace my potatoes (and frankly every other dish!).
Of course mint is a perennial plant (like most herbs it dies back to nothing in the winter and comes back each spring) so after the summer glut I knew there would be a winter mint-famine. But there is no need to resort to supermarket dried herbs, just read on for the simple solution.
You could freeze mini portions of mint in ice cube trays, but life's too short to be digging around the freezer every time you want some herbs so I prefer to dry my own herbs using the microwave...
First lay out your leaves onto paper kitchen towel. This will adsorb any moisture in the leaves.
Next pop the leaves on the paper into the microwave for just a few mins (2-4 is normally enough) until they resemble drying autumn leaves.
Next use your fingers to scrunch the leaves to your chosen size.
Then pop the dried leaves into a jar (you can buy pretty mini-kilner style jars or just reuse an empty herb/spice jar to be extra eco-friendly!), you will need to do several batches to fill a whole jar!
This technique works a treat for all sorts of herbs. I also dried a nice big pot of sage and a mixed 'Italian' herbs pot (Basil and oregano), perfect for pasta and pizzas.