The first two weeks of May signal the beginning of the cut-and-come-again season in our garden. We make sure to cut as much sage, rosemary, mint, lovage, chives and fennel, in the knowledge that if we stop the plants going to flower and seed, we will have enough fresh herbs and edible flowers for drying and cooking.
We create soffritti with finely diced onions, shallots, leeks, celery and garlic, which are then flavoured with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. This forms the basis for so many delicious stews, soups, risotti and sauces. Hot, salted focaccia is topped with basil leaves grown on the utility room window sill and little pieces of soft Bath Cheese.
We pick borage flowers for cocktails, cordials and jellies.Big jugs of iced water and elderflower syrup are flavoured with mint and lemon peel. We use bay to make pannacotta, fennel and olive oil to marinade fish and myrtle and white wine to marinade lamb. Dill is a classic for curing salmon, and lovage is ideal for pairing with soft, creamy cheeses, salads and the cucumber.
Nettles, dandelions, buttercups and other wild flowers are used for herbal teas as well as flower arrangements.
The growth is lush and furious at this time of year – there is a sense of urgency in the garden. Yet it is really important to stop, to look, to smell, taste and appreciate what a beautiful, fleeting time of year this is.