Herb your enthusiasm: Meet the expert herbalist who knows exactly what thyme it is - Gardening - Property - The Independent

Herb your enthusiasm: Meet the expert herbalist who knows exactly what thyme it is

Jekka McVicar is a bit of a legend: admirers talk of her 60 RHS gold medals; of the day Heston Blumenthal nibbled half of her stock in one visit; how she serves her staff their morning coffee with home-made meringues flavoured with her own mint and caraway seed...

McVicar has grown herbs organically for 25 years – and she isn't tired of them yet. "There's always something new," she says. "The world's getting smaller and we are finding new plants all the time." It's the depth of her knowledge and passion for the subject that has persuaded chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Blumenthal to make their way to her West Country HQ and wander through her collection.

McVicar's passion for herbs started early. "I was a mum," she says, "and I had two tiny children crawling round my feet. So I thought, 'How do you give them freedom, but protect them at the same time?' To me, the idea of growing stuff organically was obvious."

Today, her expertise is crammed into her books, the most famous of which is just being reissued in paperback: Jekka's Complete Herb Book (Kyle Cathie, £16.99). Half a million people in Britain own a copy, referring to it whenever they need to remind themselves of the 38 different kinds of thyme they could be growing.

McVicar also still runs her farm, in a gorgeous spot of countryside just a few miles from Bristol. The herb farm closes all winter while the staff tidy up and prepare for another season. Right now, they are gearing up for the first of their 2009 open days. It's a real family affair: McVicar's husband Mac organises the car park, while the gorgeous floral catalogue is designed by their daughter. McVicar herself delivers her talks standing on a footstool. They have proved so popular that this year, for the first time, they will be bookable: the last weekend of March, McVicar will do a seed-sowing workshop and a talk on "Medicinal Herbs in the Home".

And she has plenty more to look forward to: this year McVicar takes over the prestigious marquee area at Chelsea that's always been known as the "Notcutts stand", which will become a world stage for McVicar's continuing crusade for herbs. She just needs to make sure she wards off any more marauding chefs.

"Heston was dangerous," she chuckles. "He was like a child in a sweetie shop. He was stuffing everything into his mouth. And herbs – they are the basis of our medicine. You have to be respectful of their strength. Oh well," she sighs, "he didn't die, I'm very pleased to say."

Pick of the bunch: Jekka's window-box recommendations

Chives

"Because they behave well."

Allium schoenoprasum, £3.50 a pot

Rosemary

"I'd have a prostrate one that would hang over the side of the window box."

Capri rosemary, £4

Thyme

"Go for something like Porlock, with a bit more leaf than the species."

£4 a pot

Mint

"Plant it in a separate pot, because it'll spread like mad. I'd have apple mint because it works for mint sauce and mint tea as well as being fantasticwith fruit or yoghurt."

Mentha suaveolens, £3.50 a pot

All from www.jekkasherbfarm.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Project Manager (upgrades, rollouts, migrations)

£350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week