Touch of the Mediterranean to keep you going through the winter months

Torbay Weekly

Things are much quieter in the garden now as the light recedes and the occasional fox criss crosses the lawn with a low flying tawny owl as they get used to the new dusk timetable. Whilst they recognise the change in temperature and light, so do the plants in our gardens and allotments.

There has been a gap where peace had broken out at home throughout the summer and autumn where there have been no trays or pots of growing plants in the dining room, bedrooms and certainly none in the bathroom.

That peace is about to be broken because it’s time to bring them back in and start negotiating where I can keep them warm for over wintering purposes. There is a large kafir lime leave shrub that is the bane of my wife’s winter as it needs to rest in a south facing window. We agreed last year to put lights round it as a compromise.

One plant that is strongly in my favour in terms of these tricky winter negotiations is oregano. Given my wife’s fondness for all culinary things Mediterranean and that fresh oregano lifts these dishes to a different level. It is a perennial herb and responds well to being brought inside after being cut back to the ground and kept reasonably warm.

It’s good to get to know where a plant originates from I always think. Not only does it transport you there, or even back there if you've had a holiday abroad, but it can be a strong indication of how best to get the best out of it.

I'm sure any people who have been to Greece and experienced a lung full of pungent oregano infused hot air as you pass an ancient oregano shrub on a scooter. Not only that but it’s impossible not to have it in most of the dishes in a large parts of Europe.

Getting a harvest from it all summer is easy, once established you really only need to leave it alone in a warm sunny spot and it will do its thing. At this time of year it’s a bit trickier, but not impossible.

Because they die down in winter, you will need to place oregano in a pot and put them in a sunny spot where its warm and dry. Given that they are a woody herb, its important that you keep harvesting them and they will keep you in fresh oregano leaves all winter.

Keep an eye on them, checking the pot is big enough to sustain them over winter , a litre pot should be more than adequate. I also find that you can give them a bit of a feed with regular liquid plant food if they look like they‘re getting a bit tired and straggly. The leaves are the shape of a tiny mouse’s ear but only half the size, so they don’t need a lot of food and should get what they need all winter from a decent sized pot.

If you put it somewhere prominent in the house, you can run your fingers through its citrusy aromatic leaves as you pass and remind yourself that summer will soon be here and you'll be adding those very same leaves to a marinade for the barbecue or mixing them with your best olive oil to dress a salad you've just picked.

When spring arrives, you can put it gently back into the spot of the garden it will do best. In free draining soil, full sun and a sheltered spot. Basically the part of the garden that resembles the Mediterranean the most.

If your garden hasn't got such a spot, then planting oregano will definitely transform it into one. Again, if its growing outside somewhere prominent you and your family can extend the pleasure you get from such a plant with regular sensory interaction.