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Seasonal inspiration from ancient to modern times

Herbs Unlimited are celebrating 25 years supplying the catering, food manufacturing and wholesale industry with freshly cut herbs, salads and edible flowers this year.  Founder and Managing Director Alison Dodd is a cordon bleu trained chef who started importing speciality herbs to the UK and packaging them on her kitchen table and now works with her son Phillip from 120 acres in Thirsk North Yorkshire with 45 fulltime staff supplying the whole of the UK with daily overnight deliveries.  Herbs Unlimited have a wide range of speciality herbs and edible flowers in season and also all year round from selected imports to fill in our own growing for continuous supply.  The use of freshly cut herbs can bring new flavour sensations for customers and we encourage chefs to ask for samples to try out new dishes and experiment with unusual flavours and especially British herbs and edible flowers.  Fresh herbs and flowers have been used since Roman times for enhancing dishes and the recent trend for both Scandinavian and street-food inspired seasonal menus has meant that simple and beautiful ingredients with bags of fresh flavour are once again at the forefront of modern menus, with appearance and flavour becoming equally important.  The Instagram generation of diners not only eat with their eyes but also share beautifully constructed and innovative flavour combinations and that means putting herbs and edible flowers on your menu is sure to attract the right sort of attention.   Not forgetting drinks and treats too, with the cocktail/ bar market, cake decorators and Chocolatiers also realising that freshly cut herbs and edible flowers are both versatile and useful for infusions, decoration and flavouring, so indeed are useful for every course, and before and after dinner too! Here’s some tips for using our speciality herbs and edible flowers on your seasonal menus:

  • Lovage – roll into fresh pasta for the leaf to be visible and add flavour, or match with potato, peas and mackerel for a pungent celery like flavour.  See image attached of Tamarind Gol Gappa with lovage (garnished with tagetes flowers).
  • Borage – both leaves and flowers are delicious in salads adding cucumber notes – pair with bacon and blue cheeses. The flowers look and taste amazing in cocktails too. See image attached of borage and yoghurt crisp garnished with oxalis leaves.
  • Nasturtium – both leaves and flowers add peppery zing to salads, or make excellent sauces and are great for making colourful and tasty pesto.
  • Anise Hyssop – add a natural sweetness in Summer soups and pasta dishes or use for infusions. A definite Summer trend in 2017.
  • Bronze fennel – delicate liquorice flavour which pairs well with all fish.
  • Oxalis – both leaves and flowers are delicious and Herbs Unlimited won a Yorkshire Taste award in 2016 with our variegated leaf variety, sometimes known as “Iron cross”.  Red oxalis, also known as butterfly sorrel is also available and popular for the beautiful butterfly shaped leaves and fresh taste. Add to sauces, soups and salads or as an unusual and pretty garnish for dishes.

Example recipe for “Summer in a glass”: Whitby Crab and Tomato Jelly with bronze fennel and borage flowers, created by Stephanie Moon for our 25th anniversary Chef’s open day

1 dressed Whitby Crab

1 jar of Keta caviar

1 cucumber peeled into long slices

1 lime zested and juiced ( to marinade the cucumber slices in with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar )

1 small carton Soured cream in a piping bag

Bronze fennel sprigs for garnish

To make the tomato jelly…

15 sprigs Bronze fennel- throngs of fennel tops kept aside for garnish and the stems chopped in the mix

600 g ripe plum tomatoes

1 stick of celery- leaves crispy for garnish

2 peeled and chopped shallots

3 cloves garlic

½ fennel bulb chopped

Big splash of Henderson’s relish ( Hendo’s Sheffield sauce)

½ teaspoon of cayenne

1 splash of Tabasco

2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar

4 sprigs of fresh Basil

Blitz this mixture well together – today we are using a Thermo mixer to get the juice well pulped down then place to strain in a tammis cloth overnight and drip down leaving some clear juice for the tomato jelly.

Now soak 6 leaves of gelatine in some cold water

Once the tomato juice has dripped overnight and you have a good pint of liquid warm 4 tablespoons of the liquid with the soaked gelatine leaves in a pan until dissolved.

Now pour into the cold liquid tomato juice

Stir well and season with salt if required.

Set this aside for a moment whilst you fill the glass pots.

Place the picked crab meat into the bottom of the glasses

Pour over a little of the jelly and set in the fridge

Once this has set solid

Build the glass layers with a little more jelly mix and some bronze fennel tops and allow to set again in the fridge

Lastly set the top layer

Now remove the jelly and swirl the cucumber sliced together to form a little tube on the top of each jelly

Pipe the soured cream into the cucumber tube and garnish the top of the tomato jelly with the cucumber filled tubes and keta caviar dots and bronze fennel pieces.

Garnish with borage flowers for a stunning effect and baby slices of cherry red and yellow tomatoes and serve chilled with a teaspoon…

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