Herbs for every occasion

by Tim Mudge

We are very lucky within our organisation to work with a wide array of crops. Within our crop groups there are variations on every product, carrots, peas, onions, asparagus etc. all have different varieties which are important to growers. But the one group which has the biggest range is British Herbs. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of herbs in use across the industry and I have to say I am one of the worst at recognising them. But what is interesting is the range of uses that herbs are put to. In the fresh produce industry we are very aware of the cut culinary and pot culinary herbs on the shelves of the aisles we work in. If you cook at home (I can sometimes find the kitchen in our house) then you will be aware of dried herbs. But there is much more.

Julia Hall-Jones leads the British Herbs group at our offices and I have been working with them for over ten years. But it never ceases to amaze me how much you can learn from visiting the growers and seeing how their businesses tick. This week Julia and I were fortunate enough to visits three herb growers in one day and see three very different businesses.

The first grows herbs for drying. All are grown on a field scale and he has a large range to work with including French Tarragon, Parsley and Mint. The technology involved is fantastic and the care and dedication to the work is second to none. We then went to see herbs being grown for essential oil extraction, which was another eye opener. The grower held up a large flask of liquid and informed us that it was the oil extracted from 1.21 hectares (3 acres in old money) of a specialist herb used for aromatherapy. Again the work and attention to detail was phenomenal. The business also exports its products all over the world. Finally we visited a nursery which grows pots for garden centres. The range of herbs offered was in the hundreds and the company distributes their products nationwide. With customer service clearly at the top of their agenda they take exceptional care to produce and deliver exactly what the customer require.

So in a few hours we expanded our knowledge of the industry. It is all part of our work to help British Herbs improve its communications with growers and establish a survey of crops across the industry highlighting what products are most important to each sector.