Growing your own herbs is enjoying a slow but sure revival, alongside the massive new interest in home-produced fruit and vegetables.
To find out more about growing and using herbs it's worth watching the professionals. Elaine Perry, a professor of neuroscience at Newcastle University, is researching plant medicines and has worked on herbs traditionally thought to improve memory (sage, lemon balm, rosemary).
Elaine grows a range of herbs in the garden next to her miller's cottage at Dilston, deep in the Tyne Valley. Following an illness, she decided to start a larger herbal garden so she bought an adjacent field which is now the Dilston Physic Garden, a non-profit organisation open to the public (see www.dilstonphysicgarden.com )
Dilston is not just a collection of herbs but is actively used and anyone interested can glean practical, up-to-date information on how to grow and use herbs. Ross Menzies, a qualified medical herbalist based in nearby Hexham, www.the-herbal-clinic.co.uk runs courses such as The Hedgerow as a Medicine Chest and Larder, and you can buy many herbal medicines there. A big bonus is that the plant labelling in the garden includes folklore information as well as scientific evidence. It is run predominantly with volunteer labour. Anyone wishing to help or those who want to buy herbs (for a small charge) is encouraged to contact them.