How to make supermarket herb pots last forever

Lean in, I’m about to tell you something you didn’t know. Or if you did, you can feel really smug about it. Either way, let me know in the comments below.

Do you ever buy those herb pots from the supermarket, use some of the herbs, and have the rest flop and die within days?

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Say you’re making a caprese salad. This trick works particularly well with basil, but I’ll let you know some tips for other herbs further down.

Your first instinct is to pull off all of the biggest leaves, right? Then you can wait for the smaller ones to grow larger.

WRONG!

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See the way the leaves are arranged here? There are pairs of leaves going up the stem. The two biggest leaves are near the bottom. You can also see some tiny leaves growing near the base of the big leaves. Then there is a cluster of smaller leaves further up the stem.

You are going to pinch off that cluster of leaves near the top.

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If you want, you can go ahead and pull off those two larger leaves now. The stem suddenly looks a bit bare, but pinching out the tips gives the tiny leaves light, space and energy to grow. With basil, water it generously every few days and then wait until it is completely dry before watering it again. Put it in a sunny spot and it can last a good couple of months. Come back in June and tell me how you got on.

Other herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano: pick, pick, pick. Parsley, you can pick the lot right down near the bottom of the stems, and wait for it to come away again. It’s best to plant these herbs out in a window box if you have one. Parsley can last a long time if you do this and keep picking. Mint, I would again grow it in your window boxes (give it plenty of water though) or just buy it in bunches rather than pots and keep it in a jar of water on a ledge or table. Rosemary and sage, buy it from the supermarket as it’s cheaper than the garden centre (London garden centres at least – and wait until they’re on offer at the supermarket), and plant it out in a well-drained spot.

But for now, just enjoy your caprese salad.

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Tomatoes, mozarella, plenty of basil, a generous amount of salt, and a few good glugs of olive oil.

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Three-cornered leek pesto

I received a tip-off last a couple of weeks ago about a patch of wild garlic near my office. So one day I grabbed a colleague and we went for a “walking meeting”. We’re right into that sort of thing where I work. It was a good chance to catch up about his current workload, and the side benefit was picking up some free food on the way.

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When we got there, we discovered it wasn’t actually wild garlic but three-cornered leek. Three-cornered leek is a type of wild onion, which grows in abundance from early to late spring here in North London. I grabbed armloads of the stuff, while a bemused resident looked on from his balcony three floors above.

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Running group that evening gave me a great excuse to carbo-load on my return, so I whipped up some pesto and cooked some tagliatelle.

I used a stick blender to whizz up a few handfuls of the (washed) onions with a generous amount of olive oil, some pine nuts, and plenty of Parmesan cheese. I stirred the cooked pasta into a pan of wilted onions, added a spoonful of pesto, and stirred in a handful of peas.

I finished it with a little lemon zest.

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Easter-time birthday picnic

My young friend Baby Loves Cake, daughter of Lady Loves Cake turns one over Easter weekend. We celebrated her birthday today, with a lovely picnic in Regent’s Park.

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R and I got their early to set up. Waitrose kindly supplied the decor – there are a lot of Easter-themed decorations and party gear at the moment, all very gorgeous and perfect for a little one’s Easter birthday.

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What a glorious day it was.

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The birthday girl ate far too many raspberries.

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And the guests ate far too many cupcakes. These are strawberry cheesecake cupcakes, from the Hummingbird cookbook. Lady Loves Cake and I got together to make them yesterday – though I must admit she did most of the work! I really liked them. With the cream cheese icing they weren’t over-sweet.

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The birthday girl and her lovely mum.