When it’s wet like this, the herbs we need are the warming and drying ones. All the lovely aromatics – thyme, rosemary, basil, caraway – and the more exotic ones we call spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and pepper – share these qualities. They help us cope with the cold and damp, making us more resilient to colds and infections. Added to food, they warm our digestion as well as adding flavour. And they lift our spirits too. It’s no wonder nutmeg and pepper used to be worth more than their weight in gold.
As the year moves into autumn, we need them more than ever, to bring light and fire into our lives. Although of course we can live this far north, it takes its toll in many ways, from outright nutritional deficiencies – lack of vitamin D is now known to play a part in many health problems – to the problems caused by cold, damp and lack of light. Alcohol is another fire-giver, but that brings its own problems. On the whole, herbs are better friends to cultivate.