If you’re a regular user of unusual herbs such as tangerine sage or berries and cream mint you have David Nieburg to thank.
The massive growth in interest in fresh herbs, and in unusual varieties, may be driven by TV chefs and gardening programmes.
However, it depends on people like David to meet that growing demand for those sometimes tender varieties.
David runs Country Herbs & Plants Ltd at Pode Hole, supplying over 2.5million pots of herbs in something like 200 varieties.
The company has recently completed a major redevelopment, replacing an old poly tunnel with a new greenhouse so create something approaching an acre-and-a-half of glasshouse space.
David said: “When you have a few small things you reach a tipping point that pushes you to take a bigger step. It’s been a bit of a re-development phase for us and we have taken a long term view. For us, it’s a major redevelopment to build this.”
Varieties such as banana, chocolate, eau de cologne and pineapple mint, blackcurrant or pineapple sage and lemon curd thyme are growing in little pots alongside their more traditional relations.
It wasn’t always like this at the site. David’s father Matt, who still puts in a couple of days a week at the nursery, began the business growing African Violets as houseplants.
David had begun growing herbs on a spare piece of land at home as a sideline, and realised that the fresh herb sector was on the rise while the indoor plant industry was shrinking.
David said: “We came together and this thing about fresh herbs took off and now we are pure herbs. I think it’s here to stay.”
Some of the mint goes to Lincolnshire Herbs at Bourne, but the rest of the product goes to one or two local wholesalers and, increasingly, garden centres. Trays of plants are also delivered nationwide, anywhere from the south coast up to Scotland.
Many of the plants are currently over-wintering. A lot of the delicate varieties, such as salad rocket, tarragon and pineapple and tangerine sage, start to grow in the spring and are kept in heated glasshouses at about 13-150C.