The herb Astragalus has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine alone and with other herbs to support and enhance the immune system. Supposedly it is used to increase production of immune cells. The part used is the root.
This herb is native to China. It is in the legume family. It is sometimes called Huang Qi or milk vetch.
It looks a great deal like a small locust tree just starting to grow only has much smaller leaves and small white flowers. It is not necessarily a very pretty herb. Mine have grown to about 4-5 feet but stay confined to one area and do not spread.
It has been a perennial for me but somewhat tender. Has lots of little seeds in tiny little bean-like pods.
I use it in soups and stews to pump up the immune system. Can be bought as sliced root, which is what I like to use in soups. It can also be bought in powder or in capsule form.
Note: People who have Crohns, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes or systemic lupus should not use it
No way to tell for sure but Basil is probably the most used and appreciated herb in town!
The French call basil herbe royale. In Italy, basil is still a sign of love today. According to tradition, when a woman puts a pot of basil on the balcony outside her room it means that she is ready to receive her suitor. When a man gives a woman a sprig of basil, she will fall in love with him and never leave him. (Men Listen Up!!) Pesto made from basil served over pasta with salad, bread and a little wine might woo them better!!!
In India the people worship basil more highly than kings. It is a sacred herb dedicated to the gods Vishnu and Krishna.
In our own homes basil is most loved today. It has become one of the most popular herbs in the garden and the kitchen.
Basil is a member of the mint family and is highly recommended prepared as an after dinner cup of tea It can be a great tonic for the digestive system.
Basil is an annual with leafy stems that give it a bushy appearance. The flowers are generally white. The purple basils have rosy colored white flowers.
There are innumerable varieties of basil. There is a Sweet Basil Group which includes such basils as Napoletano basil and Sweet Basil which have a particular affinity for tomatoes. The Genovese Group includes the Genovese Basil and several others that are large leaf types from the Genoa area of Italy. There is also the Bush Group which include Bush Basil, Greek Bush Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, Pistou and Marseilles Basil. Then there's the Purple Group which includes such basils as Ararat Basil, Dark Opal Basil, Osmin Basil, Purple Ruffles Basil, and Red Genovese Basil. Also, there are other basils like Indian Basil, Anise, Cinnamon, African Blue, Lemon, Sacred, Thai and the list goes on.
Basil is an annual and is very, very tender. Don't dare bother planting it before the first frost or expecting it to thrive after the last frost. It really needs average rainfall, sunshine and warmth to survive and it will gladly produce for you through the entire Summer.
Pinch your basils back when they start to bud getting ready to bloom because if you let them bloom it will stunt further growth but the more you pinch the bushier and more prolific they generally are.
Be kind to your basil and believe me your basil will repay twofold!
The Bay Tree is a marvelous, majestic tree/herb. Laurus is the Latin word for bay tree and nobilis means renowned.
Bay is the symbol of glory and reward. It is a romantic herb as well. Apollo, the Greek god of the sun was in love with the fair nymph Daphne. He was relentless in his pursuit of her. Daphne was not one bit interested and it is said Cupid had shot an arrow into Daphne that made her hate Apollo (would love to know more of this story). Daphne's father changed her into a laurel tree to help her escape his pursuit. Apollo fell upon his knees before this tree and declared it eternally sacred. From then on he wore a wreath of laurel leaves upon his head in remembrance of and in dedication to his beloved Daphne.
The Bay tree became a sign of glory, honor and greatness throughout Rome and Greece. Men and women wove wreaths to crown the heads of kings, priests, poets, prophets and victors of battles and athletic or scholarly contests. At the first Olympics in 776 B.C. laurel garlands were presented to the champions.
It is also said that if your bay trees are withering they are warning you of impending evil or death.
My goodness, there's all sorts of lore about the Bay Tree but on to its other merits. Bay has been used for when your stomach is not feeling quite right or you perhaps have a little gas. Bay oil is also said to benefit sprains, bruises and skin rashes. Bay is an astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, narcotic, nervine and stimulant. Obviously, Bay is not used that much medicinally but . . . in the kitchen nearly every soup, stew, or tomato sauce has seen bay. It's used in Spanish, Creole and French soups, marinades and sauces too. Great used with shellfish and is used in conjunction with other herbs such as peppercorns, saffron, garlic, allspice, citrus and prepared and dried mustard. When cooking with bay just remember to take the leaf out before you serve your dish.
The leaves of the bay tree are great used in canisters of flour as a bug repellant. Years ago every grandmother had at least a bay or two in her flour canister or box of cereal.
The Bay Tree is fairly easy to grow as long as you have sun and moderately rich soil; but in our area you must dig it up each year and bring it in or leave it potted year round. I leave mine potted and put them out on my deck in the Summer and then they sit in my kitchen in front of the window during the Winter. So far, they're still living!!
Bay leaves are very easy to harvest and can be harvested throughout the year. Pick the leaves early in the day, lay them out and lay a board on top of them or the leaves will curl. It will take about 2 weeks for them to dry. Then store in a tightly sealed glass container.
Bee Balm is edible and medicinal, the entire plant above ground is edible used as a pot herb, and it is also used as a flavoring in cooked foods. The flowers make a most attractive edible garnish in salads. The plant is noted for its fragrance, and is a source of oil of thyme. The fresh or dried leaves are brewed into a refreshing aromatic and medicinal tea. An infusion of young Bee Balm leaves used to form a common beverage in many parts of the United States. You will find that the purple bee balm has a more oregano flavor and is often used as a substitute. The red and pink will likely make the better tea.
Monarda didyma, (red) (purple) Monarda fistulosa, (pink)
Other Names: Eastern Beebalm, Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda
Bee Balm leaves and flowers and stems are used in alternative medicine as an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant. An infusion is medicinal used internally in the treatment of colds, catarrh, headaches, and gastric disorders, to reduce low fevers and soothe sore throat, to relieve flatulence, nausea, menstrual pain, and insomnia. Steam inhalation of the plant can be used for sore throats, and bronchial catarrh (inflammation of the mucus membrane, causing an increased flow of mucus). Externally, it is a medicinal application for skin eruptions and infections. Bergamot’s distinctive aroma, found in both the leaf and flower is wonderful for use in potpourri.
Bee Balm is a perennial herb native to Eastern North America. It grows in dry thickets, clearings and woodland edges from Ontario and British Columbia to Georgia and Mexico. Bee Balm has showy, red, pink, or lilac flowers in large heads or whorls of about 20-50 flowers at the top of the branching stem, supported by leafy bracts, the leaflets are a pale-green color. Bee Balm is in the mint family and like most mints the stem of Bee Balm is square, grooved and hard; and about 3 feet high. The leaves occur in opposite pairs, are rough on both surfaces, are distinctly toothed, and lance-shaped. Fine dense hairs cover much of the stem and leaves. Bee Balm roots are short, slender, creeping rhizomes.
Bee Balm is easily grown in ordinary garden soil. It also grows well in heavy clay soils, requires a part shade to sunny place to grow. This species thrives when grown in a dry soil and prefers alkaline soil conditions. Bee Balm is best started from plants which spread like crazy, but will grow from seed as well. Unfortunately, large stands of bee balm in humid, damp areas have a tendency to easily develop powdery mildew so try to thin them out if the stand gets too tight.
Wild Bergamot flowers bloom from June to July. Gather edible leaves and flowers in bloom, dry in small bundles in paper bags in a dry, well ventilated area. Bee Balm can be used as tea, or as an aromatic suitable for sachets and potpourri.
I love to tell the story of the Boston Tea Party when taking my guests around the herb garden. It was used by the colonists, as they tried just about any plant they could get their hands on to replace their lovely English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea into the harbor in protest of high taxes imposed on it by the British. Yep, believe it or not tea was the morning drink of choice - not coffee!!
The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea, as well as the wild bergamot being called horsemint.
Bee Balm was used as a medicinal plant extensively by Native Americans who recognized four varieties that had different odors. Wild Bergamot was used also as an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer) for ceremonial sweat lodges. A decoction of the herb was made into hair pomade, which is kind of like a hair wax.
Borage is another one of my very favorite herbs. First of all its tiny blooms are a delight and will make you favor it above many other herbs.
Borage is the herb of gladness and courage. Ancient Celtic warriors preparing for battle drank wine flavored with borage to give them courage. Their fears would vanish and they would feel elated. I gotta strange feeling here that it might have been the wine, ya think?! According to 16th century British herbalist John Gerard, Roman soldiers used to say, "Ego borago gaudia semper ago." translated loosely means "Borage always brings me courage." (actually delight, not courage). Roman Scholar Pliny believed the herb to be an anti-depressant. The Welsh called borage llanwenlys, meaning herb of gladness. According to old wives' tales, borage was sometimes smuggled into the drink of prospective husbands to give them the courage to propose marriage. TeeHee!!
Many herbalists use borage in their teas to relieve fevers, bronchitis and diarrhea. Poultices made from the leaves are reported to be cooling and soothing which help inflammations and swellings. Many herbalist, including myself, still use it in teas for uplifting the spirit and that is due to the fact that it is considered a very mild anti-depressant.
Borage brings me gladness in its flowers. Oh how I love those beautiful blue star-shaped blossoms. I pick them and put them in everything from salads to pastries! I simply adore sugaring them and freezing them in ice cubes. The leaves are also used as well. They may be eaten raw, steamed or sauteed like spinach. They have a crisp cucumber flavor.
Borage is an annual and grows well from seeds directly sown into the garden after the danger of frost has passed. They say to thin borage plants to a distance of 2 feet because they can get larger than you would expect but do have a sprawling habit. I like to plant several together oh about 6-8 inches apart. They can make an impressive looking mound. The leaves are wrinkled and hairy and up to 6 inches long and somewhat grayish-green. It grows well in sunny locations including waste places and along roadsides. Borage does do well in just about any garden soil but maintaining a fairly rich medium with a manure compost would be optimal. Generally it flowers in midsummer but depends upon the seeding time. Bees love the flowers.
Borage is an exceptional companion for strawberries. Borage is said to strengthen the resistance to insects and disease of any plants neighboring it.
In truth, almost all of my herb punches contain borage flowers. I'm just flat enamored by them. Take courage and grow some borage. You'll be "glad" you did.
The Pot Marigold is called Calendula. It is not what we consider the modern-day marigold but nevertheless the "first marigold"
The Romans gave Calendula its name. They observed that the flowers were in bloom on the first day, or calends, of every month, and so named them. Calendula was part of a 16th century concoction that was thought to enable one to see fairies. (Oh, wait until I tell my grandchildren that one!) A woman who could not choose between two suitors was advised to take dried calendula flowers, marjoram, thyme, and wormwood; grind them to a fine powder and simmer them in honey and white wine. Then she should rub the mixture over her body, lie down, and repeat three times: "St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me; In dreams let me my true love see!" In her dreams she would see the man she was to marry; if he was going to be a loving husband and kind to her; and if he was going to be disloyal and unkind. Hey, would that be great in preventing divorces?!!
Calendulas are annuals and are colored in hues of yellow and orange. They can grow just about anywhere there is sun. They grow easily from seeds planted straight into the garden after the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees. They do tend to be straggly but worth growing nevertheless. Cut the blooms for brightening up a centerpiece for your table and you will be surprised to find that it will grow even fuller offering you more sunny joy.
Tinctures of Calendula flowers are said to treat cramps, toothaches, fever, flu and are supposed to induce sweating in a fever. Calendula ointments are a remedy to external sores, cuts, bruises, burns and rashes. They are also said to relieve the pain of bee stings if the flowers are rubbed into the sting.
Calendula is anti-inflammatory and is used extensively in skin creams and ointments.
A rinse made from Calendula brings out the highlights in brunette and blonde hair.
Calendula flowers are used in sandwich mixes, cream cheese spreads and used as fake saffron in soups, stews and on poultry.
Calendula adds color to fabric and can be used as a yellow dye.
To harvest pinch the flower head off the stem. Dry on a screen and be extremely sure that the flowers are stored in a moisture-proof container since the petals are so hygroscopic.
I use Calendula for skin care, cooking and for flower. I won't be without them.
Chamomile is one of the most precious plants in the garden. It looks so delicate but it is deceiving. It is actually quite hardy. Few people realize that there are 2 chamomiles, German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. There is a plant that is mistakenly called wild chamomile, sweet false chamomile or mayweed. It is a tall erect annual reaching a height of 2 to 3 feet.
German Chamomile or Matricaria recutita, is an annual and the chamomile most favored for tea while Roman Chamomile or Chamaemelum nobile is a perennial and seldom grows more than about 9 inches high and is often used as ground cover.
For centuries both kinds of chamomile have been reputed to have gentle healing properties. In early Egyptian times, it was used to cure malarial chills that plagued the ancient civilization. It was also recommended for baths or poultices to relieve headaches and disorders of the kidneys, liver and bladder. The tea Peter Rabbit's mother gave him has been a popular remedy throughout the ages. Brewed from the dried flowers, chamomile tea is still used to calm nerves and to relieve a number of ailments.
In Spain the herb is called manzanilla, or "little apple" and is used to flavor a very fine sherry. Tomen used chamomile tea as a hair rinse to accentuate natural blond highlights and it is still used to this day to bring golden highlights to brown hair; combined with neutral henna, it adds highlights to very dark hair. Speaking of little apple, chamomile has an applelike scent which makes it a nice blending herb as well.
Extracts of the plant or the oil itself, azulene, have three primary uses: as anti-inflammatories for various afflictions of the skin and mucous membranes; as antispasmodics for treating ailments like indigestion and menstrual cramps; and as anti-infectives for numerous minor illnesses. Ointments, lotions, vapor baths, inhalations, and the like can be also made with chamomile extract. In one clinical study, 10 out of 12 people who drank chamomile tea instead of taking their regular pain medication at bedtime, for relieving general aches and pains, headaches, or arthritic pain, went into a deep restful sleep within 10 minutes of retiring.
The problem that many people have with chamomile is due to the flowers containing pollen. If they have sensitivities to ragweed, chrysanthemums, or other members of the Compositae family they should be cautious about drinking the tea. It can also cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions.
As far as growing chamomile, both chamomiles will grow in just about any type of soil. The annual, German Chamomile, can be seeded in either the Fall or Spring. Planting it in the fall helps because viability is increased when the seeds are subjected to freezing and thawing. Once established, the German chamomile plant will reseed itself if some flower heads are allowed to remain unharvested. Both Roman and German Chamomile need a lot of sun but like cooler weather and need the soil to remain evenly moist for optimum growth and flower.
When the petals on the flowers begin to turn back on the disk the herb is ready for harvesting. When harvesting, and the flowers are fully open and fragrant, rake them with your fingers, pulling them up between your fingers into a gathering basket. Commercial harvesters use real rakes, much like blueberry or cranberry rakes to gather buckets of blossoms.
Enjoy your chamomile whether walking on it or drinking it!!!
Chives are just one of those little glorious herbs that are always and consistently available for gardeners even well into the Winter if put in a protected area. They are perennial and will spread slowly, but are not invasive, well at least not the Onion Chives anyway!!
I grow two kinds of chives, Onion Chives and Garlic Chives. Onion Chives may be recognized by their stems which are green, round and hollow and have beautiful purple blossoms in the Spring. The blossoms may be eaten as well as the little stems by just pulling the buds off and sprinkling them in salads or soups. Wherever you need a little color and light onion flavor you will find them a welcome addition. These chives are the ones you find in sour cream when you go to restaurants or grocery stores but . . . try fresh chives chopped up and allowed to sit in your sour cream for a few hours or overnight and you will find out what sour cream and chives REALLY tastes like!!!
Garlic Chives differ in the shape of their stems. They are green, flat and have a garlic overtone, really useful chives when you need a little garlic flavor for people who seem to be intolerant of garlic. These chives lend themselves to stir-frying type dishes really well. They have a white star-like blossom which is also edible but never, ever let them go to seed. They will end up across the garden way on the other side flourishing right where you don't need them and they are real boogers to dig up and get out of your garden. So when they flower cut them off before they go to seed or I guarantee you, you will be sorry. I'm speaking from experience here, my friends!!
Plant your chives in different areas to keep them from mingling. I really am not sure whether they would cross or not but you probably would not want them together when you start harvesting. It would make it most difficult. I use them as border plants sometimes and the Onion Chives I intersperse with flowers. This is a great herb to have your children plant and watch grow. They will get a kick out of it. Enjoy your chives.
This is perhaps one of the most ordinary, easy and interesting herbs you can grow in your garden. You either love the herb Cilantro or you hate it. When I first used it - I hated it!!! It's one of those herbs that has to grow on you - no that's not really correct, I'd say it's one of those herbs that you have to learn how to use and then you will fall in love with it!! Most people think of Salsa or Pico de Gallo but there are many uses for this herb. The herb pairs well with lemons and limes.
This herb is an annual which bolts rather quickly and develops little white flowers which then develop into little green seeds. These seeds will turn brown and fall to the ground and you will most probably have a constant supply of cilantro!!
Now for the seeds - these are call Coriander and are used as a spice. When you go out and see your cilantro plants with these brown seeds on top carefully place a brown paper bag over the whole head and break the plant at the stem. Bring it in and hang it up making sure that the head is still in the bag but that there is airflow, by poking some holes in the bag and then let the seeds completely dry. These seeds, ground up, are absolutely essential for dessert blends, cookies, cakes, you name it. They are also excellent toasted for use in curries. This is a truly amazing spice.
I just cannot let a year go by without growing this fabulous herb/spice, the uses are innumerable. Don't go a summer without trying it.
Comfrey has always been a considered a great healer throughout history. There was a time when it was seen by some visionaries as a crop to feed the world's hungry.
Since around 400 B.C. it has had the reputation as a healing herb. The word comfrey is derived from the Latin conferta, meaning "grow together." Roman Pliny, a naturalist and contemporary of Dioscorides, on experimenting with the roots, remarked that they were so sticky that when lumps of meat were cooked with them the pieces would all become glued together in one lump. It is not so surprising then that people were convinced that comfrey could close wounds and knit broken bones. They made poultices for external wounds and drank tea for internal ailments.
Indians named it "knit-bone". During the Irish potato famine in the 1840's comfrey saved many a family from hunger. The leaves were cooked in soups and stews or tossed into salads.
In 1978 a study found that rats fed a diet containing dried comfrey leaves and roots developed liver tumors after six months. Now it is widely considered a carcinogen, not to be eaten. Comfrey is still an extremely useful external medicinal herb. It has often been said that when a bone is broken the best herb to wrap it with is comfrey, but to be sure, you should see that the bone is set correctly, that comfrey works from the outside-in and the allantoin compound in comfrey in some way affects multiplication of cells and tissue growth. Comfrey is also effective in destroying harmful bacteria.
Used externally, comfrey truly is a healing herb. Fresh leaves can be mashed with a blender and applied to the skin, or a solution from the dried leaves can be made by steeping them in hot water. If using the dried rhizome, grind it and dissolve it in hot water to form a mucilage. Whatever you do - DO NOT BOIL comfrey. The high temperature can break down the allantoin.
I cannot recommend you use comfrey internally but many an herb story exists of people in hospital beds with very little hope of walking out taking comfrey internally and surviving to live long, healthy lives.
Comfrey benefits healthy skin. The mucilage soothes and softens, while the allantoin promotes the growth of new cells. In the olden days, ladies of the night used comfrey in sitz baths to promote healing.
Comfrey is an easy, fast-growing plant. It is used for background and foundation plantings. It will tend to overrun other plants but knowing that you can manage it well. It is a handsome plant with huge awesome leaves and stunning flowers (some comfreys bloom a light lavender almost pinkish color and some blooms are purple). It is a very hardy perennial. Grow in full sun to partial shade in moist, rich soil. The plant flowers May through frost. The plant dies down in the winter and comes back strong every spring. It can grow in height 3 to 5 feet. Give it room to grow!
Propagation is best by digging the roots in the fall and dividing the plant. Set plants 3 feet apart and choose your site well because once it has established itself it's a tough plant to get rid of.
When harvesting remember this rule. Allantoin concentrates in the fastest-growing part of the plant. In the winter months, from January through March, the fastest growing part is the rhizome. By Spring, it is the new young leaves. Harvest accordingly. The rhizome and/or leaves can be dried and stored in a tightly sealed container.
The Purple Coneflower. No self-respecting Victorian garden exists without this beautiful specimen. Of course, nowadays you can buy white coneflower, green coneflower and orange coneflower but I'm one of those that sticks to the original - purple!! Just kidding-I love them all!!! The truth is I actually haven't grown the white or orange and I accidentally came up with the green - somehow - in the garden, must have crossed something with something!!!
Leaf, flower and root are used medicinally with the root having the most medicinal qualities. I'm a true believer in the fact that what makes herbal medicines so effective is one needs to use the whole plant instead of chemically extracting their medicinal qualities and separating them from the rest of the plant. What is perfect together is not the same apart.
Also please note, using herbs and plants grown in your vicinity is also considered stronger medicine. Consider honey used for allergies. The honey bee in Oregon gathers from the plants in it's area. Allergies developed in Oregon are not the same as allergies developed in Indiana. There are a whole set of different circumstances, including soil conditions, weather, etc., therefore, effective honey used for allergies here in Indiana would be more effective from honey produced from bees here in Indiana. It takes some thought to follow this through but it makes perfect sense.
Back to the Purple Coneflower - It is a perennial and very easy to grow. It needs a sunny spot and average rainfall. If allowed to grow unheeded it will gradually but ever-so-slowly spread, just becoming what I call a larger clump until divided which is the common way people get their starts. Obviously, if purple coneflower is left alone to grow you will find it also reseeds as well. I let mine grow for about 8 years and did nothing much to it but weed and occasionally dig a few plants for my medicines and over that period of time it doubled in size. Yes, I went from 30 plants to about 60 so this last year I downsized and I now only have 10 plants. I mourned pitching my beautiful plants away but sometimes there's no one out there that needs what you have. I ended up with a boatload of roots but still, such a shame.
After 2 years you are ready to harvest your coneflower. You need AT LEAST a 2-year old plant. Wait until after the first or even second frost and then dig the roots up. (Okay, before I go any further, the rule of thumb here is - in the Spring the sap rises in trees and plants and in the Fall the sap makes it way down to the roots, hence the reasoning behind waiting until after the first frost- you actually can use the root any time of the year but I feel as though the root has the best of its medicinal qualities in the Fall). Keep some of your root and replant it to be sure that you still have plants the following year. Wash all the dirt off the root and separate it apart making sure there is no dirt embedded between the roots that have wrapped themselves around other roots. Let them lay out to dry for a couple hours in the shade and then chop the roots up and lay them on your drying screens to dry completely and thoroughly. Lay them out in a single layer so nothing molds. When completely dry you may store in glass jars in a cool, dark area.
So, for me, the life of the Echinacea plant is amazing. It starts out as a beautiful green plant in the Spring, transforms into a beautiful purple flower that the bees and butterflies appreciate exceptionally, the flowers die and the cone on the coneflower can be used in crafts or left on the plant for birds to eat in the Winter and then you dig the root in the Fall for your teas and medicines during the Winter. It's just short of the perfect plant!
Elderberry is a very, very old plant/bush. It was actually found in Stone Age sites. There are approximately some 13 species of this plant.
In the summer the Elderberry blooms and has the prettiest white flowers which can be cut and deep fried turning into a delicious dish called "elder fritters". You can wait until the flowers turn into tiny berries, pick them and make wonderful syrups, sorbets, wines and medicinal recipes. Or you can pick them, dry them up and wait until you have a little extra time and do much the same as you would when picked fresh.
Elderberry stands in my garden because I think it's attractive and in the olden days they called it the guardian of the herb garden and my garden can use all the protection it can get. It can get as tall as 10 feet so it adds some wonderful height to your garden. If you have this plant reigning over your garden all will be well. But . . . you really should open your eyes wide in the early Summer when you're driving down country roads and you see these beautiful bunches of white flowers. Ten to one they are probably elderberry bushes.
The Elderberry is a very attractive plant. The best way to transplant one or grow more is by simply digging up the suckers that will come from the Mother Plant. The optimum growing conditions are moist, fertile soil, full sun to partial shade but it's not real picky.
Once you know what this plant looks like you will be walking down a woodland trail or walking along a sunny ditch and suddenly the light will dawn and you will start to smile. Aged and graceful, useful and tasty, the Elderberry.
Don't pass this wonderful plant up.
Hard neck garlic, Soft neck garlic, Elephant garlic. These are the 3 major types of garlic grown in my area.
I have grown all three. Technically Elephant garlic is an onion, or I suppose I should say of the leek family. It is large and is used frequently for baking. It is delicious, has a taste like garlic but is very mild.
I love hard neck garlic! It does not seem to be as winter-hardy as the soft neck and the cloves are smaller generally. There are all kinds of hard neck garlic. What intrigues me are their scapes. A hard neck garlic grows and develops this curly stems at the top with a small bud on the end and the young curly parts and bulb are edible. What a delicacy to enjoy stir-fried garlic scapes. You need to cut them back anyway so their energies can go into the bulb growth. What a way to go!
Soft neck garlic is the one that is absolutely the easiest to be grown here and is the garlic most people do grow. It's the one you see in pictures being braided and looking so cool hanging in shops. Try doing it yourself. They look just as cool hanging in your kitchen, my friend!
I plant garlic in the Fall, September actually, and generally dig late August. This year was a terrible year. I had to dig very early because the drought did major damage and I simply couldn't keep everything watered enough. The bulbs were small but usable.
Which brings up another matter. Many young cooks question what they are supposed to be using in their cooking when their recipe books say cloves. Don't be embarrassed. I wondered too. You'll never know until you ask.
When you dig a garlic it comes out of the garden in a round ball or what is called a "bulb". Recipes generally call for cloves. The bulb separates into cloves. Each clove is wrapped in a thin paper. I generally take the flat side of a knife, lay it on a clove and hit the knife, sort of semi-smashing the clove. The paper generally cracks away from the clove to some extent and you can peel it off much easier. Never put garlic under water to help get the papers off. Also Note: When you smash garlic, crush garlic or cut garlic it releases a substance called allicin. Basically, that's the wonderful, medicinal substance and the stronger it is the better it is for you. Same thing basically applies to onion as well.
Oh, there's just so much to tell you about garlic, but at least you've got a little info to go on. If you have more questions feel free to contact me. Garlic cannot be lived without!!
I call this plant a spice not an herb. You can find it in almost any grocery store. It looks like gnarled pieces of root. They are tan or light brown and should not be rubbery when you try to gently bend them. They should have no mold on them either. You are supposed to be able to plant these babies in the ground during the hot months, bring them in during the cold, and they will grow - I have not tried this but give me enough time and I'll let you know how that turns out as well!!! Otherwise, this is just not the right climate to grow ginger.
Ginger is used extensively in Asian cooking. Ever go to a Chinese Restaurant and wonder what those little peppery-odd tasting pieces or dime-size slices are in your food? Yep, ginger!
Ginger is amazing and is used for warming the body, for calming the queasiness of your stomach, having been used for years for nausea. It is exceptional in cold and flu teas and is used in pie and cookie spices. It is used as a yeast booster. It can also be candied and is quite tasty.
I keep it in three forms in my kitchen, dried powdered, cut and dried, and fresh, the latter is stored in my frig drawer and will last a couple weeks there.
When you use ginger for eating you need to peel it. For teas or recipes that will be strained, that's not necessary.
I will update this talk on ginger as I use it in my future recipes.
Hibiscus Flower- Hibiscus sabdariffa
This plant is in the Malva family and is also call "Roselle". It is one of my absolute favorite tea-making herb plants. This plant is an annual in our area and one I have never grown. I have always ordered mine. I have seed sitting in my basement. I've just never planted it. This perhaps could be the year!!
It is quite suitably planted in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. Seed - sow early spring in a warm place in your home or in a greenhouse. Germination is usually fairly rapid. Put the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and protect them with a frame until they are growing well.
It is an aromatic, astringent, cooling herb that is much used in the Tropics where it is a perennial. It is said to have diuretic effects and to help lower fevers. It has also been used quite effectively to control blood pressure in some persons.
The fresh calyx (the outer whorl of the flower) is eaten raw in salads, is cooked and used as a flavoring in cakes, etc. and is also used in making jellies, soups, sauces, pickles, and puddings. The calyx is rich in citric acid and pectin and so is useful for making jams, jellies. It is also used to add a red color and to flavor to herb teas. Supposedly it can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, but I've never tried it. It most definitely is a refreshing and very popular beverage. It is wonderful used as a hot tea in the Winter, blended with other herbs such as ginger and/or cinnamon and blends well with acidic fruits such as lemons and oranges. You will find this herb used as a tea will help constipation and there is new evidence that quite possibly it will help lower cholesterol and/the tender young leaves have also been used in salads, as a potherb and as a seasoning in curries, and have an acid, rhubarb-like flavor.
I use this herb constantly all Winter long in making several different types of teas. I use it for flavor, for medicinal effects and for sorbets and jellies.
Try it yourself and enjoy its many uses.
This an an herb which will be a longstanding favorite in your medicine chest. Its oils, flavonoids and tannins are of great benefit to the respiratory system and exceptional in aiding digesting. It is also useful as an expectorant and clears congestion. It is useful as a tea, syrup, and cough drop. I have 3 plants in my garden and they are most handsome in the Spring and early Summer. Then about mid-summer to late their stems begin to grow up and whorls of little white flowers grow on them. (Please note: horehound does not produce flowers until the second year but the plant can be cut, dried and used during the first year) You will note the stems are square which should call to your attention that it is part of the mint family. It has furry leaves which have a menthol-like taste. It's attractive in the beginning but can become not quite so beautiful. You can keep it looking pretty good by keeping those stems and whorls cut back yet sooner or later they are there again. BUT, all those clippings you will be bringing into the house or shed and laying them on your drying screen. By the time Fall rolls around you will have plenty horehound dried and waiting for you to turn them into medicine.
Horehound is a perennial and needs to be planted in well-drained sandy soil, full sun and needs average rainfall. My soil is clay but I have planted my horehound in very loose soil and it does fairly well. It is considered a gray-green colored plant and its leaves are almost ruffly. It's a nice plant to have in your garden and attractive to bees.
Horehound takes its name from Horus, the Egyptian god of sky and light.
It is my opinion that everyone should have Horehound in their herb garden.
I carry a secret flame for larkspur. I've always, always thought it was the most dainty, delicate flower and then when I realized it was also an herb I was "in love".
Greek mythology says that larkspur sprang from the blood of Ajax, who committed suicide after not being given the armor of the fallen warrior Achilles. Larkspur is most associated with warriors. Many years ago it was used to heal wounds and to kill parasites for knights and warriors who lived under difficult conditions. Another name for it is "knight's spur." It was also known to keep away scorpions and venomous snakes as well as ghosts.
Larkspur is the birth flower for the month of July and stands for "levity" in the language of flowers. Shakespeare mentions the plant under the name of Lark's Heel.
Larkspur is an annual, with upright, round stems about a foot high. Will grow in average soil in full sun and seed may be sown after the last frost in the Spring. The flowers are in short racemes, and are pink, purple or blue which bloom from June to August. The seeds of this plant are poisonous and will cause vomiting and purging if eaten.
A tincture of larkspur acts as a parasiticide and insecticide, being used to destroy lice and nits in the hair and during the Great War, when the men in the trenches took the trouble to use it, the results were said to be quite successful. Even to this day some people put drops of larkspur tincture in their shampoo for use in destroying lice.
The genus Delphinium is derived from the resemblance of the unopened flower to the head of a dolphin (Delphin).
One of my most favorite flowers and one which I have been unable to grow successfully are Delphiniums (the perennial, Delphinium grandiflorum or D. chinensis). I have tried to satisfy myself with growing Larkspur Consolida which is in the same genus.
In herbal lore you will find references to larkspur passed down as being used in Midsummer celebrations. In Europe it was used to strengthen the eyes by looking at the Midsummer ritual fire through bunches of larkspur held in hand.
It is one of the most beautiful and colorful herbs grown in the herb garden and in the wild.
As far as I'm concerned Lemon Balm is one of the finest herbs on earth. I remember when I first started herb gardening it was one of those herbs that grew without much attention. It's a good thing too because I knew NOTHING about how to grow ANYTHING. But it pleasantly grew and granted my senses the heavenly smell of sweet lemon. I remember one summer afternoon after a rainstorm, and it was so windy. I couldn't keep myself from walking out in my garden and checking around to see if anything was hurt. When I walked by the lemon balm I must have been walking at the perfect time. The wind blew and the scent of the sweetest lemon fragrance filled the air. My friends, once you've experienced this you never forget it. I do mean never because that has been over 25 years ago and I can describe where I was, when it was and how I was feeling.
Lemon Balm is a part of the mint family but is not invasive like peppermint or spearmint so have no fear. It will spread, not rampantly, but take care where you plant it. I plant mine where it does not get sun the entire day therefore, keeping it at bay but giving it just enough sunshine to grow and mature but not become way too out of control. I grow the solid green lemon balm. There are some that are yellow and green and light green but I just prefer the regular "Melissa". That is its other common name. It is also called the bee plant because bees love it!!
The uses for lemon balm are innumerable. It is above all a very calming herb and an excellent addition to teas. If you need a tea that just gives you that common everyday calming spirit this is the one for you. Actually, this is why in Roman times they used it for heart disorders or for lifting the spirits.
Here's a little tip - rub lemon balm into wood and the plant oils work like the oily polishes and the furniture will take on a lemon smell.
I use it when I'm out in the garden for just a few minutes to look around -- the bugs are driving me crazy, so I rub it on my skin and then take a handful and use it to brush away bugs from my face.
Lemon Balm dries well but seems to lose most of its intoxicating lemon smell. When I need to make a tea from dried herbs that, of course, is not medicinal, just flavorful, I generally will opt for Lemon Verbena, for it holds the lemon flavor better. But for a calming tea Lemon Balm is hard to beat, plus it pairs wonderfully with chamomile and several other types of herbs.
The chopped leaves are wonderful in soups and marinades and it works well with fish.
Lemon Balm will definitely make your heart merry.
First, I think lovage is pretty. It is light green and can get as much as 5 feet tall. It is a perennial herb, has hollow stems that divide into branches near the top. It is a very pretty, leafy herb which will develop tiny yellow flowers and flowers in June or July.
Medicinally used as a diuretic it has been reported to help in relieving jaundice, colic, stomach problems and obesity. The more important medicinal uses come from the root, itself. As for the leaf, it has been used on boils, is said to have cured pink-eye and erase freckles.
Today, the root is still used as a diuretic and does help flatulence.
As for its culinary uses, consider whatever you use celery in and go from there. It's been used in soups, stews and sauces. You can use the stems and the seeds. It's great in potato salad and I use it in tuna fish salad. Goes great in poultry stuffing, rice and steamed vegetables.
I dry lovage for storage but you can also blanch and freeze.
Try it - you might like it and at the very least it's an attractive plant for your herb garden.
Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis)(Malvaceae)
Before gelatin and other products were used to give marshmallows their pillowy consistency, this herb's root created the mucilaginous effect.
Marsh mallow is a humble plant, growing wild in waste places, but it has served many cultures as a medicine and even as a staple food in times of famine.
Marsh mallow's highest medicinal acclaim is as a demulcent. Internally it has a soothing effect on inflammation and irritation of the alimentary canal and of the urinary and respiratory organs. It was said to ease the passage of kidney stones. Externally, the dried or powdered roots were applied as a poultice on abrasions or eruptions. The powdered root has been used as a binder in formulating pills. The root has also been used in many medicinal preparations, teas, syrups and cough drops for the sore throat and constant coughing fits.
Culinary-wise: The original marshmallow confection with the French pate de guimauve, made from the plant's root. The uncooked young tops and tender leaves of marsh mallow can be added to spring salads. The roots have more substance and can be prepared for the table by boiling and then frying in butter with onions.
If you have moist soil and full sun, marsh mallow will flourish. It can be easily propagated by seed, cuttings, or root division. You can sow seeds in Spring, Summer or fall; the last will germinate the following Spring. Rootstock can be divided in the Spring, but dividing in the Autumn is preferable. Divide the offsets of the roots after the stalks decay and plant them 2 feet apart.
Its stems bear distinctive, velvety gray-green leaves and groups of attractive, 1-1/2 inch wide, five-petaled pale lilac-pink flowers, each with a showy central column of stamens.
To harvest and store - strip leaves off the branches in July or August when the flowers begin to bloom. The flowers should be taken at their peak, before they begin to wither. Collect taproots in the Autumn from plants at least 2 years old. Wash the roots, peel off the corky bark, and dry them whole or in slices.
All of the mallows are enjoying a revival as an old fashioned cottage garden flower and a medicinal plant. It grows about 5 feet or even taller and blooms in summer.
By the way, you can make a soothing bee sting lotion by steeping the leaves in hot water and then dabbing on bee strings, or steep a handful of leaves in a jar of rubbing alcohol for 2-3 weeks. Dab the drained leaves on stings.
What does just about anyone think of when you say the word "Oregano". Yep, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce. It's just a must-have in those fabulous sauces.
Oregano means "joy of the mountain" derived from the Greek oros, meaning "mountain" and ganos, meaning "joy." There are several species of oregano. I do believe my most favorite though is Greek Oregano.
Oregano was mostly used as a medicinal agent in earlier times. The Greeks made poultices from the leaves and placed them on sores and aching muscles. The ancient Roman scholar Pliny recommended oregano poultices for scorpion and spider bites. In the United States it was used as a stimulant and carminative. The tea was used for chronic coughs and asthma. Bald men used to mix oregano with olive oil and rubbed it, with hope swelling, into their scalps. The olive oil and oregano mixture was also rubbed onto rheumatic limbs and sprains. We use a lot of oregano oil today. Depending upon the season, as much as 200 pounds of oregano is required to produce a single pound of the oil. Drop by your natural food store and check out the price of oregano oil and you'll get a clear picture of the value of this herb.
As a cooking herb it is said that oregano was not used in the States until World War II when the flavoring caught on. Servicemen returned from the Mediterranean with a taste for oregano (or at least a taste for Italian cooking, and once pizza embedded itself it became "All-American."
Oregano enhances cheese and egg combinations, including omelets, frittatas, quiches, and savory flans. It's used in yeast breads, marinated vegetables, roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, roasted and stewed beef, pork, poultry. game, onions, black beans, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant and shellfish. Its flavor combines well with garlic, thyme, parsley, and olive oil. Folks, there is no Italian Seasoning without oregano!!!
Oregano grows amazingly easy and needs well-drained average soil and lots of sun. It is a perennial and a very easy keeper. It is susceptible to root rot and fungal disease and can become infested with spider mites, aphids, or leaf miners but with minimal care you will find oregano a very easy plant to grow. Oregano dries exceptionally well. I trim it to shape at first and of course, save the clippings, but later as the oregano tries to push out and bud I sometimes cut the plant back severely. Not to worry, oregano will come back for you in about a week or two.
Remember to be careful what oregano you buy. There are many different and varying species. Some are grown for their pink and purple flower bracts, their beautiful golden foliage, and some for their spicy or strong-flavor. Do not confuse with Marjoram, often called Wild Oregano. It has a COMPLETELY different flavor, each herb though, in and of itself, exquisite!!
My final word here is there's never enough oregano around when I need it!!
I have such a history when it comes to Parsley. I've always thought it was so beautiful!!! When I started cooking with it though everyone kept telling me I needed to use Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. I was amused - my curly leaf parsley was perfect. I used it to cook with, decorate with and chewed it for fresh breath. I used it fresh, dried and frozen in cubes. I just loved it! I only knew how to use 5 or 6 herbs in the beginning and I knew parsley well.
I laugh at all that now but actually the two "basic" type parsleys are Flat Leaf and Curly and the flat leaf does have a lot more flavor but don't dismiss the curly. It's truly wonderful as well.
Did you know that the Romans used parsley at orgies to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath? and that corpses were sprinkled with parsley to deodorize them. Parsley is high in chlorophyll hence the reasoning behind its use in these manners. My poor, poor parsley!
Parsley contains more Vitamin C per volume than an orange, contains Vitamin A, several B Vitamins, calcium and iron.
There is actually one more parsley called Hamburg, parsnip-rooted, and is used like a turnip.
Parsley works its magic as a blending herb. It blends the flavors around it. Parsley can be dried or frozen. I like to dehydrate my parsley. There's nothing more wonderful than having a big glass jar full of bright green parsley on my shelves.
Parsley is treated like an annual because in its second year it goes to seed and goes to seed fast. I just let mine go and generally it will drop its seed and I have more the next year to come up. Parsley tends to have extremely slow germination, up to six weeks, that's where the legend comes that parsley goes to the devil seven times before it grows. It needs full sun to partial shade. If you love butterflies grow parsley. They love it!! I just grow more than I need because I know once they find my parsley they will eat it to the ground. That's okay I've learned to share.
Passion Fruit Vine
The Latin name is Passiflora Incarnata. That's one of the few Latin names I remember because when I started asking about this plant everyone told me, "Oh no, you can't eat that!!" Whenever you're in doubt about a wild plant, you definitely need to check everywhere, read everything, check with anybody you know who has that kind of knowledge and just be careful. I'm not trying to make you afraid but it never hurts to make yourself aware and you always want to be safe.
Anyway, that's how I found out my information on my passion fruit vine and that's how I found out its old-fashioned name is Maypop. I was told it was called that because kids would stomp on them and they would make a pop when they burst. What do I know? But, just another interesting piece of information to pass along.
What is really awesome about the Passion Fruit Vine is the fact that you can take the parts of the vine, I generally just use the leaves because I want to use the fruit later, and make a tea that can be used as a sedative.
This plant is a perennial wildflower which I find exceptional in its uses. As stated in my blog, I use the fruit to make wonderful tropical tasting sorbets.
The plant comes up, trails out or climbs your trellis, blooms gorgeous purple flowers that attract bees and butterflies, then fruits and dies back. You then cut it down. It will come up again the following year, later than most of your herbs. Now, the downside is it doesn't always come up in the exact same place so you may have to transplant if you want it in a particular spot. It does not transplant well so make sure you have several starts before you attempt this. But you can be successful, I know, I do it every year. This is a really nice vine.
My introduction to rose hips was at best precarious. I kept going around asking people what a rose hip was, what it looked like, was it a seed, was it that hard thing on the tip of the plant, was it at the base of the plant. I laugh now at how little information there was out there when I first started questioning. Rose Hips have been used for centuries. It's just one of those things that unless someone shows you - you're just sort of unsure about. You think you know but . . .
Basically, a rose grows, it flowers and bears fruit, much like an apple. Inside the fruit are seeds. You know those little green bulbs that bulge out after the rose flower dies, right where the rose bloomed, then turn red or sometimes orangish-red in the Fall, that's the fruit or the rose hip.
Rose hips are loaded with Vitamin C, ounce for ounce they are richer in Vitamin C than oranges, and have a nice tart taste. You can use them in jellies, teas, soups. They are wonderful!!! I'm a big fan.
One must be honest though. They are labor intensive. If you are going to use them in teas you do not have to do anything but chop them up because you will strain before you drink your tea; but if you are using them for soups, etc. you need to slice them open and dig out the seed, and speaking from experience - it takes a lot of patience.
I bought Dog Roses from Richters in Canada. I bought herbs from there about, gosh, almost 15 years ago because I found they always sent me the correct plant. They are a really good company. Anyway Dog Roses have excellent rose hips. They are a wild rose, with delicate pink flowers so choose well where you plant them. My Golden Showers have nice rose hips as well, but the dog roses are excellent. I've not been disappointed.
Rosemary is the herb of remembrance and I need a sprig right now so I can remember all the information I want you to have on this wonderful herb.
In our particular part of the country Rosemary is generally considered an annual. Those of you who keep it really close to the house in a warm dry spot or those of you who are of the "green thumb brigade" and can bring them in to overwinter, will be most blessed. I generally shed a few tears each year over my rosemary plants. I have incredibly sad experiences bringing almost any plant inside so if you can do it, I applaud you and I am most sincerely jealous.
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub and has leathery, needle-like leaves and a very pungent pine like scent. In cooking its flavor harmonizes well with poultry, fish, lamb, beef, veal, pork and wild game, particularly when you roast them. Rosemary enhances tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, eggs, squash and potatoes. It works well with other herbs such as chives, thyme, chervil, parsley and bay. As a culinary herb the uses are endless.
You can dry whole sprigs of Rosemary or freeze them as well. Frozen Rosemary seems to be stronger even than the fresh. Freeze the sprigs whole and then when you need the herb just slide you thumb and forefinger down the sprig and take off as many leaves as you wish.
Rosemary is a handsome plant and the older ones will gracefully creep along hot sunny walls and therefore, make great accent plants on patios. Just be careful when potted that you do not water them too much because they are susceptible to root rot. Rosemary needs a sunny spot to grow and your soil should not be too acidic. Most soil will be fertile enough for your Rosemary plant. If it's really, really poor soil just improve it with a little fertilizer occasionally.
Rosemary contains a volatile oil that gets the blood flowing under the skin so make a tea with it and put it in your bathwater and you can stimulate a sluggish system. Use it as a steam facial to perk your face up too. If you are a brunette rosemary is a wonderful rinse to brighten your hair. Just put a sprig of rosemary in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and then work the rinse into your hair after shampooing.
There are all kinds of herbal lore concerning Rosemary such as students in ancient Greece wearing sprigs of Rosemary in their hair while studying for exams; or the tale of the Virgin Mary fleeing from Herod's soldiers with the Christ child and stopping to rest she put her cloak upon a Rosemary bush and from that time forth the flowers which were originally white changed to blue.
Ahh, I do go on but there's so much. I've got more, honest!!!
Bet it never even crossed your mind that Safflower was an herb, huh? But sure enough, it is.
Safflower is an annual plant with a smooth, erect, whitish stem that branches toward the top. The leaves alternate, are ovate and have pointed tips that are spiny and prickly. They have orange-yellow, thistle-like flowers. The seeds resemble tiny, pearly white shells. They grow in average to poor, dry soil in full sun and do not transplant well so it's best to sow directly into the garden.. The will grow anywhere from 1 to 2 feet tall and are quite stately.
Go to the birdseed section of your nearest store and look for the white safflower seed sitting on the shelf, some of the most expensive as well, I might add. That's it and cardinals are absolutely crazy about them. Mine just get downright picky when I have assorted seed in a feeder!
The next place to visit would be the aisle in your local grocery section that carries olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, yes . . . . and wait for it . . . safflower oil. It is one of the oils lowest in cholesterol and a significant food crop.
Ancient Egypt used safflower oil in their cooking. In the Middle Ages they used it for constipation and respiratory problems.
Often it is substituted for saffron but though it has the color it has very little flavor in comparison. Safflower is also used as a dye and is quite useful in craft projects. I, myself, have used the unopened buds as well as the flower in many a dried flower arrangement. The stems are hollow so wires are run up the stem to hold the flower in the arrangement. They dried exceptionally well.
When harvesting use gloves as the leaves are very, very prickly. Safflower is very useful but beautiful just used as a flower for the table.
Sage is just simply one of the most "taken for granted" herbs in the garden. When you start talking about herbs and telling people about them you just seem to skim right over sage. What a shame!
There are many species of sage but on this blog I will break them down and the sage we speak of here is Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis. This is the one that has the grayish-green, sort of soft, velvety leaves. This is also the one recognized as the Thanksgiving Herb. No turkey dressing or stuffing is worth its salt without sage!!
Sage is a woody perennial. By that, I mean it's a plant that comes back every year but as it ages it gets woody, wiry stems and a lot of times will have a tendency to die off - but not always. Take good care of your sages and they can give you a lifetime of use. I have 4 right now that are 20 years old. Their limbs are looking very aged but so far they're not giving up.
Sage is native to the northern Mediterranean coast. The widely cultivated herb is hardy north into Canada. You should plant it in full sunshine, in soil slightly alkaline, with little moisture needed once the plants are established which makes it a good plant for xeriscape gardens.
The history of sage is quite interesting. Sage has always been associated with immortality, or at the very least longevity and has been credited with increasing mental capacity. In the tenth century the medical school at Salerno, Italy, coined the aphorism, "Why should a man die, when he can go to his garden for sage?" The genus name derives from the Latin for "salvation." Sage was so prized for tea that the Chinese were willing to trade their own fine green tea for it in a ratio of 4 to 1. The American Indians would mix bear grease with sage for a salve they claimed cured skin sores. It was used as an infusion, for rubdowns and baths, and as a sort of leafy, disposable toothbrush.
Sage contains volatile oils and tannins and they are what dry up perspiration. The oils have antiseptic, astringent, and irritant properties. This is what makes sage useful in treating sore throats, mouth irritations, and possibly cuts and bruises. In 1939 it was shown that sage had estrogenic properties, which may have been why the herb was reputed to dry up milk. Research has also shown it lowers blood sugar in diabetics. Sage stimulates the skin and consequently makes a soothing, astringent aftershave and is sometimes mixed with lavender for just this purpose.
For cooking: Sage is lemony, camphorlike and pleasantly bitter. Young leaves may be eaten fresh in salads and cooked in omelets, fritters, soups, yeast breads and rolls, marinades, sausages, meat pies, and poultry stuffing. There are so many meats and vegetables that sage can be cooked with and cooked with well.
Sage has a beautiful flower and that flower is excellent used in any number of dishes.
Sage dries well and can be used in many craft items such as wreaths. Try making a culinary wreath for your kitchen. It will bring out the true pioneer in you.
Savory - Summer and Winter
In my garden I grow two savories, Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis), which is an annual and Winter Savory (S. montana) which is a perennial.
Summer Savory is delicate in nature, at least it's always proved to be that for me in my garden. It also seems to come up rather lanky so therefore not the prettiest herb. I've many times just thrown seed in a particular area and covered it in a hurry and it's come up but keep an eye on it, if you do it this way, because grass gets in with your tiny seedlings and it's the dickens figuring out which is which. Summer Savory tastes a little like peppery thyme but I can't live without it when I'm cooking beans, especially green beans. You throw a couple stems in and before you serve the beans just pull the stems out. Savory was meant to compliment the flavor of beans. It's also said to help "expel wind from the stomach and bowels". Need I say more? Summer Savory in olden times was said to be an aphrodisiac and naturally became a favorite.
Winter Savory is the hardier of the two and the leaves are tougher, stiffer and the plant makes a nice compact planting, a little like a tiny bush and has found itself in many a knot garden. You can grow Winter Savory just fine from seed or cuttings. Winter Savory can be used interchangeably with Summer Savory but its taste is a little more piny. Winter Savory is actually better used with meats for flavoring. Winter Savory in olden times was said to decrease sexual appetite.
Here's some interesting info on the genus's Latin name, Satureja, is attributed to the Roman writer Pliny and is a derivative of the word for "satyr," the half-man, half-goat creature that roamed the ancient mythological forests. According to legend, the savories belonged to the satyrs.
Savories were brought to the New World as trusted remedies for indigestion.
Each year I go to festivals and plant sales and the most difficult plant to find has always been Summer Savory. I could find Winter but not summer. Try starting yours from seed and be the only one on your block to have them!!
I'm going to talk to you a little about this magnificent herb, Stevia rebaudiana. I tried for years to talk one our resident farmers into growing stevia but he kept telling me it just wouldn't make a very good cash crop. Sugar cane, as everyone knows is the money maker in the south and here in Indiana, well, if you live here you know it's corn!! Well, I still think stevia would be the way to go.
In Indiana stevia is an annual. In the Spring after the last frost it needs to be planted in the sun and needs average watering. It can get as tall as 2 feet but has a tendency to flop over so my suggestion is to just keep it cut back. You need to do that anyway to keep it from flowering. I don't really think there's much to brag about with regard to the looks of this plant. It's actually quite straggly looking but if allowed to bloom will have a very tiny white flower. Still, not even the flower improves its looks too very much. It's the leaf that's truly remarkable. Just pluck one small leaf and put it in your mouth and in a matter of moments the sweetness will be so strong you'll have to spit it out. You can harvest stevia all summer long. You can use it fresh but I find it is best to cut it, dry it and when you are ready to use it put the dried leaves in a coffee grinder, grind it up and it will be ready for use. The great thing is stevia does not effect blood sugar and is virtually calorie free. The biggest complaint I've heard about stevia is the slight licorice aftertaste. I challenge that taste being any worse than the after taste of other low-calorie sweeteners! It is about 30 times sweeter than sugar. It is finally getting some attention in the United States but it has been slow. Japan uses more stevia than any other country and stevia garners 40% of the market there including its cola industry.
Stevia is very easy to grow from cuttings but is quite difficult to grow from seed. There are several varieties of stevia.
This is an herb that I expect to come back to later and give you more information on. So stay posted.
Urtica from Uro meaning "I burn"
Dioica meaning "2 households" because when the plant comes up it will grow male and female plants and you can tell which is which by the seeds on each plant. Nettles is a perennial which means it dies down in the Winter and then comes back each year. It will spread readily by rhizomes and stolens - long roots underground and then along the route of the root other plants will sprout up. It grows best in rich soil, in disturbed habitats, in moist woodlands or thickets along rivers and along partially shaded trails.
Nettles looks a little like catnip but catnip does NOT sting. It has square stems but is one of the few plants with square stems that is not a part of the mint family. The leaves of the stinging nettle have on them tiny-like hypodermic needles, for lack of a better description, which when touched release several chemicals - the main 3 being histamine, acetycholine and serotonin and these act together to protect the plant.
Acetylcholine gives the burning sensation
Serotonin "What reaction does serotonin bring about in people or animals?" Yes it’s all mood related and when you add serotonin to the mix it is used to aggravate the other two chemicals.
I absolutely think it’s amazingly cool how all of these chemicals work together to protect the plant. Just so interesting!!
By the way, here’s a little info to tuck in your bonnet - or maybe someone here knows? Which state in the Union is the only state to not have wild stinging nettles? - Hawaii!!
Nettles are the exclusive food of several European butterflies - one of them being the Peacock Butterfly and one the Small Tortoiseshell. Also, some moths are known to feast on nettles.
Now - for the really technical stuff.
Nettles contains - calcium, iron, phosphorus, silica, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iodine, sodium, sulfur, chlorophyll, tannin, Vitamin C, beta carotene and B Complex Vitamins, high levels of easily absorbable amino acids and believe this or not - 10% protein- more than any other vegetable!! There you go vegetarians. One of the more perfect foods!!
As for medicinal uses:
Traditionally used for allergies. People have tried decongestants, antihistamines, allergy shots and prescriptions such as Allegra and Claritan all of which lose effectiveness over time and cause drowsiness, dry sinuses, insomnia and high blood pressure. Nettles has none of those side effects.
A nettles infusion/tea has been used for arthritis, rheumatism and skin conditions such as eczema; it relieves joint pain and muscle soreness.
It is used in shampoos because it is useful for dandruff and adds luster to the hair. Cattlemen have fed their cows this for years just for this reason alone. It bring luster to the hair and it’s full of good vitamins and minerals.
Nettles decreases inflammation and is considered one of most highly regarded herbs for men in alternative medicine. The root which is yellow has shown great promise for BPH, enlarged prostate and night time frequent urination and also the inability to urinate or painful urination.
In the earlier years of our country, when people got older and as they used to say "were wasting away" and didn’t want to eat or do anything, sometimes after a long illness or some death in the family that caused them to give up hope - people would feed them or give them a tea made from nettles. It was considered a restorative for the kidneys and bladder and gave nourishment to the whole body and many times it restored the health of an older loved one.
Nettles has been used all down through history in the making of cloth as well.
The seeds, leaves and roots are the usable parts of the plant.
Something new I learned a few years ago - NEVER eat the leaves of stinging nettles after the plant has flowered and gone to seed. The leaves develop what are called "cystoliths." They are like stones that are usually made up of calcium carbonate and can irritate your kidneys and bladder.
So pick the nettles while they are young, early in the Spring. Remember to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt and leather gloves, then harvest away!!
I use nettles a whole lot for making infusions/teas. It’s not bad tasting at all. I also use it just like I would any other green. I eat it freshly cooked or steamed, I dry it and I freeze it. It makes a killer pesto and is wonderful in rice dishes.
This plant's name is derived from the French esdragon, meaning "little dragon." It has dragonlike roots that may strangle the plant if it is not divided often. I've never been so lucky as to keep tarragon around long enough to watch that happen! Thomas Jefferson was an early distributor of tarragon in the fledgling United States. In a letter to the President, written in 1809, General John Mason reported that the plant Jefferson had given him "has flourished well in the open air - and will in Spring afford plenty of slips."
Tarragon is chiefly used as a culinary herb, but can also be used to stimulate the appetite, to relieve flatulence and colic and eases rheumatism. If you chew on tarragon you may notice a numb feeling on your tongue which is why it has been used to relieve toothaches as sort of a local anesthetic. There really is no scientific basis for any of these practices but it can't hurt to try! Tarragon can protect foodstuffs as an antioxidant. It is also used in perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics, and in condiments and liqueurs.
Tarragon is one of the herbs in the French fines herbes. Tarragon can be a dominating flavor and may overshadow other herbs or flavors so go easy at first when using it. The leaves are used in salads, garnishes, in remoulade sauce, tartar sauce, béarnaise sauce, and French Dressing. Tarragon enhances fish, shellfish, pork, beef, lamb, game, poultry, pates, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onion, artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, beets and many veggies. I use it extensively in vinegars, homemade mayonnaise, herbal butters, cream sauces and soups, along with using it in tea blends. I can NEVER pass up a tea made from Applemint and Tarragon.
Tarragon is supposed to enhance the growth of most vegetables when planted among them so is a great companion in the vegetable garden.
I think of all the information I give you on Tarragon this next paragraph is most important. There are two types of Tarragon, Russian and French. Russian is most often grown from seed and flourishes with great abandon - BUT lacks the wonderful taste and aromatic oils of the classic French Tarragon. Most gardeners acquire French Tarragon through seedlings, divisions, or cuttings. Take cuttings in the Fall or if living in the North take them in the Spring. Set the plants 2 feet apart and mulch in winter. Tarragon transplants poorly and requires lots of light.
Generally, you can get 2 harvests a year from Tarragon. The leaves can be dried and can brown some in drying. Preserving in vinegar is one of the best ways to maintain the awesome flavor of Tarragon. It may also be frozen. Don't go another year without Tarragon.
I'd say that perhaps this is one of the most used herbs known to man. Thyme is a nearly perfect herb. You'd think it was basil but I don't know, all in all, thyme ranks right up there. It's used as a savory herb, a sweet herb and a medicinal herb. It's also an excellent herb for crafting because it dries beautifully.
Thyme is a perennial. It is small with many branches and is very aromatic. It has tiny little flowers that range in color, depending on what variety of thyme you are growing, from lilac or white to pink, crimson or blue but they do not bloom for long. Needless to say the bees are in love with this plant as well. Thyme makes a great windowsill herb, it also is a great creeping herb being used for crevices in paving or rocks for many a terrace garden. Check the different types of thyme available. You're sure to find one that is useful for you.
Thyme's essential oil is used extensively as a medicinal. It quiets gastrointestinal complaints, used as a tea for shortness of breath and congested lungs. It is also used as an antiseptic. It has antispasmodic qualities that help in relieving asthma, whooping cough, and stomach cramps. Make a poultice from thyme and use on sores or places on the skin that have become inflamed. Some people gargle with thyme when they have sore throats. Believe it or not in World War I the essential oil served as a battlefield antiseptic.
In your vegetable garden thyme benefits eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes when planted near them. Thyme reportedly repels cabbage worms and white flies.
Thyme requires very little care but it does need well-drained soil. Avoid wetting the leaves when watering as this reduces their fragrance. The creeping thymes, used as ground cover, withstand winters better than their bushy counterparts but are more vulnerable to poor soil drainage.
You can grow thyme from seed but many like to take cuttings, which should be done in the Spring, or try propagating them by layering which is actually my favorite way. Culinary varieties will probably need to be replaced every 2-3 years due to the fact that they become very woody and straggly.
Their pests and diseases are fungal disease, root rot and spider mite infestation.
I like to harvest throughout the year and lay them out on screens for drying, but the straggly ones I will cut and tie them in bunches and hang them to dry.
Next time you are in the market for thyme just look and see all the different varieties there are available. My most favorite is variegated lemon thyme.
I believe I told you I'd tell you a little about turmeric. This is another one of those that I just always call a spice. It's been around for thousands of years and has a variety of uses.
Have you ever picked up a container of yellow mustard and looked at the ingredients? Yep, turmeric is there right beside mustard seed (which is an herb), vinegar, water assorted spices and salt! It has an intense yellow coloring and gives the mustard that bright color. I've stained my counter tops many times with turmeric. It makes the yellow in your deviled eggs yellower and once you start cooking with it you'll find all sorts of way to use it. I put turmeric in my bean soup, vegetable soup and chili. Turmeric is a basic ingredient in curries. You can use it as a natural coloring in your breads as well. For me, the real reason I use it is because turmeric is a healthy spice. If you were to visit India for example you would eat turmeric every day in something. Did you know that India has the lowest rates of Alzheimer's in the world? Turmeric contains curcumin, it's main component. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, is antibacterial and anti-fungal. It is also believed that it carries anti-tumor and antioxidant properties which cancel the harmful effects of free radicals in your body. It's been used for smooth and glowing skin to making pastes for plastering on boils.
It is a member of the ginger family and is native to tropical South Asia. It needs heat and lots of water to grow well. We here in the United States see turmeric mostly in powder form or in pill form. Give it a try in your cooking, just remember it's definitely yellow, has a taste that will not be noticed if you don't use too much but you'll definitely know it's there if you do. The thing to remember is it's oh, so good for you.
Millefolium means "thousand leafed". Yarrow is a beautiful common wayside plant found in most temperate climates of the world. You will recognize it in the wild by its lovely white flowers that rise above a stem of lacy leaves. It grows freely in the wild and in the garden. It is a perennial which germinates easily from seed and loves the sun, yet adapts well to a variety of situations, full sun to partial shade, cold or hot weather, wet or dry conditions.
For medicinal purposes look for the wild white yarrow (or native pink varieties, which I, myself, have never seen). The colorful hybrids are bred for aesthetics rather than their medicinal qualities. Though what garden is worth its salt without a beautiful yellow/golden yarrow plant.
You can harvest yarrow throughout the year but it has its highest and richest concentration of medicinal oil when it is in flower.
Yarrow has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. Yarrow is aphoteric, meaning it moves in the direction it's needed in the body. It is both stimulating and sedative. It is used to stimulate delay menstrual cycles and relax uterine tension and menstrual cramps. But it is very effective at reducing heavy bleeding during menstruation. It's greatly effective during childbirth as a uterine relaxant and styptic. "Styptic" means that it stops bleeding. Shepherd's Purse is another powerful styptic and is often used along with Yarrow for its powerhouse effect.
Yarrow is rich in volatile oils, specifically chamazulene, camphor, and linalool,which stimulate blood flow to the surface of the skin and aid in elimination via the pores. This helps explain its long-standing reputation as a diaphoretic, an herb that promotes sweating and thus can help reduce fevers by driving out the heat and naturally cooling the body.
Yarrow's nickname is "Cure-All".
Yarrow was used at least up through the civil war to treat bleeding and inflammation. Yarrow was an important plant in native American medicine. At least 46 tribes used yarrow and they found 28 ailments that responded to the herb. Legend has it that Achilles packed yarrow on his comrades' wounds to stop the bleeding. Some botanists say yarrow's scientific generic name, Achillea, came from this story. Witches used yarrow in incantations which may be the source for its many names such as devil's nettle, devil's plaything and badman's plaything.
Yarrow was sewn up in flannel and put under the pillow to make the sleeper dream a vision of his or her true love. However, if the sleeper dreamed of cabbages, not so remote a possibility given yarrow's leafy fragrance - then death or other serious misfortune was about to strike.
Yarrow is used in companion planting because it attracts beneficial insects, including predatory wasps and lady beetles. Occasionally yarrow may be bothered by powdery mildew, rust, or stem rot but not often.
It can be divided in the Spring or Fall. It's a beautiful flower as well as a magnificent herb. I hope you enjoy the plant in your garden!!