Monday, June 25, 2012

All About Herbs

Until last year, I had never grown herbs.  Ignorant of the many medicinal and aromatic qualities found in herbs, I never realized how valuable they are to a gardener.

I started with mint.  Just after I had the twins last year, my sweet husband went out and purchased several varieties of mint.  I never knew there were so many!  Currently, I have 10 types, spearmint, peppermint, orange, chocolate, apple, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and mojito.  

As I studied more on the benefits of herbs, I wanted to try them all.  This year, I planted every type of herb I could get my hands on!  My  most prolific herbs are basil and lemongrass.  I use basil in just about everything, and the lemongrass makes the best tea and smells heavenly!

We plant all of our herbs in pots, in a rich potting soil mix.  It's easier to control the moisture and sun exposure.  Down here, when it gets really hot in the summer, I can move the pots to a place where they receive shade in the hot afternoon, or filtered sunlight.  As the days grow cooler, I can move them out to full sun once again.  My herbs last longer, and they don't burn to a crisp in the summertime.  

As is true of most herbs, the more you cut them back, the more they'll grow and produce.  I use what I can fresh, but when I have extra, I either hang them up to dry, or place them in a drying rack for a couple of weeks.  After they are dry and crispy, the herbs can be stored in a Ziploc bag or a glass jar.  I still have dried mint from last year!  As space is limited here, I found that my herbs fit nicely along my curtain rods in the kitchen.  They are out of the way, AND they make a pretty decoration to the room!

Herbs have a myriad of uses, not just for cooking.  Some, like basil and penny royal can be used as a bug deterrent.  Many have medicinal uses, for instance hyssop, borage, feverfew, and catnip.  Several like plantain and comfrey are used in poultices.  Still others produce teas that can heal and calm nerves like
chamomile, lemongrass, and calendula.  

Two really good books to have on hand:  The How To Herb Book and The ABC Herbal.  The first book is being revised, so you may have to wait awhile, but you might get lucky and find it used somewhere.

On a side note, all of the dried herbs I purchase, I have found from Mountain Rose Herbs and The Bulk Herb Store.  Both sites have a great selection, quality products, and valuable information on all of the herbs they sell.

Also, if you decide to purchase either of the books listed above, going through the link I provided will give my family a small percentage in commission.  Shameless plug...

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