K. HOW TO GROW HERBS

                    HOW TO GROW HERBS – COOKING & MEDICINAL

  1. 1.    Preparations
  2. 2.    Drying Herbs
  3. 3.    Medical Terms
  4. 4.    The Herbs A-Z
  5. 5.    Further Reading & Links

Herbs are so important that they are essential for anyone contemplating growing food sustainably. They are vital for practical and aesthetic reasons, for use in the kitchen, for making herbal teas, for making plant sprays, as companion plants, for attracting bees and other beneficial insects and of course for medicinal purposes.

They are easy to grow. They can be grown in a special herb garden, in or at the edge of a forest garden, as edging, in vegetable plots, as part of your flowerbeds, in pots, or indoors on the kitchen windowsill.

Each herb will have its uses described as – Companions, Beneficial Insect Attractant, Culinary Uses & Medical Uses, as well as its cultivation and harvesting details.

As with my eclectic approach to the different forms of sustainable horticulture and agriculture, so is my eclectic approach to medicine. To reject conventional medicine completely in favour of alternate or traditional forms of medicine, or visa versa, seems to me ridiculous. Where there are shortcomings in one form of medicine, there are often others that will provide answers and practical remedies.

We use conventional medicine and medications. We also use traditional European herbal medicines and traditional Indian Ayurvedic herbs and medications, and a few traditional Rongoâ Mâori (traditional Mâori medicine) from native New Zealand plants.

Around the world over many thousands of years, local people have used herbs for medicinal uses, using millions of different valuable herbs and medicinal plants. I come from a European background, so those are the herbs I know best, but for those of you that live in other parts of the world, you will have to discover your local herbs and the associated traditional native medical practices of your area.

My knowledge of the whole subject of holistic medicines and herbs is not great, so I have included links and further reading at the end of this article that will help you to get a greater understanding of this valuable and important subject, as well as how to grow some of these valuable plants for you and your family’s use. If you want to into the subject in greater depth, you could take a course in Naturopathy, or a course on herbal medicine, or the traditional medicine of your area.

1. PREPARATIONS

How to Prepare:

Herbal Tea: 1 heaped teaspoon per cup. Boiled water added and brewed for a few minutes, like ordinary tea.

Standard Brew: One large (man-size) handful of dried or well-chopped fresh herbs, to 2 cups of filtered water. Place in an enamel, stainless steel or earthenware pot with the cold water with the lid on and heat over a gentle heat until almost boiling. Keep the lid on over the heat for about 3 minutes, but without boiling. Then remove from the heat to brew for at least 3 hours, still with the lid on, but overnight is best.

Do not strain the herbs. Leave in the pot, or pour the unstrained liquid into jars. You can then pour the liquid off the top for use, as the herbs will settle at the bottom. The longer you leave them in the better. Tie a cotton cloth over the jars to admit air but not dust. Keep no longer than three days.

Ointment:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups coconut oil
  • 230-280 grams (8-10oz) dried herbs
  • ¼ cup melted beeswax

Method:

  1. To infuse the coconut oil, melt in a double boiler and add the elderflower leaves, turning off the heat.
  2. Infuse the leaves for 4 hours until the oil has turned green, then reheat the oil in the double boiler and add the melted beeswax.

Oil: Pick flowers, and allow to wilt a bit to lose some moisture, place in a container and just cover with organic extra virgin olive oil. Infuse for two weeks then pour the oil through a sieve and bottle the oil.

2. DRYING HERBS

Plants: Bunches can be cut and hung up in a warm cupboard at 20-300C (68-860F) in the dark to dry slowly. Once the bunch is crackling dry, rub off the leaves, or break up the whole bunch and store in dry sealed jars. Where the whole plant is to be used, hang up the plant with the roots attached until thoroughly dry.

Leaves: Ideally, dry leaves in the dark, in a warm, but not hot, airing cupboard at 20-300C (68-860F), or a shaded part of a glasshouse or conservatory. They should be laid out on nylon netting, or the cut out seat of an old pair of tights, spread over a wooden frame to allow the circulation of air. See also each herb for further or individual instructions.

Flowers: Drying flowers are more difficult as the flowers are more delicate. The instructions for drying leaves are similar, but flowers need drying with the utmost care, gently in the dark on trays as above, preferably where they will have fresh air flowing over them; a gentle fan can be used for this.

Roots: Thoroughly wash and scrub the soil off the roots, before drying. If the roots are thick and large, it is better to cut them into smaller pieces so they will dry easier. Also, the smaller pieces will be easier to boil or grind in preparing the roots. I have also stored fresh, washed roots in the freezer in Ziplock bags.

3. MEDICAL TERMS

Medical terminology to explain the action of the different herbs:

Alterative: Tending to restore normal health; cleanses and purifies the blood; alters existing nutritive and excretory processes gradually restoring normal bodily functions.
Anabolic: Constructive phase of metabolism; building up (repair and growth) of body substance.
Analgesic: Relieves pain.
Anthelmintic: Helps destroy and dispel parasites.
Anti-atherogenic: Counteracts the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Antibiotic: Inhibits growth or destroys micro-organisms.
Anticholesterolaemic: Promotes a reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood.
Antidiabetic: Plants that have compounds that mimic insulin.
Antiemetic: Reduces nausea and prevents vomiting.
Antigenotoxic: Reverses the effects of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer.
Antihypertensive: Reduce high blood pressure.
Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammation.
Antioxidant: Removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents from the body.
Antipyretic: Dispels heat, fire and fever.
Antioxidant:  Neutralises free radicals and their destructive oxidising effects on the cells of the body.
Antiscorbutic: Having the effect of preventing or curing scurvy, because it is rich in vitamin C.
Antispasmodic: Relieves spasms of voluntary and involuntary muscles.
Antitussive: An agent that suppresses coughing.
Anxiolytic: A medication that inhibits anxiety.
Aperient: A mild laxative.
Aphrodisiac: Reinvigorates the body by reinvigorating the sexual organs.
Aromatic: Herbs, which contain volatile, essential oils, which aid digestion and relieve gas.
Astringent: Firms tissues and organs; reduces discharges and secretions.
Bitter tonic: Bitter herbs which in small amounts stimulate digestion.
Cardiotonic: Heart tonic that leads to increased contractility, increased contract strength and an increase in blood pumped from the heart.
Carminative: Relieves intestinal gas, pain and distension; promotes peristalsis.
Cathartic: Strong laxative which causes rapid evacuation.
Demulcent: Sooths, protects and nurtures internal membranes.
Deobstruent: Removes obstructions; having the power to clear or open the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body.
Diaphoretic: Causes perspiration and increases elimination through the skin.
Depurative: Herbs that have purifying and detoxifying effects.
Diuretic: Promotes activity of kidney and bladder and increases urination.
Emetic: Induces vomiting.
Emmenagogue: Helps promote and regulate menstruation.
Emollient: Soothes, softens and protects the skin.
Expectorant: Promotes discharge of phlegm and mucus from lungs and throat.
Febrifuge: Reduces fever.
Galactagogue: A food or drug that promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk.
Haemostatic: Stops the flow of blood – a type of astringent that stops internal bleeding or haemorrhaging.
Immunostimulant: Stimulates and strengthens the immune system
Laxative: Promotes bowel movements.
Lithotriptic: An agent that dissolves calluses.
Nervine: Strengthens functional activity of the nervous system.
Nephritic: An agent that reduces swelling and inflammation of the kidney.
Nutritive tonic: Increases weight and density and nourishes the body.
Pectoral: Relating to the breast or chest.
Prophylactic: Increases immunity and boosts the immune system.
Refrigerant: Reduces body temperature and relieves thirst.
Rejuvenative: Prevents bodily decay, postpones aging, revitalizes the organs.
Resolvent: Promoting the resolution or the dissipation of a pathologic growth.
Rubefacient: A substance for topical application that produces redness of the skin e.g. by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation.
Sedative: Calms or tranquilizes by lowering functional activity of organ or body part.
Stimulant: Increases internal heat; dispels internal chill and strengthens metabolism and circulation.
Stomachic: Strengthens stomach function.
Styptic: Capable of causing bleeding to stop when it is applied to a wound.
Trophorestorative: A nutritive restorative for an organ, by providing vital nourishment.
Vasodilator: Causes relaxation of the blood vessels.
Vermifuge: Kills parasites in the intestines.
Vulnerary: Assists in healing of wounds by stimulating cell growth and protecting against infection.
 
4. THE HERBS A-Z

ALFALFA Lucerne (Medicago sativa)

Alfalfa

This is the same family as clover with similar small grey-green leaves and purple flowers, but generally a taller plant and deeper, longer roots.

Soil & Sight:

Alfalfa prefers deep topsoil with good organic content, so if necessary fork in compost at 1 bucket per square metre (square yard). Ideal pH as always – 6.4, some references say up to 7.5, but this just means they like lime. If the pH is already 6.4, then apply 2 handfuls of gypsum (Calcium sulphate) per square metre (square yard), which is pH neutral, but supplies both Calcium and Sulphur.

Sowing:

Sow directly outside in spring or autumn, very lightly sprinkling the small seed and mixing in with your fingers, or sprinkling on some fine top soil to just cover them.

Thin later to about 7cm (3in) apart each way.

Growing:

Keep weeded in the seedling stage. Later the plants will cover the ground and smother out most weeds.

Harvesting:

When the plants are just starting to flower, cut the plants down to 2½cm (1in) above the crowns and place the stringy plants onto nylon covered wooden frames to dry in the shade in the warm at around 20-300C (68-860F).

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

Cut small and added to salads, or as a tea flavoured with orange peel, lemon peel, mint and honey and drunk cold.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Whole herb. A small handful once a day made into a standard brew.

Actions: alterative, diuretic, antipyretic, haemostatic

Uses:

  • Alfalfa is a fine tonic, kidney cleanser and alkalizer of the whole system.
  • It is detoxifying.
  • It is also a mild blood purifier.
  • It is rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and almost all known vitamins.

 

ALOE (Aloe vera)

Aloe

This is a plant of hot, dry sandy and rocky regions and is not hardy in temperate regions. In semi-tropical, or Mediterranean climates with no frosts it can be grown outside. Here in Nelson we grow it very successfully as a houseplant in the kitchen-dining area, just as we did in the UK.

 

 

Soil & Sight:

Any well drained potting compost will do. You can make your own, by mixing well:

7 parts sieved topsoil

3 parts well rotted garden compost

2 parts sharp sand

Propagating:

Plant an offset obtained from a friend. They are very easy to grow.

Growing:

Grow in a 20cm (8in) pot indoors near a window, or in a frost-free conservatory.

Harvesting:

Drying aloe is not possible, and anyway it grows all the year round, so fresh leaves are always available. Cut the thickest leaves and squeeze out the gel, either into a container or straight onto the burn or wound. The gel will keep for a few days in the fridge, but it is better to use fresh.

Medical Uses:

Always keep a pot of Aloe Vera in or near the kitchen in case of mild burns – immediately run the burn under a cold tap first to cool it thoroughly, then break a leaf in half and gently apply the jelly-like juice onto the burn.

Aloe gel is a wonderful tonic for the liver and spleen, for the blood and the female reproductive system.

Part Used: Gel from the leaves.

Actions: alterative, bitter tonic, rejuvenative, emmenagogue, purgative, vulnerary.

Uses:

  • As a general tonic take 2 teaspoons 3 times a day with a pinch of turmeric, or mixed with water or apple juice.
  • Constipation.
  • The fresh juice can be applied externally for burns, sores, herpes, etc.

 

ANGELICA (Angelica archangelica)

Angelica

Angelica is a tall lush majestic plant, up to 2m (6½ft) high with very large leaves, strong stems and large flower heads.

Soil & Sight

Angelica prefers a shady spot in a rich moist soil, but not too heavy, so fork in 1 bucket of compost per square metre (yard). In a herb bed it should be planted at the back because of its height.

Sowing:

You can buy the plants or sow them. If you buy the seeds from a seed company then you will need to store the seeds in a fridge for 2-3 weeks before sowing to get reasonable germination. In early spring, sow 3 seeds, 2cm (¾in) deep, in a 5cm (2in) pot in a greenhouse or windowsill, thinning the seedlings to one. Then plant out after the last frosts.

It is a biennial, so you will need to sow the seeds for two years running so that you will always have one and two year old plants. In its second year it will flower and produce seeds which you can save or let fall to seed themselves. If you collect the seed in the autumn, sow immediately in pots as above, planting out in the spring.

Growing:

Weed and when the plants are 8cm (3in) or more mulch with leaves, shreddings, bark etc.

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves in summer for drying. Harvest the stalks for candying or using fresh in the late spring.

Culinary Uses:

The traditional use was for the leaf stalks to be candied and used for decorating cakes. Another use for the larger leaf stalks is to mix them with rhubarb when stewing them together. The angelica adds an extra pleasant taste to the rhubarb and removes the tartness.

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used: Angelica has valuable volatile oil in all parts of the plant, and in particular the roots. It is used for all digestive problems, including colic and heartburn, as well as promoting and regulating menstruation.

Actions: diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue.

 

ANISEED Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

Aniseed

Aniseed has brilliant green feathery leaves and umbels of creamy flowers forming the yellow seeds. The whole plant is highly aromatic and pleasant smelling.

This is not the same as Star Anise, which is a Chinese spice.

 

Soil & Sight:

Well-drained soil in full sun is best.

Sowing:

Aniseed is an annual, so can only be grown from seed. Sow in a seed box in a greenhouse or windowsill. Sow as flat as possible and slightly pressed in. They need to be covered to keep the light out, because they will only germinate in the dark. They can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

They can also be sown outside after the last frosts when the soil has started to warm up. Sow in fine soil that ideally has had the top few centimetres (1½in) sieved. Cover the seeds lightly and gently water.

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary and when the plants are 6cm (2in) mulch around with 2-3cm (¾-1in) grass clippings.

Harvesting:

Cut off the seed-heads when dried, but before the seeds have shed. If they need more drying lay out in a glasshouse, then rub the seeds off the head and store in a paper bag in a dry cool place.

Companions:

Aniseed improves the vigour of any plants growing near it.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Aniseed is a good host for predatory wasps, which prey on aphids and it is also said to repel aphids. It deters pests from brassicas by camouflaging their odour.

Culinary Uses:

The seeds are used to flavour bread and cakes at a heaped teaspoon per ½kg (1 pound) flour.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used: Seeds

Actions: carminative, stimulant, galactagogue.

Uses:

  • It is a more powerful tonic than Angelica. For digestive ailments chew one teaspoon of seeds before meals – 3 times a day.
  • For baby’s colic, make a mild tea with 1 teaspoon of seeds to 1 cup of water. Give several teaspoons of cold tea before meals, or add to their bottle of milk.

 

BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil

This has to be at the top of my herb list. It is an essential herb and one we grow a lot of each year. There are numerous varieties, as well as the Bush Basil (Ocymum minumum) and Sacred Basil.

Soil & Sight:

As a fast growing annual it needs a rich, well fed soil, with added compost and blood and bone. If the soil is heavy clay, add some sharp sand as well as compost.

Sowing:

For early crops, sow inside or in a glasshouse or conservatory. Basil does not transplant well, so sow two or three seeds in small pots then plant out carefully, without disturbing the roots. Sow several times throughout the growing season for a good succession.

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart, after the last frosts. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting & Preserving:

You can dry basil, but it loses a lot of its aromatic smell and flavour in the process. We have found it is better to freeze small amounts of fresh leaves in small Ziplock sachets. When you want to use them, take them out of the freezer and crunch them up in the sachet while frozen, to save chopping before using.

Companions:

Basil is one of the most used herbs with tomatoes in cooking, but is also one of the best herbs to plant with tomatoes to improve their growth and flavour. Basil also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Do not plant near rue or sage.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Basil can be helpful in repelling thrips.

Culinary Uses:

Endless in short! With any recipe that involves tomatoes. Used to make herb butter with parsley to melt on cooked fish or with shellfish. As the flavour increases with cooking, unlike most herbs, it is good in egg and cheese dishes, poultry and game, soups and stews.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

Actions: diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, anti-spasmodic, antibacterial, antiseptic.

Uses:

  • As it causes perspiration and reduces fever, it is good for colds, flu and bronchitis.
  • It is a powerful tonic, stimulant and nerve remedy.
  • It is also helpful in relieving nausea and severe vomiting.
  • A remedy for indigestion.
  • The fresh leaf juice is used externally for fungal infections of the skin.

 

BAY LAUREL (Laurus nobilis)

Bay

There are so many recipes that ask for the inclusion of a bay leaf, this tree is a must. Bay Laurels are evergreen and so the leaves can be harvested all year.

Soil & Sight:

This is a tree that can last many decades, so give its location some serious thought. Left alone they can grow to 10m (33ft) or more, but they are easily trained into bushes, or as a spherical head on a 1.5m (5ft) stem, and can also be grown in a tub or large pot.

Bay in pot

They will grow quite happily in any soil of moderate quality in full sun, but they prefer a moisture retentive soil, so the addition of compost will help. They also enjoy protection from cold winds. In areas with very cold winters it is best to grow bay in a tub that can be brought into a glasshouse, or conservatory in the winter.

Propagating:

Personally I would buy a young tree from a nursery, but you can also propagate it from semi-hardwood stem cuttings.

You can also layer a low branch at the end of summer, by bending the branch down, bending it in a ‘U’ shape and burying the bottom of the ‘U’. Before burying it nick the bottom of the ‘U’ and apply rooting hormone. Leave the end of the branch sticking out with its leaves on and a brick or stone to hold it down. Carefully check in the summer to see if it has rooted, if not wait till autumn or the following spring, then cut it off and plant where you want it.

Growing:

Because it likes its soil relatively moist and doesn’t like to dry out, consider mulching, and don’t forget to water it regularly while it’s young.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Bay is an evergreen, so you can pick leaves at any time of the year, but you can also dry the leaves and store in a jar in the kitchen.

Culinary Uses:

Use fresh or freshly dried. If you grow your own you will never have to use old tired ones. It is always good to scrunch them up to release the volatile oils before adding to dishes.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves

Actions: astringent, diuretic, bitter tonic.

Uses:

  • It has appetite stimulant properties.
  • Bay laurel infusions can also be used to soothe stomach ulcers.
  • Relieves flatulence.

 

BERGAMOT Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)

Bergamot

Bergamot is a beautiful hardy perennial plant indigenous to North America. The flowers are a conspicuous beautiful purple with a spicy scent, in fact the whole plant is infused with scent.

Soil & Sight:

Where wild bergamot grows it is usually in rich soils in dry fields and clearings, usually on limy soil – so add some garden compost and some lime if necessary and plant in a sunny well-drained position. The plants can grow up to 1m (3ft) when flowering, so a position in the middle or back of the herb bed would be best. It is especially good to plant in and around your vegetables and fruit trees and bushes to attract bees and other beneficial insects.

Sowing:

Sow in seed boxes or pots in early spring and plant out in middle to late spring.

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary and mulch down with chipped bark, chippings or grass clippings.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The flowers and whole leaves need gentle drying in the dark to preserve their colour, at a temperature of between 20-30oC (68-86oF). Store in sealed jars.

Companions:

Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavour.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its other name is Bee Balm, so great for attracting bees and other beneficial insects.

Culinary Uses: The flowers are edible with a mild sweet flavour. Great for adding interest and decoration in salads.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Flower.

Actions: carminative, antiseptic, and diaphoretic.

Uses:

  • Bergamot flower tea, drunk hot, relaxes and induces sleep. To make, add 1 teaspoon of dried flowers or leaves per cup + 1 extra for the pot.
  • Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. As a result a tea was made from the plant and used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis.
  • It’s other use as an antiseptic is for use as poultices for skin infections and minor wounds.
  • Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence.
  • The herb is an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer) and therefore useful for fevers, colds and flue.

 

BORAGE (Borago officinalis)

Borage

Borage is an annual. We have always grown borage, although in truth it grows itself as it always sows its own seeds, so every year we have replacement seedlings to grow with our vegetables and in our herb and forest garden. It has bright blue star-like flowers that bees are crazy about.

 

Soil & Sight:

It is so easy to grow any reasonable soil will do.

Sowing:

Sow outside in spring and allow the flowers to produce seeds that will fall and sow themselves. In other words after the first year you will have them every year and all you need to do is to move the seedlings to where you want them.

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary.

Harvesting:

Borage is not easy to dry, because it contains a lot of sap and will turn black if dried too hot and quickly, or too slow and cool. Harvest when the plant is in flower, using only the young leaves. Dry in the dark in an airy place laid out on frames stretched with fine nylon netting, or cheesecloth at a temperature of around 20-300C (68-86oF). The flowers should be used fresh.

Companions:

Borage is a companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries, in fact most edible plants. Borage and strawberries help each other and strawberry farmers have been known to plant a few plants in their beds to enhance the strawberry’s flavour and yield. Plant near tomatoes to improve growth and disease resistance.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees love the flowers, favouring them above most other flowers. Growing plenty of borage around a garden will guarantee plenty of honey and bumble bees in your garden. The flowers also attract beneficial predatory wasps. Borage is said to benefit any plant it is growing next to by increasing its resistance to pests and disease.

Culinary Uses:

Its flowers are edible with a cucumber like taste, great for decorating salads and summer drinks.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves and flowers.

Actions: cardiotonic, antihypertensive, diuretic, demulcent, emollient.

Uses:

  • Traditionally Borage was used in gastrointestinal disorders such as colic, cramps and diarrhoea.
  • Respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • A blood purifier.
  • Used for urinary, kidney and bladder disorders.
  • As a remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms such as hot flush.

 

BURDOCK (Arctium lappa)

Burdock

Soil & Sight:

Plant in full sun in moist rich soil. Burdock can grow to more than 2m (6½ft) tall, in the second year producing purple flowers that ripen and become the familiar burrs. Lighter soils will make harvesting the roots much easier.

Sowing:

Burdock is a biennial, so it will grow its first year and flower and seed in the second season, then it dies. Burdock seeds don’t remain viable for more than a year or two at most, so sow fresh seed. Either sow in early spring in boxes or pots and transplant after the last frosts, or sow outside in late spring. Burdock is extremely hardy, and will self seed readily and spread, unless you cut the seed heads off before they shed their seeds.

Growing:

Mulch with 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) grass clippings added regularly.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Chop the top off the plant in late summer of the first year and dig out the roots. Wash, cut up into small bits and dry, or use fresh. The seeds (or fruits) are collected when ripe. Shake out of the head and dry by spreading them out on paper in the sun, or in a glasshouse.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love burdock flowers.

Culinary Uses:

There are many Japanese recipes using burdock root. Here is one called Kinpira Gobo:

Ingredients:

  • 1 burdock root
  • ⅓ carrot
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds
  • Chilli flakes

Seasonings:

  • ¾ cup kombu dashi
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1½ Tbsp. soy sauce

Instructions:

  1. Peel the root.
  2. Slice thinly and diagonally into 5cm (2in) pieces.
  3. Then slice the pieces finely into julienne (matchstick sized strips).
  4. Soak the strips in water or vinegar water; changing the water a couple of times until the water is clean. Leave the strips in water until you are ready to stir fry.
  5. Cut carrots into julienne strips.
  6. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium high and stir-fry the burdock root first. Then add carrot and cook both for a few minutes.
  7. Add Seasonings and cook until most of liquid evaporates.
  8. When the liquid is almost gone, add sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds and chilli flakes.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Roots and seeds.

Actions: alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, antipyretic

Roots:

Make a decoction by simmering 1 teaspoon of the cut root (fresh or dried) per cup of water, for 30 minutes. Strain and drink 1 cup, three times daily with meals.

Uses:

  • Burdock root is a very effective cleanser of the blood and lymphatics.
  • Clears congestion, reduces swelling and dispels toxins.
  • For inflammatory skin conditions and rashes.
  • For kidney inflammation.

Seeds:

Boil 1 teaspoon of seeds in 1 cup water. Strain and drink 1 cup, three times daily with meals.

Uses:

  • Used as a diuretic.
  • They have a detoxifying action.
  • Helps to relieve cough.

 

CARAWAY (Carum carvi)

Caraway

Caraway seeds

Caraway seeds

The seeds are well known for both culinary and medicinal uses.

Soil & Sight:

Plant in a warm, sunny location with well-drained soil, rich in organic matter.

 

Sowing:

Sow caraway in spring or autumn. Sow caraway in spring as early as the soil can be worked, about the date of the average last frost. For an early start, sow caraway indoors in biodegradable peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before the average last frost for transplanting out both pot and plant later. Caraway can also be started from seed in fall for early spring plants. Caraway does not easily transplant because it forms a taproot. Caraway also can be started from cuttings of new growth taken in summer or fall. It easily reseeds itself.

Planting and spacing. Sow caraway seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful plants from 30 to 46cm (12 to 18in) apart. Space rows 46 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart. Caraway will reseed itself easily in most areas.

Growing:

Caraway requires regular, even watering until established. Do not allow seedlings to dry out. Once established caraway can dry out between watering. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Give caraway a side dressing of aged compost at midseason.

Harvesting:

When the seeds are nearly dry but have not yet shed, carefully cut off the seed heads and place in a tray in a glasshouse or somewhere warm to finish drying. Then rub off the seeds and store in a sealed jar.

Companions:

It grows well with most vegetables, especially brassicas. Good for loosening compacted soil with its deep roots so it’s also compatible next to shallow rooted crops. Plant it with strawberries. Keep it away from dill and fennel.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers attract a number of beneficial insects especially the tiny parasitic wasps.

Culinary Uses:

The seeds are used in cakes and bread for an anise-like flavour and to aid the digestion.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Seeds.

Actions: aromatic, stimulant and carminative

Uses:

  • For all digestive ailments.
  • Colic in infants.
  • To increase appetite.
  • To tone the liver and stimulate the flow of bile.
  • To counteract nausea.

 

CHAMOMILE German (Matricaria chamomilla)

Chamomile

An annual that can reach 60 cm (24in).

Soil & Sight:

Chamomile will grow in well draining, poor to average soil with a pH range between 5.6 and 7.5 in full sun – ideally 6.4

 

Sowing:

The seeds need light to germinate, so lightly sprinkle the fine seeds onto seed compost in a seed box or pot and press gently in. You can also sprinkle a single layer of fine grit, or vermiculite, allowing the light to penetrate, but helping to retain moisture. Use a fine mist spray when watering.

Growing:

Remove all dead flowers regularly to keep new blossoms forming. Once planted, this plant will self-seed to produce new plants each year.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest the flowers by cutting them off as they reach their peak bloom; use fresh in tea or dry for winter use. To dry, place flowers on a tray and allow to dry thoroughly in a cool, dark place. Store in an airtight container.

Companions:

Chamomile is a good companion plant for basil, cabbage and cucumbers and onion, improving their flavour, as well as increasing the essential oil production of many other herbs it is planted near. It accumulates calcium, potassium and sulphur, later returning them to the soil. Growing chamomile is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Host to hoverflies and predatory wasps.

Culinary Uses:

None that I know of.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Flowers. An infusion of 14g of the dried flowers to ½ litre of boiling water

Actions: analgesic, antiantispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, emetic.

Uses:

  • It acts as a nerve sedative.
  • As a tonic upon the gastro-intestinal canal.
  • Used in cases of earache.
  • For neuralgic pain.
  • For stomach disorders.

 

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Chervil

Annual. The plant looks similar to parsley, but is more delicate and feathery.

Soil & Sight:

Chervil prefers semi-shade and will quickly run to seed if grown in full sun and grown in hot dry weather. It will tolerate most soils, but does not thrive in heavy, badly drained soil.

Sowing:

Chervil does not like to be transplanted and does not like hot weather, so early summer sowing is not recommended. It prefers to be sown outside in the spring in a site in half shade. As it is reasonably hardy plant, it can also be sown in late summer in a protected site, or amongst the protection of taller herbs for winter and spring harvesting.

Growing:

It requires little care other than regular weeding and watering.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Apart from midsummer it can be picked fresh, by picking the outside leaves. It does not dry well, but it can be frozen by placing portions of picked leaves in small Zliplock bags.

Companions:

Companion to radishes, lettuce and broccoli for improved growth and flavour.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Keeps aphids off lettuce. Said to deter slugs.

Culinary Uses:

Chervil has a slightly sweetish taste, and a pleasant aromatic taste and smell. It can be used in any situation where you would use parsley. It can be used as an addition to salads, potato salad, or finely chopped in French dressing. It can be used in Pancakes, used generously in omelettes, any egg dish, in cream cheese, in soups, with beef and lamb, as a herb butter on fish, in melted butter for poultry, sprinkled on peas, tomatoes, egg plant etc., and on boiled buttered potatoes.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves.

Actions: alterative, anti-inflammatory, aperient, diuretic, expectorant, rejunative.

Uses:

  • It has expectorant properties that help remove mucous from the respiratory tract. Good for coughs and bronchitis.
  • Chervil herb is also a diuretic, promoting frequent urination, thus helping the removal of toxins and waste materials from the body.
  • A tonic for the body. It also tones the epithelial lining of the body, thereby soothing all the internal organs.
  • It serves as a mild analgesic, relieving pain and inflammation caused by a variety of ailments.
  • It helps relieve irritable bowel syndrome by regulating bowel movements.
  • The treatment of a variety of skin conditions including eczema and acne.
  • Blood purifier.
  • Helps cure mouth ulcers

 

CHIVES (Alium schoenoprasum)

Chives

A perennial that grows in an ever-widening bunch. It has cylindrical almost grass-like leaves and beautiful globe-shaped multi-flowered flower heads, flowering in summer.

Soil & Sight:

It is said chives like any kind of soil and condition, but as a member of the very hungry onion family, they like a rich soil, so provide one bucket of well rotted garden compost to the place they are to grow, plus one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser all mixed in. They will cope with partial shade, but full sun is also good. It is also easy to grow through the winter in a 12cm (4¾in) pot, placed in a conservatory or glasshouse. This ensures an all round yearly supply.

Sowing:

Sow in the spring, either in boxes, to be transplanted when about 8cm (3in) high as a clump, or a few seeds sown together outside, which will grow into a clump.

Growing:

In the wild they grow in moist meadows, so need lots of humus and available water, especially in a dry summer. If the clump gets too crowded the bulbs will die out, so regular thinning of the bulbs and re-planting them in another position, is good practice. Also harvesting regularly by cutting back to the base, especially when in flower benefits the plant. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting: Be sure to cut the leaves down to the base when harvesting – to within 2.5 to 5cm (1-2in) of the soil. Harvest 3 to 4 times during the first year.

Companions:

Improves growth and flavour of carrots and tomatoes. A friend to apples, carrots, tomatoes, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, mustard, etc.) and many others.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers are very attractive for beneficial insects.

Culinary Uses:

Although onions are usually used in cooking, chives, with their mild flavour are best used fresh to garnish dishes by cutting the leaves into small bits, or adding to salads. They can be chopped into melted butter to pour over mashed or boiled potatoes, or over cooked fish. They can be chopped into scrambled eggs and are good with cucumber or tomato salad. They can also be used as a garnish on a bowl of soup.

Medical Uses:

Actions: A general tonic and blood-cleanser. It also improves appetite.

Part Used: Leaves.

 

CLOVER – Red (Trifolium pratense)

Clover redSoil & Sight:

It likes a rich soil, high in organic matter and full sun.

Sowing:

It is very easy to grow outside from spring onwards, just sprinkle the seed lightly and rake in, and then water.

Growing:

Weed thoroughly before sowing and after until established.

Harvesting:

When the plants are just starting to flower, cut the plants down to 2½cm above the crowns and place the stringy plants onto nylon covered wooden frames to dry in the shade in the warm at 20-300C (68-860F).

Companions:

A partner for Aniseed.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Repels aphids, and spider mites. The flowers attract beneficial insects.

Culinary Uses: The flowers can be added to salads.

Medical Uses:

Actions: Alterative, Sedative

Part Used: The flowers used fresh, or dried for use in the winter months. To make red clover tea, infuse a heaped dessertspoonful of the flowers in water just off the boil. Allow to steep well then sweeten with honey. Take a small cupful before meals.

Uses:

  • Especially useful for cleansing the blood
  • Sooths the nerves
  • Promotes sleep
  • Much prized for its alkaline property

 

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale) RUSSIAN COMFREY (Symphytum ×uplandicum)

Comfrey_2

There are super-foods and then there are super-herbs. This perennial plant is one such herb. It also has many other uses – (see: ‘HOW TO BUILD FERTILITY’ section GREEN MANURES).

Soil & Sight:

This is the plant to grow in a forest garden. Wherever you grow it, remember this will be its permanent home – and I mean permanent! It will grow in almost any soil, although adding garden compost at one bucket for each plant will give it a good start.

Propagating:

It is easy to propagate by cutting off some crowns from the bunch, each with a growth bud dormant or growing leaves and a good section of root. These can be transplanted at anytime of the year. You can buy the crowns, or cadge some from a friend who has some plants.

Growing:

Plant out at 60cm apart if you want to grow more than one. Feed regularly with liquid manure, and apply a late winter dressing of two handfuls per square metre (yard) of Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

Harvesting:

You can dry the leaves, but they are like borage, difficult to dry without them going black – see: Borage. The roots are easy. Clean, scrub and wash the roots. Cut into manageable pieces, and either dry, or store fresh in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

Companions:

All fruit trees and shrubs. Grow it in the orchard, or next to your fruit trees, so that you can cut them and feed the trees.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Not as attractive to insects as borage, but if they are flowering; there will be some interest.

Medical Uses:

Actions: A nutritive tonic, demulcent, expectorant, emollient, vulnerary, astringent and haemostatic.

Part Used: Roots mainly, but the leaves can also be used, which are more astringent and anti-inflammatory than the root. Comfrey ointment is made from the root.

Uses:

  • One of its great value as a medicine is its ability to speed up the healing of broken bones, cuts and lacerations. The active ingredient is Allantoin, which stimulates cell regeneration. The powdered root taken internally speeds up the growth of new bone after a fracture, hence its old name of Knit bone. It also speeds up the healing of damaged or burnt skin.
  • It also stops the flow of blood, especially useful type of astringent that stops internal bleeding or haemorrhaging.
  • As a lung tonic it can be combined with Elecampane.
  • A good way of using it for cuts is to use a mixture of comfrey juice squeezed from the leaf stem plus the juice squeezed from a garlic bulb. The combination of the astringent and healing effects of the comfrey juice and the strong antiseptic effect of the garlic juice works a treat.

 

CORIANDER (Coriandrum sativum)

Coriander leves

Coriander leaves

Coriander seeds

Coriander seeds

                  Both the leaves and seeds are used in Chinese and Indian cuisine.

Soil & Sight:

Coriander needs growing fast in a rich water retentive soil high in organic matter and minerals, so add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Sowing in lightly shaded spot if you can, directly outside.

Coriander is renowned for being difficult to grow, because it will easily run to flower and seed, which is not good if you want to grow it for its leaves. Many of the modern varieties are bred to be slow to bolt, but when it is very hot or cold or there are sudden changes in the weather, even these new varieties can run to seed. When they run to seed the leaves become tough and pretty tasteless. The way to counteract this is to sow the seed early in the spring and every few weeks throughout the season, so there will always be fresh green leaves for you. When they do run to flower and seed, save the seeds, which are a very valuable spice, ground up, for curries and other spicy recipes.

Growing:

Keep the plants growing strongly with liquid manure applications every one or two weeks. Don’t let the plants dry out at any stage, by regular watering; also mulch around the plants with 3cm (1in) of grass clippings after first watering well, to conserve moisture. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

  1. Wash the coriander sprigs and place in a clean tea towel and swing outside to absorb and shake off the water.
  2. Pick out the discoloured leaves and woody stems.
  3. Preheat your oven to lowest temperature setting possible.
  4. Chop or clip herbs into ½cm (¼in) pieces onto cooking parchment on a cooking sheet, and then spread the leaves out and place the sheet in the middle of the oven to dry.
  5. Store in a sealed jar. They will only last a few months.

You can also place whole washed fresh leaves in a Ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

For the seeds, cut off the seed heads when the seeds are dry, but not shed, and place the heads on a tray in a glasshouse, or somewhere warm and dry to finish drying before rubbing off the seeds to store in dry sealed jars.

Companions:

Coriander is a partner for anise.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Repels aphids, and spider mites.

Culinary Uses:

The ground seeds, used as a spice, are well known. The leaves are used as a more pungent alternative to parsley.

Medical Uses:

Actions: Alterative, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Carminative, Stimulant.

Part Used: Leaves and seeds.

Uses:

  • The ground seeds are used to counteract hot foods and possible indigestion. A tea can be made of the seeds, taken with a little honey before meals.
  • The seeds are a good household remedy for indigestion and diarrhoea.
  • An infusion of the ground seeds is used for cystitis and urinary tract infection.
  • The fresh juice of the herb is effective internally for allergies, hay fever and skin rashes – one teaspoon 3 times a day, but it can also be used externally for itch and inflammation.

 

COUCH GRASS (Agropyron repens)

Couch grass leaves

Couch grass leaves

Couch grass roots

Couch grass roots

     

           

 

 

 

Soil & Sight:

Couch grass is a perennial weed, which definitely does not need cultivating. Most gardens will have some somewhere around the property.

Harvesting:

The rhizomes are best dug up in spring or early autumn, although they can be harvested anytime. Wash and dry the rhizomes, and store in a sealed jar, or wash and store in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

Medical Uses:

Traditionally it was used as a spring tonic. It is useful as a nerve tonic; what I call ‘poor man’s ginseng’ – and it’s free. More often it has been recommended for urinary tract problems since the time of ancient Greece and Rome. In the sixteenth century, it was still considered good for the liver and the urinary tract. In France today this is still a very popular method for improving health and urinary function.

It is a good nerve tonic, especially for those recovering from flu, or those needing a boost. I have used it in the past to good effect. Also used in cases of cystitis. Boil up a good handful of washed chopped roots in ½ litre (1 pint) of water, and then allow to cool before straining. The infusion can be kept in the fridge for several days.

Actions: Diuretic, demulcent, tonic, soothing mild diuretic, antimicrobial, aperient, anticholesterolaemic

Part Used: Creeping root.

 

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion

Dandelions are perennials, so if you want to cultivate them, they need to be in a permanent place.

Soil & Sight:

Usually one can find enough dandelions growing around a property for most uses, but if you are very keen, then add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) in a specially prepared bed.

Sowing:

Only sow from seed if you want to cultivate specially selected varieties, like some seed companies sell. Otherwise dig up wild dandelions and plant them where you want to.

Growing:

Make sure the bed is thoroughly cleared of perennial weeds, before planting or sowing the plants, and keep the bed well weeded. Otherwise grow them in a wild area or forest garden among other plants.

Harvesting:

The roots are best dug up in spring or early autumn, although they can be harvested anytime. The roots should be washed and dried thoroughly and brittle, then stored in a sealed jar, or washed and stored fresh in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. The leaves can be picked and carefully dried to retain their green colour, and then rubbed and kept in an airtight container in the dark

Companions:

Their long deep taproots break up hard soil and bring nutrients up from deep down to benefit shallower rooted annuals without competing for surface nutrients. Their bright yellow flowers attract bees to pollinate your flowers, and beneficial insects such as predators to keep down pests.

Culinary Uses:

See: ‘WEEDS – THEIR CONTROL & USES’ under Dandelion, for cooking flowers, leaves in salads and how to make dandelion coffee with the roots.

Medical Uses:

Blood Cleanser, blood-tonic, blood sugar balancer, lymph cleansing and liver tonic. The white juice use for applications to warts, old sores and blisters.

Actions: Alterative, diuretic, lithotriptic, laxative, bitter tonic.

Part Used: Leaves, roots and the white juice.

 

DILL (Anethum graveolens)

Dill

Soil & Sight:

Dill needs a well-drained spot in a sunny position.

Sowing:

Sow from spring onwards outside, thinning to 20cm apart. I have grown it as a companion plant in the vegetable plots for many years and let some grow to seed, so every year I find seedlings to transplant or leave in situ.

 

Growing:

Although it is a great companion plant for several plants, don’t grow it too close to vegetables so as they compete. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves before the plants flower and dry them, storing in sealed jars. The seed heads can be cut when the seeds are dry but haven’t shed; allow to dry in a glasshouse of warm dry area indoors. Then rub off the seed head and store in a dry jars.

Companions:

Best friend for lettuce. Improves growth and health of cabbage. Dill goes well with lettuce, onions, cabbage, sweet corn and cucumbers. I often plant with cabbages. Do not plant near carrots, caraway or tomatoes.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps. Repels aphids and spider mites to some degree.

Culinary Uses:

The leaf fronds are good with fish, roast chicken, vegetables and chopped up raw in salads and sauces.

Medical Uses:

Dill boosts the digestive system, helps to relieve insomnia. It provides a powerful boost to the immune system. It is also an anti-inflammatory, good for inflammation of the gut and provides protection against arthritis. Most famously, the seeds are used to make gripe water to cure a baby’s colic.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dill seeds
  • 1cm (3/8in) piece fresh ginger root, sliced
  • 1 teabag or teaspoon of chamomile tea
  • ½ cup filtered water

Pour boiling water onto the ingredients and steep for 20-30 minutes. Store in the fridge.

Actions: Carminative, anti-inflammatory and prophylactic.

Part Used: Both leaves and seeds.

 

ECHINACEA (Echinacea angustifolia)

Echinacea

Echinacea are perennials, so grow in a herb or other permanent bed.

Soil & Sight:

They like a rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Mix in one bucket of garden compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard). Sow in early spring in seed compost, in a box or pot and transplant the seedling after the last frost, or sow outside in mid spring where they are to grow. Plant at 40cm (16in) apart.

Growing:

Keep weeded when young, until well established.

Harvest:

Dig up the roots in early winter – wash and cut them into manageable pieces and dry them, or place the fresh washed roots in a Ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

Companions:

As it attracts beneficial insects, it helps other plants and crops in its vicinity.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The large cone-shaped flowers are a great attraction for bees and other beneficial insects, like parasitic wasps.

Culinary Uses:

None that I know of.

Medical Uses:

Echinacea has been described as one of the best detoxifying herbs in western herbalism. It is a natural herbal antibiotic and also helps to counter the effects of most poisons in the body. It also has antiviral properties.

It is a great blood and lymph system cleanser, and encourages the action of white blood cells in counteracting disease.

I often use it in conjunction with ginger root if I feel the symptoms of a cold coming on. If caught in time it can usually be averted. Even when a cold or flue has been contracted, it helps to reduce the worst of the effects and shorten the illness and is very useful, along with other herbs like marsh mallow and elecampane, for lung problems like bronchitis.

Actions: Alterative, diaphoretic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, analgesic.

Part Used: Root.

 

ELDERFLOWER (Sambucus nigra)

Elderflower

Elderflower is a large bush, smothered with large umbels of sweet smelling white flowers in late spring, which are followed by a prodigious production of edible berries.

Soil & Sight:

Elderberries grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil with the usual recommendation of a pH of around 6.4, but will tolerate a wide range of soil texture, fertility, and acidity.

Sowing:

Sow the fresh seeds indoors in seed compost, and plant out when big enough to handle.

Growing:

Plant out 1 metre apart, if you want more than one. Spray with seaweed spray several times during the growing season.

Harvesting:

As with many flowers, drying is difficult. They can turn black easily. The flower heads should be cut and placed, not touching each other, upsidown on nylon mesh stretched on a wooden frame, in an airy place, in warm shade. The leaves can also be dried.

The berries can be frozen in plastic packs, or made into jam with other berries. The juice made into syrup can also be used medicinally – see below.

Companions:

You can grow elderberries for fruit on the edge of your vegetable garden or in an area with other edible shrubs, such as currants and gooseberries. Also grow in wild areas or as part of a forest garden.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial especially love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

One of our favourite ways of using elderflower flower heads is:

Elderflower Fritters

This may sound strange, but I assure you they are wonderful, especially drizzled in maple syrup and a dollop of whipped cream! The strong scented flavour of the flowers really comes through.

Ingredients:

  • 12-16 elderflower heads
  • 100g (3.5oz) of plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 175ml (6floz) of sparkling mineral water
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • 1 egg white, whipped
  • A deep fryer pan of oil

Method:

  1. Pick your elderflowers when the buds are freshly open, before the petals brown around the edges. That is when their flavour is at its best. Rinse away any tiny insects by dunking the whole flower heads into a bowl of cold water, and then shake them dry.
  2. Sift 100g (3½oz) of plain flour into a basin then add 2 tablespoons of oil and 175ml (6floz) of sparkling mineral water.
  3. Beat the batter to a thick paste, then stir in a tablespoon of caster sugar and set aside for 30 minutes. Don’t be tempted to skip the resting time for the batter; this is essential for a light result.
  4. Just before frying the elderflowers, beat the egg white and fold it into the batter.
  5. Get a pan of oil hot then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Hold them under the oil by pushing down on the stem.
  6. Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp then lift out.
  7. Let the fritters rest for a second or two on kitchen paper.
  8. Drizzle with maple syrup and a blob of whipped cream.
  9. Eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp,

Elderflower Cordial

Makes about 2 litres

Ingredients:

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 un-waxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml (5floz) in total)
  • 1kg (2 pounds) sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon citric acid (optional)

Method:

  1. Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.
  2. Bring 1.5 litres (3 pints) water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
  3. Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
  4. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw tops or sterilised corks.

Medical Uses:

Elderberries contain high levels of vitamins – A, B, and C, and also stimulates the immune system.

Actions: expectorant, diuretic and diaphoretic

Part Used: The leaves, flowers and berries.

  • Leaves: Elder leaves are used in an ointment as a remedy for bruises, sprains, and chilblains.

Ointment 

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups coconut oil
  • 230-280 (8-10oz) grams dried herbs
  • ¼ cup melted beeswax

Method:

  1. To infuse the coconut oil, melt in a double boiler and add the elderflower leaves.
  2. Infuse the leaves for 4 hours until the oil has turned green, then reheat the oil in the double boiler and add the melted beeswax.
  • Flowers: Use either fresh or dried. To dry, dry the flower heads on trays in a glasshouse or conservatory, or in a dehydrator. When dry the flowers are easily rubbed off the stalks. Store in dry jars.

Used for bronchial and pulmonary affections and as a remedy for colds and throat trouble. Make a tea by taking a handful of each in a jug, pour over them 750ml (1½ pints) of boiling water, allow to steep, on the stove, for half an hour then strain and sweeten and drink in bed as hot as possible. Heavy perspiration and refreshing sleep will follow, and the patient will wake up well on the way to recovery. Yarrow may also be added.

  • Berries: An elderberry syrup recipe is also included here to help protect against flue and colds, and for use when you do get ill.

Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup elderberries
  • 3½ cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw wild honey

Instructions:

  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  3. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
  4. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a 500ml glass bottle.
  5. Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties.
  6. Standard dose is ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon for kids and ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear. 

 

ELECAMPANE (Inula helenium)

Elacampane_1This impressive plant can grow to well over 1m (3ft) in height, sporting large yellow daisy type flowers. For bronchitis I have used elecampane with ginger, marsh mallow and echinacea, to great effect.

Soil & Sight:

It likes partial shade in an odd corner, flower boarder, the back of a herb bed or in a forest garden. Plant out in a moist, well-drained soil, applying some garden compost beforehand. Remember that you will need access to the roots, because this is the part used.

Sowing:

Sow the seed in seed compost in a box or pot in early spring, planting out when 5cm (2in) high. If you have a friend that has a plant, you can propagate it by offsets, taken in the autumn, from the old root, as long as they each have a growth bud or eye on each.

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Keep weeded for the first year at least.

Harvesting:

When harvesting, the root is taken in the autumn after the stem has died back, then chopped into small pieces and dried slowly, but completely, at a low gentle heat of 20-300C (68-860F).

Companions:

This is a great plant as a companion for your vegetables and fruit, by growing it in a perennial bed near vegetables and fruit.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its large yellow flowers, attracts all manner of beneficial insects and bees.

Medical Uses:

Although it is a stimulating expectorant, it also contains a mucilage to soothe the airway passages when coughing. Elecampane is used for chronic bronchitis infections, and other lung infections, whooping cough, emphysema, urinary tract infections, cystitis, hay fever, irritant coughs, asthma, pleurisy, excess mucus, and laryngitis.

What I like about elecampane and marshmallow, is they are not just effective expectorants in cases like bronchitis, but they also have the ability to nurture, heal and repair the lung’s lining, something that conventional expectorants are incapable of.

In ointment form Elecampane has been used for muscular aches and pains. As an herbal bath it relieves skin inflammation. It can also be used as a lotion for scabies mites on both humans and animals.

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, immunostimulant, rejuvenative

Part Used: Root.

 

EPAZOTE (Dysphania ambrosioides)

Epazote

Epazote is native to Central America, southern Mexico and South America. It is one of the easiest to grow of annual herbs. It can grow over a metre (3ft) in height featuring small pointed leaves with serrated margins. The tiny yellow-green flowers produce numerous tiny black seeds for sowing next season.

 

Soil & Sight:

It prefers well-draining, sandy soil and full sunlight to flourish.

Sowing:

Sow it early spring in seed compost, planting out after the last frosts.

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart. Mulch down with 5cm (2in) of grass clippings, after watering first.

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves before the plant flowers, and dry, then store in sealed jars.

Companions:

Epazote contains terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities. It delivers partial protection to nearby plants simply by masking their scent to some insects, making it a useful companion plant. However, it also contains a compound that inhibits other plants, so don’t plant it too close to other plants.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its small flowers attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps.

Culinary Uses:

Another name for Epazote is the ‘Bean Plant’, because of its ability to counteract the gassy effects of beans. It has an earthy and spicy taste when cooked, which goes well with beans and hot Mexican food.

Mexican Black Beans with Epazote

Ingredients:

  • 250g (9oz) dried black beans
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 large sprig fresh epazote (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 115g (4oz) chopped fresh chorizo sausage, or other chilli sausage
  • 1 small-medium onion, diced
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1 diced celery stalk
  • ½ tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1½ chilli powder, or to taste (Mexicans like it very hot, but its up to you)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin

Method:

  1. Soak black beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain and rinse.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (302°F) . Place the beans, chicken stock and water, and epazote in an enamelled casserole dish. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, skimming off the foam, then cover and bake for 1½ hours.
  3. In a large, heavy frying pan, brown chorizo sausage. Remove the chorizo, leaving the fat in the pan. Add onion, carrots, celery stalks, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables become soft.
  4. Remove the pot of beans from the oven and stir in the vegetables and chorizo, along with the chilli powder, ground cumin, and salt to taste.
  5. Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until the beans are soft.

Medical Uses:

Cautionary note: like raspberry leaves, expectant mothers, should avoid Epazote since it can cause uterine cramps and possible risk of termination of pregnancy. Its leaves contain ascaridole, which is toxic to several intestinal worms like roundworm, hookworms, pinworm, etc. Native Mayans drank its infusion regularly to keep off from worm infestation. It is also a carminative for the digestive system, reducing gas.

Actions: anthelmintic, antibacterial, antiviral, carminative

Part Used: Leaves.

 

EVENING PRIMROSE (Oenothera biennis)

Evening Primrose

Evening primrose is a perennial plant growing over a metre (3ft), originating in Central America. Its great attraction is its electric, faintly phosphorescent lemon yellow flowers, which open at dusk. They are pollinated by moths at night and only live one day. As a child my father took me into the garden at dusk to see the flowers unfold in just a minute or two, which is very fast in flower time, an amazing experience for a young child! In an article that appeared in ‘Horticulture’ magazine, Carol Bishop Hipps describes the wonder of watching the flowers open:

“Watching an evening primrose bloom rekindles one’s sense of wonder. As fireflies drift aloft in the summer twilight, a tightly rolled up flower bud shaped like an okra pod begins to swell until it resembles a small yellow cigar. Suddenly the sepals flick back, the ghostly pale petals begin to spring apart, and the eight stamens and the cross-shaped stigma writhe into position. Bud after bud perceptively stirs, then flares open in a performance reminiscent of time-lapse photography. A rich fragrance fills the air, summoning night-flying moths, some of which hover like hummingbirds above the fragile, cup-shaped blossoms, probing for nectar.”

Soil & Sight:

Evening Primrose is a tough plant that prefers a poor soil provided it is well drained. It does best in sandy soil but will tolerate almost anything that is not too wet. They prefer disturbed ground, and not too much competition from other plants. Plant in full sun. It will not grow in shade.

Sowing:

Cold stratify the seeds to help them germinate. In mid-winter, put them in a plastic bag with slightly damp sand or peat and store in the fridge for 2 months to break the seed’s dormancy. Then sow in the spring. Alternately, sow in situ outside in early winter in colder areas with regular frosts.

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart.

Harvesting:

The leaves can be dried, and the green bark from the flower stems can also be stripped off and dried.

Medical Uses:

Supports hormonal balance. Supports healthy menstrual cycle. It is also a rich natural source of the omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linoleic acid (LA). Helps maintain healthy skin. Usually it is the oil extracted from the seeds that are used nowadays.

Actions: Astringent and sedative

Part Used: Leaves and stem bark.

 

FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel

Fennel definitely has its uses, both in cooking and medicine. It grows 1-1½m (3-5ft) high. It has a stronger taste than dill.

Soil & Sight:

As it grows anywhere and everywhere, just grow it in a corner where it can be controlled and kept in its place. Take the seed heads off before the seeds drop, to stop it seeding.

Sowing:

Sow in seed compost in the spring and plant out into its permanent place when the seedlings are 5-6cm (2-2½in) high.

Harvesting:

The leaves can be dried, and the seed heads cut off before the seeds drop to finish drying in a glasshouse or other dry sunny spot, then rub off seeds and store in dry sealed jars.

Companions:

Fennel doesn’t have any friends; so provide a wild corner on its own.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Beneficial insects love the flower heads.

Culinary Uses:

The leaves are used with oily fish. Added to white sauces, etc.

Medical Uses:

Fennel seed is one of the best herbs for digestion.

Actions: Carminative, stomachic, diuretic, antispasmodic

Part Used: Seeds.

 

FEVERFEW (Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Feverfew

Feverfew is a perennial, and herbaceous in habit, with white daisy flowers.

Soil & Sight:

Any ordinary good soil is suitable, but better results are obtained with a well-drained loamy soil that has been enriched with garden compost – one bucket per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Sow in seed compost in the spring and plant out 30cm (1ft) apart, when 4-5cm (1½-2in) high. Propagation can also be done by division and cuttings.

Growing:

Weeding should be done by hand, especially when the plants are young.

Harvesting:

Both the leaves and the flowers can be dried on drying frames and stored in sealed jars.

Companions:

Feverfew is a good companion plant enhancing the growth of plants around it. Feverfew contains pyrethrin, a natural insect repellent. A weak infusion controls whitefly and spider mites. Dried and crushed flowers repel aphids and leafhoppers.

Do not place near plants that need pollination, as bees rarely come near feverfew.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Feverfew flowers are said to attract the beneficial insect hoverflies.

Medical Uses:

As its name implies, Feverfew helps to reduce fever, but Feverfew is best known for helping to avoid migraines, as a prevention, rather than counteracting a full blown migraine. It works by inhibiting the release of two inflammatory substances, serotonin and prostaglandins both believed to contribute to the onset of migraines. By inhibiting these amines as well as the production of the chemical histamine, the herb controls inflammation that constricts the blood vessels in the head and prevents blood vessel spasms, which may contribute to headaches. The cold infusion is made from 30g of the leaves to half a litre of boiling water, allowed to cool. Take half a teacupful morning and evening with a spoonful of honey to counteract the bitterness.

It also helps with menstrual cramps. Its ability to inhibiting the release of inflammatory substances might be the reason some people with arthritis get some relief from its use.

Actions: Aperient, carminative, bitter, emmenagogue

Part Used: Leaves & flowers.

 

FLAXSEED [Linseed] (Linum usitatissimum)

Flaxseed

We once grew a patch of flaxseed on our farm for the production of seed, and the plants were beautiful when in flower; the patch was an electric sky-blue for several weeks.

 

Soil & Sight:

Flaxseed naturally grows of limestone or chalk hills, pH 6.5 would be the ideal, with the addition of two handfuls of gypsum per square metre, which will supply Lime (and Sulphur) without increasing the pH. Flaxseed also likes a well-drained soil with reasonable organic matter, so add some garden compost before sowing.

Sowing:

Sow one tablespoon of flax seeds per square metre (yard).

Growing:

Spray with liquid seaweed, about two weeks before flowering.

Harvesting:

When the seed heads are brown and drying, cut the plants and hang up in bunches to finish drying in a glasshouse, conservatory, or other warm dry place. Then rub the seed heads to extract the seeds, blow off the husks and store the seeds in dry sealed jars.

Companions:

Plant with carrots, and potatoes.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

To make flaxseed more digestible, grind the seeds in a coffee grinder and use fresh, or place in a Ziplock bag a store in the freezer.

Start your morning with a healthy dose of omega-threes by sprinkling over cold cereal or stirring it into hot cereal like oatmeal. Flax seeds add a slightly, but not overwhelming, nutty flavour. Add 1 tablespoon of whole, or ground, flax seeds into your morning smoothie for an extra 2g of protein. Add a 1/3 cup of ground seed to any bread mix.

Medical Uses:

Useful in relieving disorders of the chest or respiratory tract. Strengthens the lung tissue, promoting the healing of the lungs. A great food cooked for those that are convalescing. I used to cook up the seeds to give to our cows when they had just given birth.

Actions: Emollient, expectorant, demulcent, laxative

Part Used: Seeds.

 

GARLIC (Allium sativum)

Garlic_2

You can find out about how to grow garlic in ‘HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES’ – Soil & Sight, Varieties, Planting, Growing, Harvesting, etc. However, garlic is also classified as an herb, hence its place here.

Companions:

Plant near apple trees, pear trees, cucumbers, peas, lettuce and celery. Garlic accumulates sulphur, a naturally occurring fungicide, which will help in the garden with disease prevention. Garlic is systemic in action, as it is taken up by the plants through their pores, and when garlic tea is used as a soil drench it is also taken up by the plant’s roots.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Has value in offending codling moths, root maggots, snails, and carrot root fly.

Culinary Uses:

Oh so many, needless to say.

Medical Uses:

Garlic is a powerful rejuvenative herb. It is also a powerful detoxifier and is useful for chronic or periodic fevers.

A precautionary note: It is best not to use garlic on a regular basis, because it can dull the mind. Its heating properties can aggravate the blood and aggravate bleeding. So best use as and when it is required.

As a disinfectant it is very useful for small cuts and grazes. The reason for its effect is the volatile oil, which contains sulphur and traces of iodine. Cut a clove in two and rub the injury with the juice at the cut end. It is also good to apply the juice from a cut comfrey stem as well, so the garlic disinfects and the comfrey speeds up the healing.

Actions: Stimulant, carminative, expectorant, alterative, antispasmodic, disinfectant, anthelmintic, rejuvenative

Part Used: Rhizome

 

GENTIAN (Gentiana acaulis + spp)

Gentian

Native to the European Alps, this spring-flowering Gentian is a much-loved alpine plant that is not always the easiest to grow.

Soil & Sight:

As alpine plants, they prefer a well-drained acidic gritty soil that is also a water retentive humus-rich soil in partial shade. Suitable for a rock garden or peat terrace Added grit or sharp sand and leaf mould or peat will help.

Sowing:

Sow on the surface of seed compost in a pot and sprinkle about 4mm (in) fine grit over the seeds. Keep moist until the seedlings are up. Plant out when they are 4-5cm (1½-2in) high.

Growing:

Keep weeded.

Harvesting:

Harvest the roots in early winter and wash them thoroughly, then cut into smaller pieces and dry until hard. Store in sealed jars. Alternately, store the cleaned roots in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts bees.

Medical Uses:

It has a long history of use as bitters, used to promote the appetite and digestion by general stimulation of the digestive juices, and therefore a remedy for physical and mental exhaustion. It is a traditional herbal remedy for symptoms of sluggish digestion, such as dyspepsia and flatulence. The herb is used as a liver tonic and to stimulate insufficient production of gastric juices, bile and saliva. It is used to alleviate inflammations in the gall bladder. It has anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects. The herb is used internally as a remedy for sore throat and arthritic inflammation.

Cautionary Note: Gentian should not be used while pregnant, as it may not be well tolerated and has been documented to cause adverse effects. Gentian is contraindicated for individuals with excessive gastric acid secretions, those suffering from heartburn, gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, or high blood pressure.

Actions: bitter tonic, antipyretic, alterative, antibacterial, anthelmintic, laxative

Part Used: Root.

Decoction:

  • 30g (1oz) dried root
  • 30g (1oz) fresh lemon peel
  • 6g (¼oz) dried orange peel

Simmer this mixture for one or two hours in 1/3 litre of boiling water.

 

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger root

Ginger growing

Ginger growing

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger is thought to have originated on the Indian sub-continent.

Soil & Sight:

Ginger is a tropical plant, so in sub tropical and Mediterranean climates they will grow outside. In the top of the North Island, New Zealand, growing ginger outside is possible. For those living in colder climates you will have to grow it in a glasshouse or Polytunnel. Ginger loves a sheltered spot, filtered sunlight, warm weather, humidity, and rich, moist soil. What ginger can’t stand is frost, direct sun, strong winds, and soggy, waterlogged soil. Ginger requires good feeding, by adding to a square metre (yard) – two buckets of garden compost, and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

Planting:

Plant offsets of the rhizome (preferably organic) with a growing point, planted on its side just under the surface of the soil, 15-20cm (6-8in) apart.

Growing:

Keep warm and watered. Ginger loves humidity, so if you have problems with dry air then regular spraying and misting might help.

Harvesting:

You can dig up the whole plant at the end of the second season and pick off the largest rhizomes, replanting some for the future. Alternately, fossick around the roots area, pulling off just what you need at the time.

Companions: Friends with Basil & Tomatoes. Avoid: Onions, Turnips

Culinary Uses:

So many! Use in curries, and other far eastern recipes. Thinly julienned strips of fresh ginger cooked with julienned carrot in a little water and oil and seasoning is a great way of cooking carrots. Boil down the water, until almost evaporated, and the ginger and carrots are tender. Use julienned strips in Chinese stir-fries.

Medical Uses:

Taking ginger tea, or chewing some ginger root will counteract nausea, especially those with travel sickness.

If one has symptoms of a cold or flue coming on, then chewing a slice of ginger root, sprinkled with a little salt, as well as taking echinacea, often stops the onset of illness.

Ginger tea also helps to promote healthy sweating, helpful during colds and flu.

Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called ‘gingerols’. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Ginger can also help with inflamed bowels. The root can also be smashed to a paste and applied to inflamed joints or muscles, or alternately oil of ginger can be rubbed into the affected area.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiemetic, carminative, expectorant

Part Used: Rhizome.

 

GOLDEN ROD (Solidago virgaurea)

Golden Rod

Solidago means – ‘that which makes whole’. It is a perennial plant, growing ½-1m (1½-3ft) tall in flower.

Soil & Sight:

Goldenrod grows on banks and heathland, poor, rocky, and sandy soils, so give it a well-drained, soil with added leaf mould, in full sun or part shade. It doesn’t like rich soils – so no fertiliser.

Sowing:

Sow indoors in seed compost in early spring and plant out seedlings 30cm (1ft) apart.

Growing:

Weed and mulch with leaf mould.

Harvesting:

Dry the leaves on frames and store in sealed jars.

Companions:

Grow at the back of a herb bed with other tall herbs, or at the edge of a forest garden.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers attract beneficial insects.

Medical Uses:

Goldenrod has also been used to treat tuberculosis, diabetes, as a kidney tonic to counter inflammation and irritation caused by bacterial infections, for the enlargement of the liver, gout, haemorrhoids, internal bleeding, asthma, and arthritis and to aid in cleansing of the kidney or bladder. Traditionally it was used as a mouth rinse to treat inflammation of the mouth and throat.

The powdered leaves were used for the healing of old ulcers. It has been recommended in many maladies, including both dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation) and amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation).

Actions: aromatic, stimulant, carminative, astringent, diuretic

Part Used: Leaves.

 

HARAKEKE (New Zealand flax) (Phormium tenax)

Harakeke

Harakeke is an evergreen perennial plant.

Soil & Sight:

Although harakeke is found in many places and is commonly seen growing in swampy ground, the best-quality plants grow on fertile, well-drained soil. Harakeke doesn’t like stagnant water around its roots, although it doesn’t mind occasional flooding. Harakeke is very happy growing on the edge of running streams.

Sowing:

You can sow the seeds, but you can also transplant them, if you know someone with a plant. You can also dig out a growing point with its leaves from the cluster that makes up a fully-grown plant, along with its roots – see photograph:

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 5cm (2in) of wood chips or 15cm (6in) spray-free straw.

Harvesting:

As the plant is evergreen, there should be no reason to dry or preserve ant part of the plant – fresh is best.

Companions:

Great companion with other perennial shrubs and plants, like nut and fruit trees and taller herbs like Marsh Mallow.

Bird Attractant:

Tui and other native birds are attracted to the nectar in the flowers in this country, and bees as well.   

Medical Uses:

Flax leaves or roots were made into pulp, heated and put on skin infections such as boils. Used to treat boils, tumours and abscesses, as well as to varicose ulcers. The pulp was also used to heal burns. Juice from pounded roots was used as an antiseptic and a mild anaesthetic, for cuts, aching teeth, to rheumatic and associated pains. It was also used internally to relieve constipation or expel worms. Chemical analysis shows that there are antifungal, anti-inflammatory drug musizin, and laxative anthraquinones in flaxes.

Actions: antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, laxative, anaesthetic

Part Used: Leaves, roots, gum

 

HORESRADISH (Armoracia rusticana)

Horseradish

Horseradish is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, but is now grown around the world. It is a perennial plant that dies down in the winter, regrowing its leaves in spring.

 

 

 

Horseradish in potSoil & Sight:

Make sure you plant in an odd, out of the way corner, or forest garden. Horseradish is an aggressive grower and will quickly take over any garden. So my serious suggestion is to grow it in a 40-45cm (16-18in) diameter concrete, clay or plastic drain, standing upright with the bottom buried, like in the illustration, where it will be contained.

Sowing:

As horseradish is grown from root cuttings, if you know someone who has it in their garden, just one piece of root will grow if you plant it.

Growing:

Mulch down with 10-15cm (4-6in) of spray-free straw, even if you grow it in a pot.

Harvesting:

In late autumn, when the leaves have died down, dig up the plant and cut off the roots you need, replanting in the same place. Alternatively, fossick around and cut off a bit of root. Clean thoroughly, and if using fresh, peal and grate the roots. For drying clean and cut up into small pieces and dry them and store, when hard, in sealed jars.

Culinary Uses:

Horesradish grated

Horseradish sauce has been a favourite for generations as a condiment with beef, but it can be used with many other dishes, especially if you like hot condiments.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 15g (½oz) freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • A pinch of English mustard powder
  • A pinch of caster sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 150ml (5floz) double cream, lightly whipped

Method:

  1. Dig up a 20-25cm (8-10in) long root of horseradish.
  2. Remove the leaves from the root and rinse the dirt off of the root.
  3. Peel the surface skin off the root.
  4. Grate 15g (½oz) of the root.
  5. Mix with all the other ingredients.
  6. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Medical Uses:

Horseradish is used for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, fluid retention, cough, bronchitis, achy joints (rheumatism), gallbladder disorders, sciatic nerve pain, gout, colic, and intestinal worms in children. When taken with food it is an excellent stimulant to the digestive organs, improving the complete digestion of protein rich foods in particular. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and is used by placing a compress of the grated root on the painful spot.

Actions: Stimulant, aperient, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient, diuretic, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant

Part Used: Root.

 

HOREHOUND White (Marrubium vulgare)

Horehound

White horehound is a bitter herb from the mint family.

Soil & Sight:

Horehound is a hardy plant, easily grown, and grows best in a dry, poor soil, so a neglected corner in full sun would be an ideal spot.

 

Sowing:

Sow seeds in spring, planting out 22cm (8½in) apart.

Growing:

No further culture will be needed other than weeding.

Harvesting:

Dry leaves carefully in the dark in an airy place on a frame at around 20-300C (68-860F). Drying too hot or too cold will cause the leaves to turn black.

Companions:

Stimulates and aids fruiting in tomatoes and peppers.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Like many varieties in the mint family, the many tiny flowers attract beneficial insects such as Braconid and Icheumonid wasps, and Tachnid and Syrid flies. The larval forms of these insects parasitize or eat many other insect pests. For best results use horehound directly as a companion plant.

Medical Uses:

A study in 2011 found that M. vulgare contains an essential oil that had potent antimicrobial and anticancer properties, and another study in 2012 showed that horehound contains marrubiin, which has antidiabetic, anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Horehound also contains a compound that mimics insulin, hence its antidiabetic property.

Marrubiin, also acts as an analgesic and an expectorant. Horehound leaves can be combined with Hyssop and Rue leaves + Liquorice root and Marshmallow root, 15g (½oz) of each boiled in 1 litre (2 pints) of water, strained and given in ½ teacupful doses, every two to three hours, as an effective expectorant for tough phlegm during bronchitis, chronic cough, or bad colds and flu.

A simple tea is made by pouring boiling water on the fresh or dried leaves, 28g (1oz) of the herb to 500ml (17floz) water. A wineglassful taken three or four times a day.

Horehound Cough Syrup:

  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • 1 cup packed dried horehound
  • ¾ cup honey (approximately)

Directions:

  1. Place the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Place the dried horehound in a bowl.
  3. Pour the boiling water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes, then strain.
  4. Pour the infusion into a saucepan.
  5. Add an equal amount of honey to the pan and heat on medium until the honey is dissolved.
  6. Stir constantly to avoid scorching the honey and do not allow the mixture to boil.
  7. Cool and place in a dark glass jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Actions: Expectorant, antidiabetic, anti-atherogenic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Part Used: Leaves.

 

HYSSOP (Hyssopus officinalis)

Hyssop

Soil & Sight:

Hyssop is not fussy about soil, however it prefers a light soil in full sun.

Sowing:

Sow in seed compost in spring, planting out seedlings 60cm apart. You can also take softwood cuttings taken in spring in sandy soil, planting out the next season, (see: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’).

Harvesting:

Cut the herb just before flowering. Preferably dry the leaves in an airy place in the dark on a drying frame.

Companions:

Companion plant to cabbage and grapes, deters cabbage white butterflies.

Do not plant near radishes. It is not as invasive as other members of the mint family making it safer for interplanting.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

Used as a herb with greasy foods, such as eel and other oily fish, to help their digestion. Traditionally it was sprinkled over apricots or peaches in a pie, before covering with a pie top crust.

Medical Uses:

Hyssop is commonly used to treat respiratory conditions such as influenza, sinus infections, colds, and bronchitis and is good at suppressing coughing .

Actions: antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant

Part Used: Leaves.

 

JUNIPER BERRIES (Juniperus communis)

Juniper

Juniper is a coniferous evergreen tree or shrub 1½-3½m (5-11½ft) tall, of the cypress family, with over 60 species all over the northern hemisphere, from North America to Asia.

Soil & Sight:

In the wild it usually grows on well-drained chalk or limestone upland soils, but will be quite happy on pH 6.4 soils in an exposed sunny spot.

Sowing:

The seeds take a long time to germinate, so I would suggest buying young plants of both sexes, making sure they are Juniperus communis, as other varieties are no good for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Growing:

There are both female and male bushes, so you will need both to produce berries.

Harvesting:

Juniper berries take two or three years to ripen, so that blue and green berries occur on the same plant. Only the blue, ripe berries are suitable for picking.

Companions:

Grow amongst fruit or nut trees, or at the edge of a forest garden in full sun.

Culinary Uses:

Juniper berries are usually dried. Five or six dried berries can be pounded and added to stews and marinades.

Medical Uses:

Juniper is used as a general tonic, as a diuretic, for indigestion, flatulence, and diseases of the kidney and bladder and as an anti-inflammatory and to relieve muscle spasms. The oil mixed with lard is also used in veterinary practice as an application to exposed wounds and prevents irritation from flies. A tea can be made from the dried berries, or the young sprouts.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, diuretic, stomachic, carminative

Part Used: Berries and young sprouts.

 

KAWAKAWA (Macropiper excelsium)

A Kawakawa bush in a coastal forest

A Kawakawa bush in a coastal forest

Kawakawa leaves

Kawakawa leaves

  

 

 

 

 

Kawakawa is a perennial evergreen tree. The Kawakawa tree has been always played an important spiritual role for Maori. For birth, naming ceremonies, the removal of tapu at an opening of a wharenui, the launch of a new canoe, the blessing of food and the leaves carried at funerals – from birth to death it has spiritual significance. And of course, it has also been an important medicinal herb.

Soil & Sight:

Kawakawa is a forest edge plant that likes shade or partial shade under larger trees, as in the photo. Kawakawa prefers a moist rich and free-draining soil, enriched with leaf mould or well-rotted garden compost. This is an ideal shrub for a forest garden.

Sowing:

Kawakawa has flower spikes in which the very small black seeds are embedded. To obtain the seeds mash up the spikes in water and the mash will separate from the seeds, which will float. Sow seeds on top of a seed compost sprinkled with fine stone chips or fine vermiculite, both of which will keep the seed moist, but let in light. The seeds will go through a period of ripening and may take 2 or 3 months to germinate.

Alternately, you may find some small young plantlets around a kawakawa bush, which can be transplanted.

Growing:

Keep well mulched with 6-7cm (2½-3in) of composted bark or wood chips.

Harvesting:

As a very common evergreen tree, there is no need to dry or preserve the leaves or bark – fresh is best.

Companions:

This is an obvious bush to grow under larger trees in an orchard or forest garden.

Medical Uses:

One of my favourite uses is as a tea to gargle with and drink when you have a sore throat. Make the tea by boiling up some kawakawa leaves and grated ginger root, then when still hot, but not boiling, stir in some wild bush honey.

  • It was also used traditionally to draw toxins from the body, and as such is a blood purifier.
  • For indigestion and heartburn drink a tea of the leaves.
  • For toothache, chew a leaf or two and place the chewed leaves wedged in-between the saw tooth and the inside of your lip.
  • The warming properties of kawakawa make it ideal for improving circulation and those suffering from chilblains, etc.
  • Traditionally used as a heart tonic.
  • Reduces high blood pressure.
  • After bronchitis the seeds have been used as a tonic and restorative of the lung tissues.
  • After illness, physical and emotional stress and fatigue, it helps to restore both body and mind.
  • Traditionally used to support and strengthen kidney function, and those suffering from dropsy (fluid retention).
  • Its anti-inflammatory effects were used for rheumatism and arthritic pain and swelling, as well as bruises and sprains. Steep leaves in boiling water and apply the mixture when still hot to the sore area.
  • Kawakawa’s aphrodisiac properties were used traditionally by older men to renew their youth.

Actions: Alterative, aromatic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic, aphrodisiac, trophorestorative

Part Used: Fruit, bark and leaves.

 

KÕWHAI (Sophora microphylla, teraptera & 6 others)

KowhaiThe Kõwhai flower is the national flower of New Zealand. It is a member of the Fabaceae (pea & bean) family, with finely cut leaves and beautiful hanging yellow flowers, like large elongated broom flowers. In colder areas it is deciduous, but in warmer parts it is largely evergreen.

It will grow in areas with winter temperatures of -50 to -100C (230-140F), but no lower.

Soil & Sight:

It grows well on a range of soils and withstands moderate exposure to wind.

Sowing:

The dried seeds become impervious to water, so the seeds need nicking with a sharp knife, or running a file on one side to cut through the outer coat, then soak the seeds overnight and sow in a warm, sunny spot. Germination usually takes around 20 days.

Growing:

Kōwhai naturally is a woodland edge tree that prefers open areas, good sunlight and damp conditions.

Harvesting:

Cut a small square area of bark, pealing off back to the inner wood, making sure you don’t cut more than a quarter round the trunk, to avoid stopping the flow of sap and killing the tree. Scrape off the softer pale inner bark – this is the part used.

Companions:

As an attractor of birds and bees, it is a good tree to have on the perimeter of your property as part of the diverse ecosystem you need to create for a healthy environment.

Beneficial Insect & Bird Attractant:

The nectar from the flowers is a favourite food for nectar feeding birds and bees, especially bumble bees.

Medical Uses:

Warning: despite its traditional medicinal uses, Kōwhai contains the toxin cytosine, which is poisonous, and the modern advice is it should not be consumed internally, however it can be used topically applied to the body with great effectiveness.

Kōwhai has been traditionally an important medicinal tree for Maori. Infusions made with the bark were used to treat diseased skin, scabies, dandruff, gonorrhoea and various aches and pains. It was also commonly used to dress wounds, cuts, bruises, sprains, broken bones, swellings and rashes. The inner bark of the kōwhai tree is bruised, then boiled and the resultant liquid applied to the wound, or rubbed into the sore area.

Actions: Astringent, antiseptic

Part Used: Inner bark.

 

LADY’S MANTLE (Alchemilla mollis)

Lady's MantleThis plant is a native of Turkey and the Carpathian mountains. It is a ground cover plant that grows 15-30cm (6-12in) high.

Soil & Sight:

This is a shade loving plant that naturally grows in woodlands or at the woodland edge. It therefore likes moist, fertile soil.

Sowing:

The seeds take up to a month to germinate, so sow on seed compost in a pot and cover lightly with small chippings and keep moist. Plant out at 20-30cm (8-12in) apart.

Growing:

Weed until the plants are growing well, then mulch with leaf mould or grass clippings.

Harvesting:

The whole herb should be gathered in summer when in flower and when the leaves are at their best, and dried. Store in sealed jars.

Companions:

This is an ideal plant as a ground cover in a forest garden, or growing in the shade of larger shrubs.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

A wildlife friendly garden plant for bees and butterflies

Medical Uses:

To stop external bleeding a strong decoction is made of the fresh root and applied. It can be made into a poultice for bruises. The powdered root can also be applied to a bleeding cut.

It is also used as a cure for excessive menstruation and is taken internally as an infusion of 28g (1oz) of the dried herb to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water, taken in teacupful doses as required.

Actions: Astringent, styptic, vulnerary,

Part Used: Herb, root.

 

LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender

Lavender looks and smells beautiful and bees go crazy about it.

Soil & Sight:

Lavender is fairly easy to grow; it prefers a friable light soil – sand or gravel – in a dry, open and sunny position facing north. A light loam works as well. It requires good drainage and freedom from damp in winter. If the soil is too rich, it will encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowers.

Sowing:

The crop can be grown from seed sown in spring, but you will have to wait a long time for it to grow. Lavender is usually propagated by cuttings and layerings, or the division of roots. Cuttings of the young wood, or small branches, with a root or heel, pulled off the large plants, should be inserted in free, sandy soil, in October, planting them out the following spring (see: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’). A certain amount of watering will be required in dry weather until the cuttings are thoroughly established.

Growing:

Clip the bushes back in the first year to stop them flowering and to thicken them up.

Harvesting & Drying:

Cut the flower heads when in full flower, with about 7cm (2¾in) stems; so you can tie them in bunches to hang up somewhere warm and dry. Once dried, rub the flower heads off the stems and store in a sealed container.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The prolific flowering heads attract all sorts of beneficial insects and bees. Lavenders can protect nearby plants from insects such as whitefly, and it is said that lavender planted under and near fruit trees can help deter codling moth.

Culinary Uses:

You can use dried lavender flowers in cooking, but you have be very careful not to overdo it because lavender can impart an unpleasant bitterness, so be careful.

Rhubarb Lavender Crisp

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 450g (1 pound) fresh rhubarb, leaves removed and discarded
  • ¼ cup rapadura (or brown sugar)18cup honey
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried lavender buds

For the Oat Crumble:

  • 1 cup rapadura (or brown sugar)
  • ¾ cup oats flakes (or G.F. buckwheat flakes)
  • ¾ cup wholemeal flour (or G.F. flour)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup cold butter

For the Topping:

  • ½ cup sliced and toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 18 cup rapadura (or brown sugar)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C (392°F). Prepare a 20 x 15cm (8 x 6in) pan by greasing lightly with butter.
  2. Cut the rhubarb stalks into small pieces – about the size of your knuckle. They should be evenly sized. Toss with the sugar, honey, and salt. Rub the lavender between your hands, crushing it into the rhubarb. Stir everything and spread evenly in the baking pan.
  3. Mix the crumble topping ingredients thoroughly until it resembles crumbs, then spread the crumble topping over the rhubarb.
  4. Melt the butter, toasted almonds, and brown sugar together in a small saucepan, and dot over the crumble topping.
  5. Bake at 190°C (374°F) for 40-45 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned.
  6. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then serve with whipped cream or strawberry ice cream.

Medical Uses:

Actions: aromatic, carminative, nervine

Part Used: Flowers & leaves.

 

LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm

For anyone who likes mint, you will like this too. It has a unique rich lemon smell and flavour, great for topping a summer fruit drink, and makes a lovely hot tea for winter.

Soil & Sight:

Balm grows happily in any soil, as long as it is full sun. However if the soil is sandy and dry the leaves can turn yellow, so add garden compost to such soils.

Sowing:

It can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, or the division of roots in spring or autumn. Sow the seeds in seed compost in spring. The seeds will germinate in 3-4 weeks. Plant out in January-February 30cm (1ft) apart.

Growing:

Keep free of weeds especially when young, and mulch regularly with 4cm (1½in) of grass clippings. Lemon balm as a member of the mint family will spread, unless kept in check regularly by digging out runners. An alternative is growing it in a container garden or in a pot sunken into the soil. In colder climates it can be grown in a pot for a winter kitchen windowsill.

The key to keeping this plant in great shape and to prevent it from seeding all over is to cut it back before the small insignificant flowers produce seeds.

Harvesting:

As the plants die down in winter, dry some leaves on drying racks and store in sealed jars for winter use.

Companions:

It is especially beneficial for tomatoes, squashes, melons, broccoli, cauliflower, and other brassicas.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

This is a great bee and beneficial insect attractant herb.

Culinary Uses:

  • Add to melon, fruit juices and fruit salad.
  • Can be used in salad dressings, with green salads and chopped up in mayonnaise.
  • Is good chopped up in asparagus soup.
  • In herb sauces for fish and in marinades.
  • Rub over chicken and game before roasting.
  • Good with mushroom dishes.
  • Add to fruit salads, jellies and jams.

Medical Uses:

It induces mild perspiration and can be used as a tea for patients with catarrh and flu. To make the tea, pour ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water upon 28g (1oz) of herb. Infuse 15 minutes, allow to cool, then strain and drink freely.

Actions: anti-spasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, febrifuge

Part Used: Leaves.

 

LEMONGRASS (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass

Lemon grass has become very popular because of the influence of Thai cooking, but it also has medicinal properties.

Soil & Sight:

Lemongrass plants like full sun and shelter from strong winds. Although frost-tender, they grow well in containers and in cooler climates can be moved to a greenhouse or conservatory over the winter months. We grow ours in a large wooden container on the deck under a clear corrugated plastic overhang for protection. As with all grasses, lemongrass likes a rich well-fertilised soil. Mix in plenty of garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Only lightly cover the seeds to germinate in the spring in seed compost and plant out when about 7cm (2¾in) high in warmer areas, or in a container or large pot in cooler or areas where frost is common in winter.

Growing:

Weed and mulch down with grass clippings. Feed every spring with a handful or two of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, mixed lightly in.

Harvesting:

Cut back the stems to near the base in the growing season. These can be used fresh, or the leaves dried to use for making tea or for medicinal use.

Companions:

Mint, lavender and sage.

Culinary Uses:

Lemon grass is particularly associated with Thai and South East Asian cooking. Most of the flavour is in the thicker bulb end, which can be added whole to dishes, or peeled, then crushed or chopped. To use lemongrass in marinades, stir-fries, salads, spice rubs, and curry pastes, trim the top and base of the stalks—you want to use only the bottom 1½cm (4in) or so. Then peel off any dry or tough outer layers before finely chopping or mincing.

Medical Uses:

Lemongrass is used for treating digestive cramps of the gut, stomach-ache, high blood pressure, convulsions, pain, vomiting, cough, achy joints (rheumatism), fever, exhaustion and to relieve the common cold. It is also used to kill germs as a mild astringent and antiseptic.

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antipyretic, antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, galactogogue, insecticidal, sedative

Part Used: Leaves and stalk.

 

LEMON THYME (see Thyme)

LEMON VERBENA (Lippia citriodora)

This photo is By H. Zell via Wikimedia Commons

This photo is By H. Zell via Wikimedia Commons

This is a shrubby plant, a member of the Verbena family, native to western South America. It can grow up to 2-3m (6½-10ft) high.

Soil & Sight:

It likes a dry, well-drained sheltered sunny spot. Mix in one bucket of garden compost before planting.

Sowing:

For some reason, it seems to be very difficult to get lemon verbena seeds, so I suggest finding sources of plants, or take cuttings from a friend who has a plant.

Growing:

Mulch around the plant with 5cm of grass clippings, spray-free straw, or bark chippings. The plants will benefit from a monthly feed with diluted worm juice or liquid seaweed during the summer.

Harvesting:

The flowers can be harvested in summer and carefully dried on drying frames in an airy dark warm area, at 20-300C (68-860F) and stored in dry sealed jars. The leaves can also be dried, rubbed and stored.

Companions:

Grow at the back of a herb garden along with other tall herbs, like Lovage.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts bees.

Culinary Uses:

Lemon verbena leaves can be used to add a lemon flavour to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams and puddings. It can also be chopped finely and added to thick Greek yogurt. It also makes herbal teas.

Medical Uses:

As an anti-inflammatory, lemon verbena is useful for reducing joint pain and aching, and encouraging faster recovery times for joint-related injuries.

Actions: Febrifuge, sedative, stomachic, antispasmodic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Part Used: Leaves, flowering tops.

 

LIQUORICE (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Liquorice

Liquorice roots

Liquorice roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liquorice is a member of the Fabaceae (pea & bean) family, native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is a perennial shrub growing up to 1m (3ft) in height.

Soil & Sight:

Grow in full sun. It will not flourish on clay and prefers a rich, fine well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, to maintain moisture during the growing season. Mix in one bucket of garden compost for each plant. Because of its deep roots it is difficult to get rid of, so make sure you plant it where it is going to stay.

Because it is the roots that are used, the soil should be double-dug. Dig out the top 90cm (3ft) and place in a barrow. The subsoil should then be loosened well with a garden fork so the roots have free access. Push the fork down the whole depth of the tines into the subsoil, then leaver the subsoil upwards and loosen it by pulling the handle back and forth.

Sowing:

Sow in spring in seed compost, in a glasshouse, conservatory or cold frame, planting out when the last frosts are over. Soak the seeds for at least 24 hours in lukewarm water before sowing. Sow the seeds at a depth of ½-1cm (3/16-3/8in). Cover the seeds with soil and keep it evenly moist until the seeds germinate. Germination occurs within two weeks. Plant out at 60cm (2ft) between each plant.

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 5cm (2in) grass clippings topped up when necessary. Liquorice benefits from one or two sprays of liquid seaweed in the growing season. Liquorice likes regular watering during the growing period, making sure the water penetrates deeply.

Harvesting:

The root will be ready two years after planting. Harvest in the autumn. Cut off the horizontal roots with a sharp spade, or scrape away the surface soil and cut off the roots, leaving the main deeper taproots. Alternately, dig up the whole plant, knock off the soil and cut of the majority of the roots; then replant the shrub in the same spot, making sure there are some tap roots and growing crowns to grow again the following season.

Companions:

Good companions: Marjoram, rosemary, and marigold. Bad companions: Garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion and leek.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees should like the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

Liquorice gets its sweetness from glycyrrhizin. On an average 5 to 9 per cent of the roots are made up of glycyrrhizin, which is fifty times sweeter than sugar, so it can be used as a sugar substitute in small doses.

Medical Uses:

As an effective expectorant it is a well-known remedy for coughs and chest complaints generally, notably bronchitis, and is an ingredient in almost all popular cough medicines on account of its valuable soothing properties, which also makes it valuable for peptic ulcers, eczema and indigestion. Precaution: not to be taken in cases of high blood pressure.

To make tea, add 2 teaspoons of dried liquorice root (or four 2cm (¾in) bits of dried or fresh root crushed in a mortar and pestle) to a cup of water.

Actions: demulcent, expectorant, tonic, rejuvenative, laxative, sedative, emetic

Part Used: Root.

 

LOVAGE (Levisticum officinale)

Lovage

This is a impressive tall erect, herbaceous plant growing 1-1½m (3-5ft), with flat greenish yellow cow parsley like flower heads. It is perennial, but will die back in the winter, to reappear in the spring.

Soil & Sight:

Lovage needs to be in full sun, in a rich, moisture retentive soil, so mix in two buckets of well-rotted garden compost per square metre (yard) before planting out.

Sowing:

Lovage seeds have a short life, so sow fresh seed. Sow in seed compost under cover 6-8 weeks before planting outside. Sow ½cm (3/16in) deep. The seeds will germinate in 10-20 days.

Growing:

Weed thoroughly and mulch with spray-free straw or composted bark.

Harvesting:

For culinary use, dry the leaves on a drying frame and store in a sealed jar. For medicinal use dig up some of the roots in early winter, thoroughly wash, and cut up into pieces to dry and store in sealed jars. The seed heads can be cut off when the seeds are dry, but have not shed; finish drying the heads on a tray in a glasshouse, or other warm dry sheltered spot, before rubbing off the seeds and storing.

Companions:

Improves flavour and health of most plants. Because it is a large plant, plant it at the back of as a herb or flower bed.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The plants provide a good habitat for beneficial ground beetles.

Culinary Uses:

The dried or fresh Lovage leaves have a unique yeasty flavour compared to other herbs, so it is a good herb to add to soups, sauces, casseroles and stews. It has a strong flavour, so use sparingly. The fresh leaves can also be added to salads.

Medical Uses:

Lovage offers a number of health benefits, including supporting kidney health and helping to avoid kidney stones, fighting harmful organisms. It is useful in supporting joint health and reducing inflammation of the joints. It also helps sooth indigestion and intestinal gas. As an expectorant it is helpful in chest infections. Lovage is used as “irrigation therapy” for pain and swelling (inflammation) of the lower urinary tract, for prevention of kidney stones, and to increase the flow of urine when urinary tract infections or fluid retention is present.

Actions: expectorant, anti-inflammatory, carminative

Part Used: Roots and seeds.

 

MÃNUKA (Leptospernum scoparium)

Manuka flowers

Manuka flowers

Mãnuka is New Zealand’s answer to the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) from which commercial tea tree oil is extracted. Mãnuka is in the same plant family Mytaceae, and has the same or similar medicinal qualities, and is also called tea tree. This evergreen tree varies in height, but can reach up to 8m (26ft). Mãnuka has always been a valued medicinal tree by Mãori.

 

Soil & Sight:

Mãnuka is a very important pioneering plant in the establishment of a new forest, so it can be planted usefully in new forest garden plantings and on the edges of established plantings. When mature, it is very tolerant of drought, waterlogging, strong winds and frost, so we can say it is not fussy about soil type, but will benefit from a bucket of garden compost mixed in before planting.

It will grow in sun or partial shade. Remember it is a medium large sized tree and needs a lot of space and could shade other plants if planted incorrectly, so is ideal as a boundary tree.

Sowing:

The seed capsules should be collected from local trees and placed in a paper bag in a warm dry place until the fine red seed is released. Sift out the seed and lightly sprinkle over a firm smooth bed of seed raising mix. The seeds need light to germinate so do not cover them, but water from below and cover with a glass sheet, or clear polythene to keep the moisture in. The seedlings should germinate in 1-4 weeks depending on the temperature.

Growing:

Mãnuka doesn’t like to have its growth checked, so never trim or prune it as you will seriously set back its growth. Keep weeded when young and mulch down with 5-7cm (2-2¾in) of composted bark.

Harvesting:

As a common, evergreen tree, the leaves can be used fresh all the year round, but can also be dried if necessary. The bark should sparingly be cut in small squares and pealed back to the inner wood. The part used is the inner bark, which should be scraped off and used fresh, or dried and stored in sealed jars.

Companions:

Larger trees and smaller bushes.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

This is the tree for bees and of course their famed Mãnuka honey.

Medical Uses:

For centuries, New Zealand Mãori have used the Mãnuka, to treat everything from rheumatism and fevers to burns and skin disorders. Research has shown that Manuka oil has higher antibacterial and antifungal effects than common Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia) against bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Pathogenic Fungi. Manuka oil is available on line and it’s definitely part of my medicine cabinet.

A decoction of the leaves can be drunk for urinary complaints and to reduce fever. The steam from leaves boiled in water is good to inhale for head colds and sinusitis. The leaves and bark can be boiled and the warm liquid rubbed on stiff muscles and aching joints.

External applications can be used for skin abrasions, abscesses, acne, bedsores, blisters, boils, burns, cold sores, cracked skin, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, insect bites, head lice, pimples, ringworm, rhinitis, tinea (fungal skin infection), sore throat, and varicose ulcers.

Actions: antimicrobial, antifungal

Part Used: Leaves and inner bark.

 

MARIGOLD (Calendula officinalis)

Marigold

Calendula (pot Marigolds) are hardy annuals, native of southern Europe. They are a little bushy plant 20-30cm (8-12in) high. Calendula marigold should not be confused with Tagetes patula, the French marigold. Both are in the same family, but from a different genus with different properties.

Soil & Sight:

Calendula will grow in almost any soil, as long as it is reasonably well drained, and thrive in shady as well as full sun positions.

Sowing:

Sow the strange ‘C’ shaped curly gnarled large seeds outside, 1½cm (½in) deep, where you want them to grow in spring and anytime throughout the growing season, placing alittle stick to show where they are.

Growing:

They look after themselves pretty well. Water them when watering the vegies around them.

Harvesting & Drying: The leaves should be gathered in dry weather in the morning after the dew has evaporated and dried on a drying frame. The flowers are more difficult to dry properly. The flowers need to be quickly dried in the shade in a good current of warm air spread out on sheets of paper, or on a wooden drying frame. Make sure the flowers are not touching or heaped up so as to avoid discolouration.

Companions:

We have always grown Calendula in and around our vegetables, especially tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. The plant is regarded as a general garden tonic and nutrient accumulator. Silverbeet, radish, carrots, tomatoes, thyme and parsley benefit from having Calendula growing with them.

Once you have grown Calendula in your vegetable garden there will always be seedlings next year to leave or transport to where you want them.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and insects like them and the sticky seed heads are extremely attractive for young shield (stink) bugs, so cut off the seed heads, along with the bugs, and place in the rubbish bin.

Culinary Uses:

As the petals are edible, they make an attractive addition to any salad bowl. The yellow dried petals can be used to colour rice and other dishes – a poor mans saffron.

Medical Uses:

Pharmacological studies have suggested that Calendula extracts may have anti-viral, antigenotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Use as an infusion of the freshly gathered flowers to help reduce fevers, as it gently promotes perspiration.

To make an infusion use 28g (1oz) of dried plant in ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water used internally, in doses of a tablespoonful, and externally for local application.

Actions: anti-inflammatory, antigenotoxic, anti-viral, stimulant, diaphoretic

Part Used: Flowers and leaves.

 

MARJORAM (Origanum majorana)

Majoram Sweet Marjoram has been a favourite culinary herb used throughout history, originally coming from the eastern Mediterranean. To be honest, I have never found the taste of Sweet Marjoram to be my favourite, so nowadays we only grow Oregano, which is closely related; however, don’t let me put you off, because many like it as a culinary herb and a pretty insect attracting garden plant.

Soil & Sight:

As with many Mediterranean plants, it likes a well-drained gritty soil in full sun – so if your soil is heavy, add some sharp sand and a little garden compost before planting.

Sowing:

The fine seeds are as slow to germinate as carrot seeds (10 to 14 days), so sow indoors, glasshouse or cold frame, on seed compost and sprinkle with a 1cm (in) layer of fine grit, and then keep damp and warm until the seedlings are up. Plant out after the last frosts.

Growing:

As with other small bushy herbs, weed well, and then keep mulched with about 4cm (1½in) of grass clippings, or leaf mould. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

Clip the stems, flowers and leaves 6cm (2in) above the ground in the flowering season, i.e. summer, best collected just as the flowers are starting to open. Harvest at around 10am when the volatile oils are highest, and dry on a drying frame, storing in a sealed jar.

Companions:

As a companion plant it improves the flavour of vegetables and herbs.

Culinary Uses:

There are so many uses for this herb:

  • With tomato juice
  • Mixed with cottage cheese
  • With sea foods
  • In omelettes, scrambled eggs and cheese sauce
  • With a whole range of soups and stews
  • Herb and fish sauce
  • Added to sausages and a whole range of meat dishes before roasting
  • Added to stuffing
  • Added sparingly to vegetables, potatoes, and most lentil, beans and other pulse dishes

Medical Uses:

It is used as an external application for sprains, bruises, etc., and also as an emmenagogue to regulate menstruation. Increasing the efficiency of digestion by increasing digestive enzymes and saliva, improving appetite and eliminating flatulence, and as a concoction for curing intestinal infections painful stomach cramps or spasms.

Actions: antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, carminative, emmenagogue

Part Used: Leaves.

 

MARSHMALLOW (Althea officinalis)

Marsh Mallow

Marshmallow is a wild plant growing from the southern English coast to southern Europe and is found growing in marshes near the sea – hence the name. It looks like a miniature hollyhock, with the flower spike growing up to a metre (3ft) high. This is one of the medicinal herbs that I value highly, largely because when I occasionally get a cold it can end up on my chest, or even become bronchitis. Marsh Mallow root along with Elecampane and Echinacea roots form a great medicinal concoction for counteracting bronchitis and healing the lungs.

Soil & Sight:

It will grow well in any soil or situation, but it prefers moist rather than dry land. Marsh Mallow prefers partial sun, but will also grow well in shade or full sun. If you have some damp land, or ditches or streams through the property, you might grow it there. If grown in ordinary soil, mix in two buckets of well-rotted garden compost, plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Sow in seed compost in the spring, planting out when the seedlings are around 5-6cm (2-2½in) high, 60cm (2ft) apart in their final positions.

Growing:

It dies down in the winter, but the long root and crown survive to ensure regrowth the following spring.

Harvesting: It will take a few years before the roots are big enough to harvest. Scrape some earth away from the roots and cut some off, or dig up the whole root ball when it has died down in the autumn, cut off some of the roots and replant what’s left to grow again. Wash, peal and cut up the roots into small pieces to use fresh or dry or store in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.

Companions:

This is an ideal plant to grow with other marsh loving plants like water iris and other marginal plants in a specially created area, like the edge of a pond, or boggy area.

Medical Uses:

The root boiled up produces a sticky substance that is very useful where the natural mucus has been abraded from the coats of the intestines, as in cases of irritable bowel syndrome and other bowel problems.

The root is also excellent at relieving diseases of the chest, such as dry coughs, bronchitis, whooping-cough, etc., generally in combination with other remedies as already mentioned above. The extra advantage of the root is that it is not only a good expectorant but it helps to heal the lining of the lung. Soak 30g (1oz) of marsh mallow roots in a little cold water for half an hour; then peel the skin off roots and cut up the roots into small pieces. Then pour boiling water onto the pieces and steep for a couple of hours.

30g (1oz) of the leaves can be boiled up in ½ litre (1 pint) of water and the liquid drunk for cases of mild cystitis, taken frequently in wineglassful doses. This infusion is also good for bathing inflamed eyes.

A concoction of the flowers has a significant anti-inflammatory effect and are said to decrease the growth of gastric ulcers.

Actions: Demulcent, expectorant, emollient, nutritive tonic, diuretic, vulnerary, laxative

Part Used: Mainly roots, but also leaves and flowers.

 

MINT Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Mint

 

One of the great culinary delights of summer. There are many types of mint, but for medicinal use, Peppermint is the most effective, but for cooking, spearmint is as useful.

Soil & Sight:

All the mints spread by means of runners and can soon swamp the area in which it is growing it therefore needs containing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like being contained, but if the container is large enough, and the plant is fed annually, it will thrive. Ours lives in a raised plastic lined square wooden box ½ metre x ½ metre and ½ metre deep (1½ x 1½ x 1½ft), with drainage holes in the bottom and filled with a rich, water retentive soil.

The alternative is to grow it in an odd corner, or waste ground where it can run at will.

Sowing:

It’s so easy to take runners from a friend’s or neighbour’s plant, I wouldn’t bother growing it from seed.

Growing:

Weed regularly, and if grown in a container, add a little garden compost and a handful of organic fertiliser once a year in spring. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

The leaves and flowers are very easily bruised, so handle carefully. I suggest you dry the cut stems with the leaves and flowers attached, rubbing the leaves off when they have dried, because picking the leaves off fresh will damage them. Lay out in a single layer on drying frames, and place in the dark at a temperature of 30-370C (86-98½0F) with good ventilation. Drying at a lower temperature will result in a blackening of the leaves. Store in airtight containers in the dark.

Companions:

Because mint is so invasive, I would not recommend growing it near any vegetables, but you can put bunches of mint in a bucket and just cover with rain water for 48 hours, then, then sieve and spray the liquid onto these companion vegetables – beets, brassicas, chilli and bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, salad burnet, squash and peas.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

A fresh sprig in your summer drinks of course. I also like adding some to a summer green salad mix, with its fresh taste. Great added to cooking peas, chopped and added to a bowl of new potatoes along with a good knob of butter, added to fruit salad, scrambled eggs, chopped and mixed with cottage cheese, mint sauce for lamb, marinades for fish, rubbing on chicken before roasting and making mint jelly and so on and on.

Medical Uses:

It is well known for its properties of soothing and improving the digestion, also used for stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, flatulence, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and colic in children. Peppermint can also be used as an appetite stimulant.

Make an infusion, but do not boil. Mint Infusion: pour 20 to 30g (¾ to 1oz) of fresh leaves in 1 litre (2 pints) of boiling water. Drinking 500-700ml (17-23½floz) per day in 2-3 divided doses, or use its mild analgesic properties by rubbing the liquid into sore muscles.

Actions: Stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

MUGWORT see: WORMWOOD

MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein

Mullein is a biennial, growing its rosette of furry grey leaves the first year and in the second year it sends up a flowering spike 1-1½m (3-5ft) high producing seeds.

Soil & Sight:

As it is a regular roadside plant in many countries, that grows by roadsides on poor and rough ground, it should be very easy to grow in any soil in sun.

Sowing:

Sow the fine seeds in a seed tray 3mm (⅛in) deep in spring and plant out the seedlings when they are around 5cm (2in) high.

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 4cm (1½in) grass clippings when young, and spray-free straw or composted bark chippings when older.

Harvesting:

Pick leaves off the mullein plant in the afternoon on a warm dry day. Lay a single layer of leaves on a drying frame in a dry airy place. Allow them to dry for several days. The leaves should easily crumble when dry. Store in sealed jars in the dark.

See below for picking the flowers to make mullein oil.

Companions:

Best to plant with other tall herbs at the back of herb, or flowerbed.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers are a great attraction for bees and other beneficial insects.

Culinary Uses:

The flowers can be added to a salad mix.

Medical Uses:

The whole plant possesses slightly sedative and narcotic properties.

For bad coughs, use 28g (1oz) of dried, or the corresponding quantity of fresh leaves, boiled for 10 minutes in ½ litre (1 pint) of milk. When strained, give warm, three times a day, with or without sugar.

Due to the combination of its demulcent and astringent properties it is especially useful in cases of diarrhoea. A plain infusion of 28g (1oz) leaves to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water can also be used cooled and taken in wineglassful doses frequently.

For ear infections a warmed infused oil of Mullein flowers is dropped with a dropper into the affected ear.

To prepare the oil – pick the flowers and let them wilt for a few hours to reduce their moisture content. Then put them in a jar covering the flowers with organic extra virgin olive oil. Set the jar, tightly capped, in the sun for a month or two, and then strain the oil into clean bottles. Mullein flower oil can be infused with garlic as well, which is antibacterial and antiviral, to give it an extra punch for ear infections.

Actions: demulcent, astringent, emollient, sedative

Part Used: Leaves and flowers.

 

NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is an annual that is native to South America, especially in Peru and Bolivia.

Soil & Sight:

Nasturtiums prefer poorer soils that are moist and well drained in full sun, and they do not need fertilizers (unless your soil is extremely poor). They can grow in partial shade, but they will not bloom as well.

Sowing:

Sow the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost, or outside in mid to late spring.

Growing:

Keep weeded and mulched with 3-4cm (1-1½in) grass clippings.

Harvesting:

It is best to use fresh leaves and flowers, as they do not dry well.

Companions:

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Plant near: beets, buckwheat, calendula, carrots, chamomile, dill, hyssop, marigolds, mints, nasturtiums, onions, rosemary, sage, thyme and wormwood.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts beneficial insects, especially bumblebees.

Culinary Uses:

The leaves have a peppery taste, and a good addition in salad mixes. The flowers have a milder peppery taste and are extremely decorative and tasty in salads, and the seed-pods, can be pickled when still green, like capers.

Medical Uses:

Nasturtium contains mustard oil. It’s one of the more powerful antibacterial plants available, but only if used fresh. Nasturtium acts as both a disinfectant and a healing agent, and all parts of the plant seem to have strong antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. It an amazing plant to help relieve infections, both internally as externally, as in disinfecting wounds and cuts.

Actions: antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, expectorant, depurative

Part Used: Fresh leaves and flowers.

 

NETTLE (Urtica dioica)

Nettle

This is definitely one of the most useful plants I know, for composting, liquid manure and the Biodynamic compost preparation 504, not forgetting its culinary and medicinal uses. I regularly drink nettle tea, from either fresh or dry leaves.

Soil & Sight:

It likes deep rich soils. You will often see nettles growing by old cottages, where the occupants, not having toilets in the old days, used to relieve themselves and emptied their chamber pots – yes it likes strong feeding! It spreads by runners fairly rigorously, so it should be grown in an odd corner, or the edge of a forest garden to do its thing. It will take over most other plants, so beware!

Sowing:

The easiest way to propagate nettles is to dig up some runners from a patch and plant where they are to grow.

Harvesting:

Pick the leaves and stems with rubber gloves on and dry in the oven, or dehydrator, set on low 50-700C (122-1580F) on a tray. The leaves should still be green when dry. Store in sealed jars in the dark.

Companions:

It is believed to make neighbouring plants more resistant to disease and attacks by insect pests, however, too close is too close, but having it somewhere in your garden is still very useful.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Some of the earliest aphids are found on nettles and this attracts ladybirds to lay their eggs early on them and ensure good ladybird numbers for your property.

Culinary Uses:

There are many ways to cook with nettle – here are two:

Stinging Nettle Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin organic olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 large floury potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 litre (2 pints) vegetable stock
  • 400g (14oz) of young stinging nettles, washed, leaves picked
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter, diced
  • 50ml (1¾floz)double cream

Preparation:

  1. Wear rubber gloves to pick the nettle leaves.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Add the onion, carrot, leek and potato, and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  4. Add the stock and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the potato is soft.
  5. Add the nettle leaves and simmer for 1 minute to wilt, and then blend the soup.
  6. Season to taste, then stir in the butter and cream.
  7. Serve the soup drizzled with extra oil.

Stinging Nettle and Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups nettle leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Pick your nettle leaves wearing rubber gloves.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  3. Still wearing rubber gloves, remove all the nettle leaves from the stems, and place in a large bowl.
  4. Pour in boiling water and cook for no more than about 30 seconds.
  5. Strain in sink and transfer to a bowl of very cold water.
  6. Squeeze nettles into a ball to drain.
  7. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until well combined.
  8. Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerator. Keeps for about 1 week.

Medical Uses:

Nettle has one of the highest iron contents of any green plant. Not only is it high in iron, but it also has high levels of vitamin C, which aids in the absorption of the iron. Stinging nettle also contains natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories (including quercetin), both of which are useful in reducing the symptoms of hay fever, and nose & sinus allergy symptoms.

An infusion made from the roots is used to extract diuretics that encourage the excretion of uric acid, which reduces the urge to pee in the night for those with benign prostate enlargement and weak and irritated bladder.

Frequent use of nettle leaf tea, a cup or more daily, rapidly relieves and helps prevent water retention.

Nettle is a superb nourisher of the kidneys and adrenals.

Stinging nettle was traditionally used in all types of cases of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. We now know it is because it contains anti-inflammatory substances combined with a rich concentration of the minerals boron, calcium and silicon, which ease the pain while helping to build strong bones. While anti-inflammatory medication is a necessary evil for most with arthritis, using nettle tea may help you to decrease the amount you need to take. One reason may be that nettles also contain large amounts of magnesium, which helps to moderate the pain response.

Stinging nettle has also been seen as one of the best all round women’s tonics. Nettles are a good general tonic of the female reproductive system, excellent for young women just starting their monthly cycle, as well as women, beginning menopause and those who are pregnant.

Actions: astringent, diuretic, tonic, rubefacient, styptic, anthelmintic, nutritive, alterative, anti-rheumatic, anti-allergenic, lithotriptic, haemostatic, stimulant, febrifuge, nephritic, galactagogue, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti-histamine.

Part Used: Leaves, stems, and to a lesser extent root.

 

OREGANO (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano

Oregano is a perennial herb. It is native to the Mediterranean region. We only grow Oregano, because it has a better flavour than Marjoram. The flavour is stronger, so use it sparingly.

Soil & Sight:

Like many Mediterranean herbs Oregano likes a well-drained soil, so if your soil is heavy, mix in some sharp sand. There is no need to add compost or other fertilisers.

Sowing:

Oregano can be easily propagated from cuttings, but you can sow seed indoors in seed compost in early spring, planting out the seedlings in early summer, 20cm (8in) apart. There is no need to cover the seeds with compost, just sow on the surface and sprinkle some fine chippings, or fine vermiculite on top.

Growing:

Plant out 25cm (10in) apart, and mulch with 4cm (1½in) fine bark or stone chips. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

Clip the stems, flowers and leaves 6cm (2½in) above the ground in the flowering season, i.e. January to March, best collected just as the flowers are starting to open. Harvest at around 10am when the volatile oils are highest and dry on a drying frame, storing in a sealed jar.

Companions:

Can be used with most crops but especially good for cabbage. Also benefits grapes.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Plant near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel cabbage butterfly.

Culinary Uses:

Oregano is typically used to flavour food, which already has strong flavours. Pizza, pasta and tomato sauces are probably the most famous recipes in which oregano plays an important role but it is widely used in many other Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes including chillies. It is also used as a traditional addition to stuffing.

Medical Uses:

Its carminative effect is useful in indigestion and gut cramps. Its stimulant and diaphoretic effects are helpful in cases of fever, by causing internal heat and increasing perspiration. It also helps to promote and regulate menstruation.

Actions: stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, mildly tonic, emmenagogue

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)

Curly-leaf Parsley

Curly-leaf Parsley

Flat-leaf Parsley

Flat-leaf Parsley

                              

 

 

 

Parsley is biennial, growing leaves the first year, and running to seed the second year. It is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean regions – Turkey, Algeria and the Lebanon.

Soil & Sight:

Parsley likes a well-drained, moisture-retentive, nutrient-rich soil. Good drainage is important because water logged roots can result in crown rot, which can kill the plant. Apply a bucket of garden compost per square metre, or a generous double handful of compost per plant mixed in. Parsley can easily be grown in containers and brought inside to sit on the kitchen windowsill, or grown in a glasshouse in winter.

Sowing:

Sow in early spring indoors, or outside in late spring. Treat as an annual and sow every year, as it will run to seed in the second year.

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting:

Personally, I think dried parsley is not necessary and not very nice, as one can grow it fresh all the year round outside and also inside in the winter.

Companions:

Asparagus, carrot, chives, onions, roses and tomato. Mint and parsley don’t go well together, keep them apart.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Let some go to flower to attract tiny parasitic wasps and hoverflies.

Culinary Uses:

This is probably the most widely used herb. Its uses in cooking are endless, sprinkled on fresh new potatoes, in a white sauce, and in a parsley version of pesto instead of basil. Parsley can be used in almost any savoury dish. It is especially good used in fresh salads, soups or sauces. Chop or shred it and mix with butter to melt over fish or to glaze vegetables. Use it in marinades, in stuffing, in omelettes – and on and on!

Medical Uses:

Parsley leaves and root are high in iron and rich in vitamins A, B, C and trace elements. Its high concentration of boron and fluoride might help against bone thinning and osteoporosis. An infusion can be used as a detox for the kidneys.

Actions: carminative, tonic, aperient, diuretic, anti-inflamatory.

Part Used: Leaves, seeds and roots.

 

PEPPERMINT – see: MINT

RED CLOVER – see CLOVER (RED)

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary

Soil & Sight:

Whilst rosemary can tolerate partial shade, it prefers full sun and a light, well-drained soil. Mix in 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

It is easier to strike from cuttings. Take last year’s growth tips. 5-6cm (2-2in) long, in the spring/early summer, and pull off two thirds of the bottom leaves, then place in sandy cutting compost. It can be difficult to grow from seed unless the seed is very fresh. Sow the seed and then just lightly cover with compost, and do not over water. The variety ‘Rosy’ is said to germinate better than other varieties.

Growing:

Mulch down with bark chips, or course leaf mould.

Harvesting:

Drying the stems and leaves of rosemary is easy, because the leaves are low in moisture even when fresh. Dry on drying frames, in a warm airy place. I usually dry ours in the glasshouse hung up in bunches, and then strip the leaves off the stems when dry and store in sealed jars.

Companions:

It’s a companion plant to cabbages, beans, carrots and sage.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Deters cabbage moths, and carrot flies. Use cuttings placed by the crowns of carrots to deter carrot root flies.

Culinary Uses:

Rosemary has a very strong taste and as such is used to flavour strong tasting meat, such as lamb, steaks, stuffings and stews.

Chicken breasts can be rubbed with rosemary and sprinkled with finely chopped rosemary, then sautéed and braised in a sauce of orange juice, orange zest, chopped rosemary, white wine and maple syrup.

Chopped rosemary is delicious when added to a vegetarian or meat burger mix.

Medical Uses:

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.

Traditionally rosemary was used to help treat indigestion.

Rosemary helps to improve cognitive performance, enhancing memory and concentration. The antioxidant effects of rosemary also helps to fight off free radical damage in the brain and may even help prevent brain aging.

Actions: tonic, astringent, disinfectant, diaphoretic, stimulant, stomachic, nervine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

Part Used: Leaves.

 

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Sage

Sage is a hardy perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, greyish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a native of Mediterranean countries.

Soil & Sight:

Sage will grow on a wide variety of soils, but a well-drained sandy soil in full sun, with a pH of 6.5 is ideal. Sage does not like very acid soils. Add ½ bucket of garden compost and one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard), and some sharp sand if the soil is very heavy.

Sowing:

You can grow sage from seed sown indoors 4-5 weeks before the last frosts, and planted out when 5cm (2in) high, 30cm (1ft) apart. However, the best way to propagate sage is by taking cuttings from a good healthy specimen. In early summer, take 8cm long growing tips, or from heeled shoots pulled from the base of old plants, and strike in a sandy cutting compost, in the shade.

Growing:

Once weeded, mulch down with bark chips or 5cm (2in) of grass clippings, regularly topped up.

Harvesting:

The older the plants the richer in volatile oils, so only pick leaves from two year old plants or older. Spread out the leaves on drying racks and dry slowly at a low temperature, because if dried at too warm or hot temperature the leaves will discolour and lose much of the volatile oils.

Companions:

Do not plant near cucumbers, onions or rue.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

A companion plant to broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage, and carrots to deter cabbage moths, beetles, flea beetles and carrot root flies. Sage repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles. Even if you don’t grow it with these plants, you can cut the stems and lay them around the plants.

Culinary Uses:

Here’s some ideas:

  • Traditionally, sage is used to make stuffing for poultry, and to flavour rich and fatty meat like pork and duck.
  • Adding finely chopped sage to your mashed potatoes is yummy.
  • In Italy it is commonly finely chopped, mixed with melted butter and served stirred into pasta or gnocchi.
  • Deep-fry the leaves and serve as an appetizer, or use as a garnish for poultry, meat dishes, or pasta.

Medical Uses:

Use as a wash for the cure of affections of the mouth and as a gargle in inflamed sore throat, being excellent for relaxed throat and tonsils, and also for an ulcerated throat. The gargle is useful for bleeding gums and to prevent an excessive flow of saliva. A lotion made from sage is excellent for ulcers and to heal raw abrasions of the skin.

Sage can improve the memory of young, healthy adults, as well as those with mild Alzheimer’s disease.

Actions: stimulant, astringent, tonic, carminative, antifungal, antimicrobial

Part Used: Leaves and seeds.

 

SALAD BURNET (Sanguisorba minor)

Salad BurnetThis is not a very well known herb, but well worth growing. It has a unique fresh cucumber flavour. It is a straggly low growing delicate looking plant 20-30cm (8-12in) tall. We used to sow it in our herbal grass mix on our farm for the benefit of the animals. For its size it is a deep-rooting plant, bringing up minerals from the sub-soil.

Soil & Sight:

Salad Burnet naturally grows on dry soils or banks, so a well-drained soil is preferable. Little or no feeding is necessary, unless the soil is very poor.

Sowing:

Sow indoors in early spring, or outside in early summer, planting out or thinning out to 15cm (6in) apart.

Growing:

Mulch with 3-4cm (1-1½in) of grass clipping is probably the best way to inhibit annual weeds and preserve moisture.

Harvesting:

Like parsley, dry salad burnet leaves lose most of their flavour. The fresh leaves can be harvested when the flowers are just blooming. Two or three cuts can be made in a year.

Companions:

Grow with other pasture plants, like clover. If you have a forest garden, plant on the woodland’s edge.

Culinary Uses:

Use only the young leaves. Chopped leaves in cream cheese, adds a fresh flavour. You can also add to French dressings and mayonnaise. Add leaves to a salad mix. You can also add chopped leaves to many dishes you would add parsley too.

Medical Uses:

Because of its astringent properties it was used as a tea to relieve diarrhoea in the past.

Actions: astringent

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

SAVORY Summer (Satureja hortensis)

Savoury

Summer Savory is a fast growing annual. It grows upright to about 41-46cm (16-18in) tall as a loose bushy plant; the flowers are a light purple to pink.

Soil & Sight:

Plant Summer Savory in full sun. It prefers a rich, well-drained organic soil, so mix in 2 double handfuls of garden compost per plant plus a handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

Sowing:

Sow fresh seed each year, as the seeds are not viable the following year. Sow in early spring indoors in seed compost, and plant out when the seedlings are 4-5cm (1½-2in) high.

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart.

Harvesting:

The best time to harvest the young shoots, are just before the flowers open. The shoots should be spread out on a drying frame and dried slowly in the dark at around 30-350C (86-95F) and stored in sealed jars.

Companions:

Plant with beans and onions to improve growth and flavour.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Discourages cabbage moths and black aphids. However, honeybees love it!

Culinary Uses:

It is used to add to sauces, fish, eggs and meat dishes. Use sparingly because it has a strong taste.

Medical Uses:

Traditionally Summer Savory was used for coughs, sore throat, and intestinal disorders including gut cramps, indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Actions: aromatic, carminative, expectorant

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

SCULLCAP (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Scull capThis is the American Scullcap, although Scutellaria galericulata and Scutellaria minor, can be used as substitutes, they are not quite as effective. It is a perennial, but it seldom continues more than two or three years.

Soil & Sight:

Scullcap is a wetland plant in the wild, but will grow in any ordinary garden soil, prefering a sunny site in moist soil, which is not too rich.

Sowing:

Sow indoors in seed compost early September and plant out after the last frosts.

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 4cm (1½in) grass clippings.

Harvesting:

The whole herb is pulled up as it starts to flower, cleaned of soil, hung up in a warm place to dry, then ground down in a mortar and pestle.

Companions:

Grow with other woodland and woodland-edge plants.

Medical Uses:

Scullcap can be used as a treatment for a wide range of nervous conditions including insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delirium tremens, and the withdrawal symptoms from barbiturates and tranquilisers. Its use for insomnia is valuable, because there are no after effects. Skullcap has more recently been used as an alternative medicine to treat attention deficit disorder ADD.

Actions: strong tonic, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Part Used: The whole herb, collected in June, dried and powdered.

  

SOLOMON’S SEAL (Polygonatum multiflorum)

Solomon's Seal

This perennial creeping woodland plant has spear shaped leaves and grows to 1-1½m (3-5ft) high. It has drooping lily-like flowers.

Soil & Sight:

Solomon’s Seal prefers light, slightly acidic soil and will grow better under shady or partially shady conditions. They should have enough space to spread.

Sowing:

Get a division from a friend. The best time to transplant or divide the roots is in autumn; alternatively, grow from seed. Solomon’s Seal seed can be difficult to germinate, and may take one month or longer before it starts to grow. To enhance germination rates, stratifying the seeds in a fridge will help. Mix the seeds with a small amount of moistened vermiculite, or sand and place in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or more. Then sow the seeds in spring in seed compost indoors and keep warm. They may still take several months to come up. When they are well up, start hardening them off by placing the seed trays outside in the daytime, for one or two weeks, then plant out 30-40cm (12-16in) apart.

Growing:

As a woodland plant, a good mulch of leaf mould, or bark chips is ideal, or a top dressing of well rotted garden compost.

Harvesting:

Dig up the root in late autumn, wash and pat dry, then cut up into smaller pieces and dry fully until hard, then store in a sealed jar.

Companions:

Grow with other woodland plants, such as ferns.

Medical Uses:

It is a mucilaginous tonic, very healing and restorative, and is good for inflammations of the stomach and bowels, piles, and chronic diarrhoea. It is useful also for female complaints. An infusion of 28g (1oz) of the root to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water, drink a wineglassful at a time.

The powdered roots make an excellent poultice for bruises and piles.

Actions: astringent, demulcent, tonic, vulnerary

Part Used: Root.

 

SORREL (Rumex acetosa)

Sorrel_2

Sorrel is a perennial low growing leafy plant with arrow shaped leaves. The leaves have a fresh mild lemon taste. Our main use of sorrel leaves is a few in a mixed salad, to give the salad a lemony taste. The leaves, like rhubarb stems and spinach, contain oxalic acid – so don’t use it too regularly. However it is a valuable herb for its unique taste.

Soil & Sight:

It grows best in a light rich soil in half-shade, but full sun is acceptable. Mix in one bucket of garden compost per square metre.

Sowing:

Sow in early spring indoors in seed compost, and plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Alternatively, dived a friend’s plant in early spring.

Growing:

Mulch down with 3cm (1in) grass cuttings. Regular cutting of the flower stalks in summer will keep the leaves growing.

Harvesting:

Cut or pull the leaves at any time during the growing season. They are mostly used fresh, but can be dried carefully in the dark on a drying frame until crisp, then stored in well-sealed jars in a dark cupboard.

Companions:

Strawberries like sorrel growing near.  

Culinary Uses:

Combine with other greens, as sorrel on its own, is too bitter. Some leaves added to a salad, gives the salad a nice lemony taste. Added to soups and spinach, livens up both.

Medical Uses:

Sorrel has blood cleansing and improving qualities, and is also used as a cooling drink to reduce a fever.

Actions: diuretic, refrigerant

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

SOUTHERNWOOD (Artemisia abrotanum)

Southernwood

Southernwood is a native of southern Europe, indigenous to Spain and Italy. It has grey-green feathery leaves, and small yellow flowers and grows to 1 metre or more.

Soil & Sight:

It likes full to partial sun, a well-drained soil but moist soil, although they are tolerant of drought. Mix in 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

It can easily be propagated by cuttings, or by division of the roots.

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 6cm (2in) of spray-free straw.

Harvesting:

The whole herb can be pulled up in February when in flower, cleaned and hung up to dry in a warm dark place, like a airing cupboard, then stored in a well sealed container in a dark cupboard.

The most potent part for dispelling worms is the flowers, which should be collected in February, spread out on a drying frame and dried in the dark.

Companions:

Plant cuttings with cabbage, and here and there in the garden. Roots easily from cuttings.

Medical Uses:

Southernwood’s main use has been to regulate menstruation, however it is also a good stimulant tonic and strengthens the nervous system. It is given as an infusion of 30g (1oz) of the herb to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water. The pan should have a lid on to prevent the loss of volatile oils, which would impair its value.

Its other use is as an anthelmintic, in dispelling roundworms in both children and animals. We used it as a drench for our stock on our farm.

Actions: tonic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, antiseptic and deobstruent.

Part Used: The whole herb, and the flowers.

 

ST JOHN’S WORT (Hypericum perforatum)

St John's Wort

St John’s Wort is an herbaceous perennial plant, which can grow to 1m (3ft) high. The flowers are bright yellow with black dots.

Soil & Sight:

Saint John’s Wort can easily become an invasive weed by spreading its creeping roots as well as spreading its seeds, so make sure you can contain it by regularly digging out the runners and collecting and disposing the seed heads. Alternately, grow in a woodland garden, or odd corner.

Sowing:

It can be propagated from root divisions, or sown indoors from seed in early spring and planted out when a few centimetres high.

Growing:

Mulch down with grass clippings, or spray-free straw. Every year dig out runners.

Harvesting:

Harvest the tops, just before it flowers and dry on a drying frame in a warm dry dark place.

The flowers can be used to make the oil of St. John’s Wort by infusing the flowers in organic virgin first pressed olive oil. Place the flowers in a container and just cover with the oil. After two weeks infusing, sieve the oil and bottle.

Medical Uses:

Externally used to treat haemorrhoids and inflammation, also to treat sores, cuts, minor burns, and abrasions, especially those involving nerve damage.

Oil of St John’s Wort can be made by infusing the flowers in olive oil. Drying the flowers loses their effectiveness.

Traditionally it has been used to treat lung complaints like chronic catarrh, bladder troubles, dysentery, worms, and diarrhoea. It has also been used to treat children troubled with bed-wetting at night, by giving an infusion given before going to bed, has been found to be found effectual.

In 1525, Paracelsus recommended it for treating depression, melancholy, and over excitation. More recently St John’s Wort has been used as a treatment for mild to moderate depression, with fewer adverse side effects than with other antidepressants. However, it has been shown less effective for severe depression.

Actions: astringent, analgesic, antispasmodic, stimulates bile flow, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, sedative, aromatic, resolvent, expectorant, nervine, antidepressant, and a restorative tonic for the nervous system.

Part Used: Herb tops, and flowers.

 

SWEET CICELY (Myrrhis odorata)

Sweet Cicley

Sweet Cicely is an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the celery family, with a thick root and very aromatic foliage. When in flower it can grow to ½m (1½ft) or more. The leaves are fern-like that smell strongly of aniseed when crushed. The flowers are creamy-white umbels.

Soil & Sight:

It prefers medium-rich well drained soil in full sun. Mix in 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard). Just remember, it does spread and has very long taproots, so digging up the excess growth can be difficult.

Sowing:

It grows readily from seed, and can also be increased by division in spring or autumn.

Growing:

Plant out at 30cm apart. It dies down in late autumn, coming up again at the end of August. Clip off the flowers regularly, to encourage the leaves.

Harvesting:

The large leaves droop as soon as they are picked, so pick and quickly spread out in a single layer on a drying frame, placed in a warm airy place, and store in the dark in sealed jars. The roots can be dug up in late autumn, cleaned, cut in smaller bits and dried. The fresh roots can also be boiled and eaten.

Companions:

It is a hedgerow and woodland edge and in woodland clearings – so a good companion for similar plants.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts beneficial insects and bees.

Culinary Uses:

Sweet Cicely leaves can be used in both vegetable and fruit smoothies. Also chopped in salad dressings and in green salad mixes. Also used in soups and stews, to make herb butter. Can be sprinkled on root vegetables, and chopped and mixed in a fruit salad.

Medical Uses:

As an expectorant, an infusion of the leaves is useful for coughs and bronchitis; it is also good for flatulence, and as a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. The fresh or dried roots can be boiled to make an infusion. The roots are antiseptic and an ointment made from the fresh roots will help cure wounds, and ulcers.

Actions: aromatic, stomachic, carminative, expectorant

Part Used: The leaves, and root.

 

TARRAGON French (Artemisia dracunculus)

Tarragon

 

French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen, but is never grown from seed as the flowers are sterile; instead it is propagated by root division, so you will need to buy fresh plants, or find a friend or neighbour with one to propagate from. If you see seeds for sale, they will be of Russian tarragon, which is inferior and not worth growing.

Soil & Sight:

French tarragon does not like wet feet, so the ideal conditions are a well-drained soil in full sun on a slope facing north, or course chippings and sharp sand dug into the spot before planting.

 Sowing:

Propagate by root division or from cuttings, you can’t grow it from seed.

Growing:

Plant 60cm (2ft) apart, usually two plants will do for a family. Mulch with 5cm (2in) of grass clippings.

Harvesting:

French Tarragon can be eaten fresh throughout the growing season, but it is such a valuable culinary herb, it should also be dried for the winter months. Cut the shoots just before flowering, vary carefully, as bruising will lose valuable volatile oils. Lay them out on a drying frame and dry at a low temperature – no more than 350C (950F) in the dark.

Companions:

Recommended to enhance the growth and flavour of vegetables.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one.

Culinary Uses:

Tarragon is one of the most useful herbs in the kitchen.

  • Make tarragon butter to serve with shellfish, crab, crayfish, lobster and prawns.
  • Add fresh sprigs to pickles, like gherkins.
  • Especially good added to asparagus or bean salads.
  • Added to omelettes and scrambled eggs.
  • Added to mayonnaise.
  • Famous added to steaks and veal.
  • Cooked with poultry and game and in stuffings.
  • Added when making sauerkraut.

To make Tarragon vinegar, fill a jar with the freshly gathered leaves, which have been partially dried. Cover the leaves with good quality white wine vinegar. Leave overnight, then strain through a jelly bag, or cheesecloth, and fill a bottle or bottles and seal.

Medical Uses:

Tarragon is used to treat digestion problems, poor appetite and to promote sleep. The roots were chewed to relieve toothache. This pain relieving effect is due to the high levels of eugenol found in the plant. This is the same pain-relieving compound contained in clove oil.

Actions: antioxidant, analgesic, aromatic

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

THYME (Thymus vulgaris)    &   Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

Thyme

Thyme

Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme

Thyme is a native of Mediterranean countries. As a strongly aromatic herb, it is both useful for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Soil & Sight:

Thyme likes a dry, well-drained fertile soil, in full sun.

Varieties:

French thyme is supposed to have the best flavour, but we have found the variety ‘Pizza Thyme’ with its larger glossier leaves and good strong Italian flavour to be the best one we have grown over the years.

Sowing:

Sow inside in early spring in seed compost, potting on the tiny seedlings into potting compost until big enough to plant outside. However, the easiest way to propagate thyme is by division of an old plant, or cuttings taken in late spring.

Growing:

Mulch down with stone chippings or as we do, with regularly replaced grass clippings. Thyme can be grown indoors through the winter by clipping back an outside plant to about a third, then pot up in potting compost and move indoors.

Harvesting:

Clip the shoots by a third only, just as they are flowering, but never later than the end of January (southern hemisphere) July (northern hemisphere); this will give the plant time to recover before the winter. Do not clip back to the base, as this will seriously set back the plants. Spread out the cuttings in a single layer on a drying frame in the dark at a low temperature – no more than 350C (950F). When dry rub the leaves off the stems and store in a sealed jar.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Deters cabbage root fly.

Harvesting:

Drying thyme bunches is easy. Hang up bunches in the kitchen or glasshouse until dry, then rub the leaves gently from the stems and store in a jar.

Culinary Uses:

  • Add to tomato sauces, or tomato juice.
  • Add to scrambled eggs, and cheese sauces.
  • Great, added to soups and stews.
  • Rub on pork, beef or lamb roasts before cooking.
  • Add to stuffings.
  • Make thyme butter and melt to pour over vegetables before serving.
  • Add lemon thyme when making custard.

Medical Uses:

Thyme tea will reduce gastric wind, gut gripes and colic. It is also useful in promoting perspiration at the commencement of a cold, and in fever generally. An infusion sweetened with sugar or honey is useful to relieve catarrh and sore throat, given in doses of 1 or more tablespoonsful, several times daily.

Actions: antiseptic, antispasmodic, tonic, carminative, diaphoretic

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

TURMERIC (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric plant in our greenhouse

Turmeric plant in our greenhouse

Turmeric root

Turmeric root

                     

 

 

 

 

 

Here in Nelson we can only grow our turmeric plant in our little lean-to green house (see picture). In warmer sub tropical or Mediterranean climates, there should be no problem growing turmeric outside. It grows up to a metre (3ft) high with broad green tropical style leaves, and forms a large clump with underground rhizomes, similar to ginger roots to which it is related. The roots are the characteristic lemon yellow inside; from which powdered turmeric is made. The tops die off in late autumn and start growing again in spring.

Soil & Sight:

It is very important to have a well-drained soil, as the rhizomes rot easily if they are damp or wet for long periods. Turmeric is a tropical plant; so it likes full sun grown in rich compost, so add a bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard), or to a large plant container around 45 x 45cm (1½ x 1½ft) square, and 30cm (1ft) deep. The advantage of growing in a large container is that it can be brought indoors in the winter if you live in a colder area.

Growing:

Keep weeded and mulch with grass clippings or 5cm (2in) of spray free straw in hot dry weather.

Companions:

You can grow turmeric with ginger, as they like the same conditions.

Harvesting:

Just fossick around in the soil, exposing some of the rhizomes, and cut off what you need, making sure you leave plenty of rhizomes to keep growing.

Culinary Uses:

One of the traditional uses of turmeric in traditional Indian cooking; was to help to improve the digestion of protein rich foods, such as fish and dhal.

To use the fresh root, peel the root, and then ideally use a microplane to finally grate the root. You can store any root in a Ziplock bag in the fridge for 7-10 days. To make powdered turmeric, boil the roots for 20 minutes, and then cut the roots into 1cm (in) pieces and dry them in the oven set at 600C (1400F) on fan. When dried hard, grind the small pieces through a grain grinder and store in a dry sealed jar.

Ways to use turmeric:

  • Add a 2½cm (1in) piece of turmeric root to smoothies.
  • Use the freshly grated root in making marinades for chicken, fish and beef – just add to any marinade recipe for extra flavour.
  • Add freshly grated root to a salad dressing.
  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated turmeric to your stir-fry.
  • Add to a frittata or quiche recipe.
  • To make a savoury yogurt to go with many dishes, mix into thick Greek yogurt 1 tablespoon of grated fresh turmeric, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of sea salt and a teaspoon of olive oil.
  • Add freshly grated root to any dish, like a curry, that usually requires ground turmeric.

Medical Uses:

Turmeric has been used to treat a variety of internal disorders, such as indigestion, throat infections, common colds, or liver ailments, as well as topically to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores, like cold sores, by placing some dried ground turmeric powder on the sore. It has long been thought to help reduce the risk of bowel cancer if used regularly in ones diet. It is also added to some arthritic supplements along with ginger to reduce inflammation. It can also be useful in cases like inflammatory bowel disorder.

Actions: antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

Part Used: Rhizome.

 

VALERIAN (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian

Valerian plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valerian is a perennial herb, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers.

Soil & Sight:

Valerian will grow in any ordinary soil, but does best in a rich, heavy loam, with a good supply of organic matter. Add 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre.

Sowing:

Sow seeds indoors in seed compost in spring, pressing them lightly into the compost, but do not cover, because they need light to germinate; and then plant out when large enough 45cm (18in) apart. Valerian can also be propagated by the division of an established clump in spring.

Growing:

The usual weeding followed by mulching.

Companions:

Can be grown with Calendula and Echinacea.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the pink flowers.

Harvesting:

Wait to the late autumn of the second year before digging up some of the roots. Comb out the fine rootlets and then scrub under a running tap to get the soil off, or use a hose to power-hose the dirt off. Cut up into smaller pieces to dry in the dark, before storing in sealed containers.

Medical Uses:

Valerian has always been known as a sedative. The drug reduces pain and promotes sleep. As a precaution, use ordinary doses to quieten and sooth the brain and nervous system – in large doses it has a tendency to produce headache, heaviness and stupor.

It is also useful for cleansing the colon, the blood, the joints and the nerves.

To make an infusion chop or grate the root finely, and then pour on 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried or fresh root and steep it for five to 10 minutes.

Actions: stimulant, powerful nervine, carminative, antispasmodic, anxiolytic

Part Used: Rhizome.

 

VERBASCUM see: MULLEIN

VERVAIN (Verbena officinalis)

Vervain

The plant can grow 75cm (30in). It comes from Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It has dark green opposite leaves, cut into toothed lobes, with tiny lilac flowers growing up long flower stems.

Soil & Sight:

Vervain likes a well-drained soil in full sun, or partial shade.

Sowing:

You can sow in the autumn outside; the cold winter temperatures will help them germinate. If you want to sow in the early spring you will need to stratify the seeds in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks mixed with a little damp sand in a Ziplock bag. The small seeds need light to germinate, so sow onto the damp surface of the seed compost, lightly pressing them in, but do not cover. They will germinate in about 3-4 weeks.      Transplant after the last frost and plants are showing their first (or second) set of true leaves.

Growing:

The usual weeding and mulching down with about 4cm (1½in) of grass clippings.

Harvesting:

Cut the leaves and the flower heads off the plant and spread them out on a drying frame. Dry in the warm – between 20-300C (68-860F).

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.

Medical Uses:

As a diuretic, Vervain helps to eliminate toxins from the system, especially from the liver and kidneys. It can also be used for bladder infections.

As an expectorant, it is useful in cases of bronchitis, coughs and sore throat.

Its nervine properties are useful in helping those who suffer from nervous disorders, anxiety, stress and sleeplessness.

To make an infusion, add 55g (2oz) of the dried leaves and flower heads to a litre of water, bring to a boil and simmer for twelve minutes.

Actions: astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, antispasmodic, febrifuge, galactagogue, sedative, nervine

Part Used: Leaves and flower heads.

 

WORMWOOD (Artemisia vulgaris)

Wormwood

Wormwood is a perennial herb, with finally cut grey-green foliage. When in flower it can be over a metre (3ft) high.

Soil & Sight:

Wormwood prefers a well-drained soil in a half shady position.

Sowing:

Sow the seeds on the surface of the seed compost in the spring. Do not cover the seed, as they need light to germinate. Make sure the compost is kept moist by placing the seed tray in a polythene bag, or cover with a polythene bag, until the seeds have germinated – around 10 to 24 days.

Transplant the seedlings when large enough to handle, into pots, and grow on. Plant them out 60cm (2ft) apart after the last frosts. Wormwood is also easily propagated by division of roots in the autumn, or by cuttings.

Growing:

Keep free from weeds and mulch.

Harvesting:

In the second and third year, harvest the upper portions of the stalks with the flower heads attached, picking off any damaged leaves. Hang up the bunches in an airy shaded spot, then store in sealed glass containers.

Companions:

The herb releases growth inhibiting toxins, which interfere and stunt the growth of plants growing near. So grow it away from other herbs and plants on the perifery of a garden bed. However, its repellent effect against insect larvae can be used by placing dried sprigs alongside carrots and onions against root fly. The dried herb will not inhibit the growth of other plants.

Medical Uses:

Wormwood is valued, especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system.

It increases stomach acid naturally, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also eases wind and bloating.

Wormwood, as the name implies, was used to expel intestinal worms.

Actions: anti-inflammatory, vermifuge, antipyretic, nervine, emmenagogue, diuretic, diaphoretic, slight tonic

Part Used: Leaves and flowers.

 

YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow

Yarrow is a herbaceous perennial plant, widespread from the temperate parts of Asia, Europe and North America. The flowers have a characteristic pungent smell, not unlike salami, to my mind, although not many people agree with me.

Soil & Sight:

In the wild, yarrow grows in pastures and open parts of forest, on a whole range of different soils. Grow in a sunny spot, in an odd corner, or wild part of the garden. Yarrow spreads outwards by thick wiry roots, and therefore needs containing. There is no need to feed the plant, although a little garden compost would not go amiss.

Sowing:

I have always dug some runner up and transplanted them to where I want them.

If you can get some seed, good luck.

Growing:

Leave them alone and they will look after themselves. Some weeding in the early days will help.

Harvesting:

Cut the stems when in flower. Pick the leaves off and dry on a drying frame. The flowers are more difficult, cut the flowers off the flower head spread out on another drying frame and dry at 500C (1220F) in a low oven or dehydrator.

Companions:

It may increase the essential oil content of herbs when planted among them.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Yarrow has insect repelling qualities. It also attracts predatory wasps and ladybirds.

Medical Uses:

Yarrow’s astringent and haemostatic actions are famous for stemming bleeding, and the story goes that Achilles, the great ancient Greek warrior, used it on the battlefield to stem the bleeding from his wounds. It stops bleeding, both externally and internally. The powdered leaves can be used to apply to wounds. It is used in cases of excessive menstrual bleeding and helps stops menstrual cramps. Externally, the juice from the plant or decoction can be used to wash wounds, to stop bleeding and reduce inflammation.

It is also good for colds, flu and infectious diseases, to reduce fevers and inflammation.

Actions: Diaphoretic, astringent, haemostatic, vulnerary, antispasmodic

Part Used: Leaves and flower heads.

YELLOW DOCK See: CURLED DOCK

 

5. FURTHER READING & LINKS

A Modern Herbal

This is the most inclusive, detailed and valuable European herbal I have discovered to date. I highly recommend this herbal to anyone interested in the subject who wants to go into the subject in great depth, or just use the online version as a ready reference.

A Modern Herbal, first published in 1931, by Mrs. M. Grieve, contains Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore. Author: Margaret Grieve – Pages: 919 – ISBN: 0486227987 & 0486227995 – Both Volume 1 and volume 2

The work and the two books for purchase are also on line at:

http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html

CULINARY HERB BOOKS

The Herb Book (A Complete Guide to Culinary Herbs) by Arabella Boxer – Publisher: Thunder Bay – ISBN 13: 9781571451132

Herb Gardening by Claire Loewenfeld – Publisher: Faber & Faber

MEDICINAL HERB BOOKS

A Simple Guide to Using Herbs for Healing (The Complete Illustrated Guide to) by Non Shaw – Publisher: Element Books – ISBN:0007885431

The Complete Herbal Tutor (The Definitive Guide to the Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine) by Anne McIntyre – Publisher: Gaia Books Ltd – ISBN:1856753182

The Yoga of Herbs is an Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, and one I use and value greatly. It is by Dr. Vasant Lad & David Frawley – Publisher: Lotus Press – ISBN:0941524248

I am sure there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of books and treaties around the world on this very subject – happy hunting.

 

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