Click on pictures for more detailed information about growing herbs
For thousands of years, herbs have been used to flavor foods and cure illnesses. Herbs contain compounds that work with the body to aid in digestion and promote healing.
Herbal remedies are time-honored, health-promoting substances. Before the introduction of antibiotics, herbs were a mainstay for fighting infections. Unlike conventional medicines, herbs are versatile, and can be formulated to make teas, tinctures, tablets and medicines for external applications. Use herbs to flavor fresh foods for healthy and satisfying meals.
Often, we do not even think about all the ways plants can and do heal us. Here are a few examples:
Herbs as a group are relatively easy to grow. Begin your herb garden with the herbs you enjoy using the most. For example, choose basil, oregano, and fennel for Italian cooking; lavender and lemon verbena for making potpourri; or chamomile and peppermint if you plan to make your own teas.
The optimum growing conditions vary with each individual herb species. Some of the most popular herbs such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, bay laurel, marjoram, dill, and oregano are native to the Mediterranean region. These herbs grow best in soils with excellent drainage, bright sun, and moderate temperatures.
When growing herbs follow these basic guidelines:
•Plant herbs in average garden soil with organic matter added to improve texture and drainage.
•Choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.
•Avoid ground where water stands or runs during heavy rains.
•Compensate for poor drainage with raised beds amended with compost.
•Apply balanced fertilizers sparingly to leafy, fast-growing herbs. •Heavy applications of fertilizer, especially those containing large amounts of nitrogen, will decrease the concentration of essential oils in the lush green growth.
When grown outdoors and given ample air circulation, sunlight, and water drainage, herbs rarely suffer severe disease or insect damage. Natural predators and parasites usually keep mite and aphid populations below damaging levels. This is especially true in gardens with a wide diversity of plants. Insecticidial soap is a safe, effective control against severe outbreaks of aphids, mites, and whiteflies. Hand-pick larger pests such as beetles and caterpillars.
Herbs can be dried for future use or picked fresh from the garden to use right away. Fresh herbs will have the most nutritional value while dried herbs are concentrated and have a stronger flavor. You can combine your favorite herbs into a blend that makes a wonderful substitute for salt. Many herbs that are traditionally known as culinary herbs have medicinal properties. Cooking with fresh herbs is one of the healthiest and tastiest things you can do for your body. Most herbs improve digestion, so they help to digest the foods you are eating them with.
We are asked a lot about how to preserve the herbs that were grown during the season. One way is to create herbal vinegars for cooking. They make wonderful gifts, too.
Some herbs that can be used are fresh bee balm; pineapple sage (the flowers create a beautiful pink vinegar); chives and chive blossoms; dill weed and seeds; fennel herb and seeds; garlic cloves; marjoram; oregano; peppermint leaves; rosemary leaves; spearmint leaves; tarragon; and thyme leaves.
Basic instructions to make vinegar:
Put your fresh herbs in a clean quart jar, stuff the jar full!
Pour in 16 ozs of apple cider vinegar or until jar is full.
Apply lid, (a metal lid will rust), use a cloth lid or plastic. Label the vinegar with date and ingredients and then let sit for 4-6 weeks in a pantry or cupboard. You can also used white wine vinegar or any flavor you prefer. Get creative and use a decorative jar to give as a gift.
Another clever way to preserve herbs that were grown in the garden:
Chop one tablespoon of your favorite herb into small pieces and place in each cube of an ice cube tray. Fill with water and freeze. Once frozen, place cubes in freezer bag, label with name and date. When cooking soups, stews, pot roast and sauces, just add a few cubes to the pot.
Grilled Vegetables Basted in Herb Sauce
The general rule is to cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. All pieces should be of consistent thickness and no more than about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Do not over cook and you'll have vegetables better than you thought possible. If you like grilling vegetables and want to try smaller things, use a grilling basket to keep them out of the fire.
Combine minced garlic, a few pinches each of chopped rosemary, oregano, and thyme; 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1/4 cup each of raspberry white wine vinegar (the vinegar is optional) and olive oil. Whisk all ingredients well then place in a Ziploc bag. Add your favorite vegetable and shake well. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, can be marinated for several hours in the refrigerator. Grill until done, enjoy! The great thing about herbs is that you can choose your favorites when making this sauce. Like Basil but not Rosemary? Simply substitute your favorite. Create your own combinations. The possibilities are endless. That's one of the things that makes herbs so versatile! Growing your own is SOOO much more affordable than purchasing flesh or dried herbs in the store.
This is a great way to eat summer vegetables from the garden. Garden vegetables that are good for the grill:
Olive Oil Dipping Sauce (just like you'd find in fine Italian restaurants).
1 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp black pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp salt
Stir together all ingredients and pour into shallow bowls. Shake a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over mixture and serve with warm, crusty bread.
The medicinal uses of herbs listed here are intended for minor illnesses such as a sore throat or fever. Herbs can be used as part of a cure for serious illness or disease, but you should always seek professional advice from a qualified health care practitioner. Herbs can be steeped in hot water to make tea, extracted into alcohol for astringent use, or into oil for skin formulas. Herbs are used in facial creams, hand lotions, toothpaste, deodorants, and shampoo.
Herbs have been scientifically proven to kill infections, relieve a wide array of symptoms and diseases, and even inhibit cancer cells.
The next time you have a sinus headache, don't reach for the sinus relief pills. They temporarily get rid of the painful symptoms, but do nothing to treat the actual cause. To make matters worse, sinus pills dry out the nasal cavity and passages making the problem worse and causing you to use more pills for the pain. It's a viscous cycle.
Remedies for sore throat/congestion and/or sinus pressure:
Bring 3 or 4 cups of water to boil in a sauce pan on the stove. Add some sprigs of fresh rosemary and 5 drops of eucalyptus oil (from health food stores) to the boiling water and gently boil for just one or two minutes. Remove from heat. Place your face over the steam with a towel over your head to capture the steam. The moist heat combined with the compounds of the herbs releasing into the steam will bring you instant relief.
Hot Herbal Tea
1 tablespoon fresh chopped Peppermint
1 tablespoon fresh chopped Monarda (Bee Balm)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped Thyme
3 cups water
Finely chop the herbs so that their flavor and aroma is released. Place the leaves in a pot and pour the water over them. Heat to boiling. (You can inhale the steam as it begins to rise) Let simmer for a few minutes, then strain the liquid and pour into a coffee mug right away while it’s still hot and add a small amount of local honey if you prefer a sweet taste. This tea will break up lung congestion and make breathing easier. Try it. It really works!
If you don't want to make your own tea, you can purchase peppermint tea bags in the grocery store and it doesn't even need to be the expensive name brand. Just make sure the label says it is pure mint leaves with no other added ingredients. Drink it hot with a little local honey.
Below is a listing of herbs that we have (inventory varies with the season). Our herbs are locally grown and no toxic insecticides are used in the growing of these herbs.
Allium: Chives- Pink spheres of small flowers appear in April and May. Makes an attractive low-growing border for flowerbeds or kitchen gardens. A tasty addition to egg, cheese, and potato dishes. Fresh leaves taste better than dried ones. Has been used for centuries in the Orient as a cold, flu, and lung congestion remedy.
Anethum graveolens: Fernleaf Dill- Goes well in a wide array of dishes, most popular is for pickling. Fish is enhanced, as is any type of poultry. Of course, pickles wouldn’t be pickles without a liberal sprinkling of dill seeds. Egg salad, tuna salad, cream cheese, creamed cucumber and onions, the list goes on. A terrific host plant and important food source for Swallowtail butterfly larvae, so when you see these guys on your dill and fennel, please share!
Artemesia: French Tarragon- Leaves have an aniselike flavor. Tarragon is an important addition to any kitchen herb garden. Used in salads, pickles, fish and chicken dishes. Makes delicious herb butter. Best known as a flavoring for vinegar. Leaves can be chewed to numb a toothache or improve digestion.
Coriandrum: Cilantro- The leaves are Cilantro, the seeds are Coriander. Wispy, feathery leaves with small flat clusters of white to pink flowers. The leaves, also known as cilantro, give a distinct taste to Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. The seeds are used in baked goods and sweets and make many bitter-tasting medicines taste better. Improves the appetite and aids in digestion. The oil is an antiseptic that reduces inflammation.
Cymbopogon citratus: Lemon Grass- Long thick grass with leaves at the top and a bulb-like portion several inches long at the root end. The lower portion is sliced or pounded and used in cooking. As a spice, fresh lemon grass is preferred for its vibrant flavor. Also used as an insect repellant.
Echinacea purpurea: Purple Coneflower- One of the most popular plants for perennial gardens. Large daisy-like purple flowers appear from June to September. Seed heads are eaten by goldfinches and other birds. Makes an excellent cut flower. The root of Echinacea is used to boost the immune system and acts as a mild, natural antibiotic that is effective against strep and staph infections. Concentrated extract can be purchased to add to hot herbal tea which is more potent than the pill form.
Foeniculum vulgare: Bronze Fennel- Has the same sweet licorice flavor as Sweet Fennel and the soft wispy leaves with their unique bronze color add a lot of visual interest in the flower or herb garden. All parts edible and have a sweet licorice taste, great for salads and teas. The seeds are potent and add flavor to dishes & desserts or can be tinctured to make strong licorice drinks. Like Dill, it is an important food source for butterfly caterpillars.
Lavendula: English Lavender- Woody shrub with very aromatic leaves and flowers. Purple bloom spikes appear from June to August. An excellent perennial for flowerbeds. Plant near a walkway where the aroma will be released when brushed against. Lavender requires excellent drainage and performs best in raised beds. A tincture of Lavender will relieve muscle spasms and the essential oil is a potent remedy for bacterial infections including staph, strep, pneumonia, and most flu viruses. Lavender ointment can be rubbed on burns, bruises, varicose veins and skin injuries. The straight oil can be dabbed on insect bites to stop the itching. Use the essential oil in a warm bath to soothe sore muscles and relax the mind and body. Add leaves and flowers to potpourri.
Melissa officinalis: Lemon Balm- The leaves have a strong lemon scent. A member of the mint family. Used in cooking and herbal tea recipes, this lemon-scented herb is also found in the extract, salve, tincture, or oil form. Hot tea will lower a fever.
Mentha x piperita: Peppermint- Very fragrant, spreading herb. Can be invasive, so best grown in pots that can be sunk into the ground. Mints are one of the most widely used of all aromatic herbs. Popular in desserts, beverages, candies, gum, ice cream and of course, afterdinner mints. The pleasing flavor of peppermint helps with indigestion. Studies have found it to be a remedy for irritable bowel syndrome. Menthol is the main component of mint and has been proven to kill bacteria and viruses living in the stomach. Clears congestion of the lungs and opens airways. Eases nervous headaches including migraines.
Monarda didyma: Bee Balm- Bushy, spreading perennial with very ornamental flowers from June thru September that are a favorite of hummingbirds. Try a blend of Monarda and mint leaves in iced tea to give it a citrus-like flavor. When inhaled as a steam, it will relieve sinus pressure and lung congestion.
A hot tea helps relieve cold and flu symptoms and opens airways.
Ocimum basilicum: Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil- Tender annual that grows quickly to fill bare spots in the garden. Best planted after threat of any frost. Benefits from some afternoon shade here in the south.Pick leaves often to keep a bushy growth habit and keep flower spikes pinched off. A staple in any kitchen garden that is essential in all tomato and Italian dishes. The leaves of basil relieve indigestion and nausea.
Origanum majorana: Sweet Marjoram- Small, bushy habit with oval, very aromatic dusty green leaves. Small white flower spikes from June thru August. Marjoram is used with oregano and basil but has a sweeter taste that enhances tomato, bean and cheese dishes. An age-old remedy to improve digestion and increase sweating to lower fevers. The essential oil relieves muscle cramps.
Origanum vulgare: Oregano- Bushy, mounding habit with white-pink flowers from July thru September. Heat and dry soil intensifies the flavor. Popular in bean, tomato, cheese and egg dishes and on pizza. Reduces muscle spasms and inflammation, improves digestion and aids in respiratory problems.
Petroselinum: Parsley, Italian Flat Leaf and Curly- Soft, leafy mounding form that is very ornamental. Often planted with pansies and ornamental cabbage in the fall. Essential in the kitchen garden for a constant supply of fresh leaves. A main seasoning on omelettes and also used in sauces, tomato dishes and on potatoes. Parsley leaves, seeds and roots are used to treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Increases blood flow to the digestive organs and reduces fevers.
Rosemarinus: Rosemary- Evergreen shrub growing to 3-4’ high. Mulch heavily in winter and plant in a well-drained location with protection from winter winds. Can be pruned into topiary shapes or trimmed into a formal hedge. Ornamental blue flower spikes appear from May thru July. Extremely fragrant leaves have a strong flavor. Used with peas, greens, meats, and eggs. Rosemary leaves increase circulation, relieve headaches, and kills bacteria and fungi. Used to inhibit the formation of bladder and kidney stones. Will repel insects, including wool moths.
Salvia officinalis: Garden Sage- Small, evergreen shrub with wooly textured leaves. Ornamental varieties for flowerbeds include purple sage and tri-color sage that have the same flavor. A strong antioxidant and antibacterial that is added to meat and sausage as a flavoring and natural preservative. Sage is the main seasoning in stuffing. A well-known cold and flu fighter. Used as a gargle for laryngitis and tonsillitis. Very effective against staf infection.
Thymus: English Thyme- Creeping ground cover with small very fragrant leaves. Blooms from May thru August. Excellent in rock gardens, pots and along a path as a fragrant ground cover. Used in chowders, sauces, stews, tomato dishes and many vegetables. Treats coughs and clears congestion. Makes an excellent gargle for sore throats. Thymol is a main component of thyme and is used in cough drops, mouthwash (like Listerine) and vapor rubs. Destroys bacteria and kills intestinal parasites.
Kellie's Garden/Herbal Home Remedies