Having sacrificed the small circle of grass in my garden to create a vegetable patch, I am pleased to share the success I have had with my garden herbs. I think it was well worth giving up that grass to grow my produce!
Whilst I am short on veg at the moment, the herbs are growing well and make cooking a lot more interesting, healthy, and tasty.
I have listed out the herbs that I am growing and why each one deserves its spot in my precious, small vegetable patch. Read on to find out the primary health benefits of each herb, which will hopefully inspire you to get growing if you don’t already!
Herbs are easy to grow at home, but you want to grow them from the ground, my one lesson would be to use a young plant that has established itself rather than growing straight from seed – these produce the healthiest and most abundant herbs in the long run.
The most common varieties are Spearmint, Peppermint, and Pennyroyal. The good news is that all varieties share mint’s common medicinal properties, most of which come from its volume of essential oils.
Broadly these are that the herb is warming (can encourage sweating to help colds), anti-spasmodic (hence its use as a digestive aid), and stimulating (it can work as a bile stimulant).
Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored for up to a couple of days in an airtight container within a refrigerator. Optionally, mint can be frozen in ice cube trays. Dried mint leaves should be stored in an airtight container and placed in a cool, dark, dry area.
Peppermint tea can be the ideal pre-bed drink and it is very satisfying to brew your own from your garden rather than using tea bags from the supermarket. To make some tea: add 30g of dried peppermint to one cup of boiling water, leave to infuse for 5 minutes, and strain.
Prime Conditions: Cool, moist spots in partial shade – in fact as it is so easy to grow, many will be aware that it should be kept well separated in your garden due to cross-pollination and over-crowding.
*Warning – They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons and can spread through your patch like wildfire! It is best to contain this herb somehow, e.g by planting it into the ground in a pot.
Garden sage is widely used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes as it contains essential oils and tannins. There are many benefits including digestion/gall-bladder relief (it stimulates digestive juices!); reduction of menopausal flushes and sweats (can be effective after 2 hours from consumption); and it can prevent bleeding gums/remove stains from the teeth.
Sage tea can yield all of the above benefits – pour boiling water over dried sage leaves (1/2 pint to 2 teaspoons of dried leaves, let mixture stand for 20 minutes and strain).
Prime Conditions: Very flexible herb that will cope in moderate sun exposure and both dry/damp soil. It has been the fastest grower in my vegetable patch!
Lemon Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Known for its antiseptic qualities, it is often used to fights colds (specifically decongestion), skin irritations, and rheumatism. It’ aroma comes from a ‘volatile oil’ it produces containing thymol, and this is where thyme’s antiseptic and disinfectant benefit comes from.
Thyme tea and a drop of honey can make a great home-made cold cure – brew hot (but not boiling water) with a few sprigs of dried thyme and add another herb such a mint leaves to your tea as thyme is known to work more effectively when combined with other herbs!
It is widely used in culinary dishes as it can also aid the digestion of fat.
Prime Conditions: Light, dry areas but will also cope in damper soil or as an indoor pot plant.
Another classic garden herb, generally found in two varieties – flat-leaf (a.k.a Italian) and curly parsley (usually harder to grow). I am growing the flat-leaf variety.
A popular herbal remedy for kidney stones, especially parsley tea. One explanation is that it is high in vitamins A, B, and C. Unfortunately, this is highly controversial, because parsley also contains oxalates that can cause kidney stones, and also vitamin C, too much of which can cause the body to create its oxalates – that said I am still going to continue to eat small amounts of parsley most days as it is such a nutrient-dense herb.
A source of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, which are known to exert various biological effects
Apigenin, a chemical found in great quantities in parsley, has been found to have potent anticancer activity. It works by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels that feed a tumor.
Prime Conditions: Cool, moist spots in partial shade.
French Tarragon (Dragon’s Wort)
Two main varieties are the French and Russian, with Russian being much weaker in flavor. Difficult to grow from seed, therefore this one is best purchased as a young plant to start. It is only a small shrub, so, doesn’t need much space to grow.
Tarragon has a distinct flavor of Anise (you’ll like it if you like your aniseed sweets!) – this has led to it being used to help stimulate appetite and therefore in treating anorexia, flatulence, and hiccups.
It is rich in phytonutrients and essential oils and contains Vitamins A, C, and B-complex. If that wasn’t enough, it packs in lots of minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc – all of which help essential bodily functions.
Dried tarragon can be stored in a cool, dark place in an airtight container and can keep for up to 6 months!
Let’s face it – it has never been so popular to grow your own, and the satisfaction of eating your pesticide-free produce is well worth the effort of a bit of growing maintenance. I was always fond of using herbs for their health benefits but growing my own has now made me even more enthusiastic about creating my home-made remedies for common ailments – much more preferable to a synthetic pill.