Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Herbal Cuppas

October 31st, 2010

The daily brew

Going out into your garden early on a sunny morning and picking some fresh leaves for your morning brew is a heavenly experience, and if you are short of space or time for gardening, well, I think you can’t go very far wrong than to grow some herbs that you can harvest and use for a good cup of tea.

fresh lemon balm leaves

It is very simple to make a herbal tea from fresh leaves.  You just take a handful of fresh leaves and pour boiling water over them.  Cover, and allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes.  Strain and pour into your favourite  mug.   If you like sweet tea, then sweeten with honey rather than sugar as that somehow tastes wrong with the subtle flavour of herbs.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm soothes sore stomachs and tea made from the leaves has a pleasant lemony taste.  You can drink it in great quantities. There is no caffeine.

Some garden teas are more than pleasing, they are home-grown medicine.  Sage, for example, is really good for sore throats.  The minute you feel your throat getting sore, nip on out into the garden, pick some fresh sage and steep the leaves for 5 minutes.  Then add some lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey.  This tea works really well.

Well, the lemon balm tea I have just finished making is just about ready for me to enjoy on this rainy afternoon.

Happy gardening!

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Pleasure Gardens

October 28th, 2010

Waddles comes down to help

Long ago the early Romans had pleasure gardens full of fragant herbs.  Today herbs and herb gardens are regaining popularity as many more people realise the almost limitless ways they can be used to enhance our lives.  How wonderful it is to wander out into your back yard and cut some fresh rosemary to cook with your lamb. 

Aloe vera - used for burns bites stings & rashes

Herbs are used in many ways – in cooking, as medicines, to repel household pests, or simply to increase the beauty and pleasure of the garden.  So, herbs are life-enhancing.  Culinary herbs increase the pleasure of cooking and the enjoyment of eating.  Also using fresh herbs in everyday cooking can act as a preventative medicine, ensuring that sufficient amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals are included in the diet.

Lemon Balm -makes a delicious lemon tea

The majority of herbs are easy to grow, even for a beginner, like me.  In fact, some of mine seem to thrive on neglect.  Herbs don’t have to be stuck away in a corner somewhere, they can be scattered among other plants.  They are beautiful as well as practical. 

I began with a few herbs, ones I knew I would use in the kitchen.  I planted them close to the back door because I knew that I would use them more if I didn’t have to go far to get them.  When I ran out of space there, I did the same out near the front door.  The best time for planting is spring and early summer – so right now is a good time to begin your pleasure gardens. 

Happy gardening!

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Companions

October 16th, 2010

A visitor to my garden

Long ago our grandmothers in their cottage gardens planted a wide variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables, mixed together in a seemingly random fashion.  But over the generations gardeners have observed that some plants will grow better when planted close to another particular plant, or indeed that the reverse is true.  Some plants like other plants and grow better when planted nearby.  They are companions.  Good friends.

Many herbs can be used to repel pests, some are effective just grown in the garden, while others can be picked and used fresh or dried.

Companion planting and using pest-repellent herbs increased the health and resistance of plants.  For example, a well know one is basil with tomatoes, not only cooked, but grown together.

Nasturtiums will improve the strength and flavour of nearby plants, and are particularly good under apple trees, and near radishes to deter aphids and other bugs.  I have planted some under my roses to check this out.  Aparently aphids also don’t like parsley and our grandmothers quite often planted some in and around the roses to keep the aphids away.

nasturtiums -pretty and useful

nasturtiums - pretty and useful

Rosemary can be sprinkled, fresh or dried, around plants to repel snails and slugs.  It grows well with sage, beans and carrots, but should not be grown near potatoes or tomatoes.Thyme should be planted in odd corners of the garden as it attracts bees and generally benefits plants nearby.  It also repels the cabbage worm, so is a useful companion for cabbages.

rosemary

Our grandmothers would often keep a few Bay leaves in the flour as they prevent weevils from infesting.  If you place a few on shelves they will keep ants away, although some ants can be very determined.  The bay leaves can also be placed in books to protect them from silverfish.  In fact the whole tree is resistant to diseases and pests and will protect other plants in the area. 

Marigolds, as well as being cheerful plants, excrete chemicals from their roots which repel soil nematodes, and of course, grandmother would have never been without her Lavender plants which when used in sachets either on their own or in combination with other dried herbs keep moths and silverfish out of clothes as well as keeping them sweetly scented.

So, plants make good companions both for each other and for us.

Happy gardening!

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The August Garden

August 2nd, 2010

Primulas cheer you on a dull day

August means the primulas are flowering – and primulas grown by the front door mean good luck to all inside.  Naughty, malicious fairies won’t go past a bed of primulas – they stay and play amongst them instead.  That is the fairy lore, and whether you believe it or not you cannot argue that the blaze of colour that the primulas add to a garden on a dreary winter’s day will cheer anyone up.

rosemary in full flower

My Rosemary bush is flowering right now as well, and Rosemary is the herb of friendship and remembrance.  The scent of rosemary really does stimulate most peoples’ memory, in folklore it is an emblem of remembrance.  A bush of rosemary by the back door means you have always got a very handy herb for seasoning your lamb.  I like to put a bunch of rosemary under the chicken when I pop it into the oven.  The subtle scent is wonderful and flavours the bird right through.

Protea

Another plant that is flowering in my garden now are the Proteas.  These perennial shrubs are suitable for most areas, but it is best to choose one suited to your very own.  They are one of the glories of autumn and winter, with great massive blooms that you would pay several dollars each for at the florist – but nothing at all if you grow your own. 

The jonquils are out now and the camellias are still covered in flowers.  The small violets are still smiling in amongst their leaves and the hellebores are looking very happy.  It is a busy time in the garden with much to see and enjoy

Happy gardening.

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Pineapple Sage & Honey-eaters

April 30th, 2010

Pineapple Sage

Out in the back garden my Pineapple Sage {salvia elegans} has burst into full flower and this has brought all the little honey-eaters to visit my garden every day!  I have a special view from my kitchen sink, so entertaining while washing dishes!  Lucky me!  Pineapple sage is a wonderful plant with bright red tubular flowers that honey-eaters love to draw nectar from.  You can use the flowers in salads or if you are out in the garden you can pluck one and sip the nectar yourself, but you do feel a little guilty doing this as the poor little honey-eaters flutter about and look at you in a reproachful sort of way.

The bright red flower of the Pineapple Sage

I love my Pineapple Sage, it is really easy to grow and produces a distinctive pineapple smell when the leaves are brushed as you walk past or when you are in amongst it weeding.  You can’t use the leaves in cooking at all but you can use the flowers.  A friend of mine makes a delicious salad with red, yellow and green peppers, salad mix, then tosses the flowers through, it looks very pretty but I don’t use the flowers at all myself.  I grow the plant only to attract the birds. 

Happy gardening!

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Herbs are magic

April 15th, 2010

Basil

I love to grow herbs, I love to come in from the garden with a lavish bunch of basil or rosemary and use it in my evening meal.  A small amount of herbs can totally change the flavour of a dish, lifting it from boring to gourmet.  At other times they can be a glorious extravagance, like pesto.  If you don’t have a herb, buy a pot of it!  It will cost about the same.  In this way you can eat your herb and still have it next week, and maybe next month, even next year!

Lemon BalmOur seasons are marked by the herbs we eat.  I indulge in lashings of basil in Summer!  I don’t dry any herbs, I like to eat what is fresh, and let my life flow, just a little with the seasons.

Their use and their generosity as plants in my garden make them a very worthwhile addition to my gardening pleasure.   It is difficult to generalise about growing herbs.  For example, basil is an annual and loves to be fed, in fact it is almost impossibe to overfeed it, like its flavour, it is a strong rampant grower.  But basil has little in common with a bay tree.  Both are ‘herbs’, in other words, useful plants.  That is the definition of a herb – a useful plant.  Aren’t they just! 

I like to grow my herbs in amongst my other plants, for they are beautiful as plants themselves.  At the moment, my rosemary is flowering and the small blue flowers are really lovely! If I had the room I would love to plant out an old fashioned basic herb garden, maybe in the shape of a wagon wheel, perhaps with a bird bath in the centre!  How lovely that would be. 

Most herbs need the sort of care you provide any of your plants.  They need to be mulched, they like a feed & although many of them are hardy, even drought tolerant, they do need to be watered over the summer months.  Prune herbs in Spring to late Summer.  New growth is better at resisting heat, cold and disease.  But if you pick them often you won’t need to prune.  Because herbs are useful plants, you need to use them!!  Herbs need to be used!  After all, that is why you grow them!  Herbs that are picked often are healthier, firstly because the more you use a plant the more you’ll notice it needs feeding, mulching or picking off the odd bug.

Rosemary

If  you don’t have a spot for a herb garden, try growing them in hanging baskets or in a large pot or barrel by your door.  Herbs are fun and rewarding. 

Happy gardening!

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Today in my Garden

March 28th, 2010

Silverbeet still doing well

Silverbeet still doing well

Today the ducks & I had fun spreading compost in the vegetable patch.  I removed the old tomato plants – always a sad little chore.  No more summer red juicy tomato salads!  But the basil is still doing very well and I might still get one or two egg plants if the nights remain as warm as they are at the moment. 

I can still enjoy some basil with my pasta!

I can still enjoy some basil with my pasta!

The tomato plants were just about finished and needed to be removed to make way for some little broad bean seeds to go in.  If I plant them now they can be up and moving within the next fortnight.  Hopefully they will continue to grow slowly until the really cold weather, then they sort of slow down until August when they take off again and start bearing from the end of September.  Hopefully I will get a good crop before I need to rip them out to make room for my next tomatoes!  A gardener needs to plan ahead! 

little shoots coming Up!!

little shoots coming Up!!

In the next week or two I will pop in some new seedlings of Silverbeet.  I don’t like to be without my silverbeet, and my parsley needs to be replaced as the plants are beginning to go to seed.  So today I spent mostly in the vege patch but I did discover a lovely surprise!  That pot of layered bulbs have some shoots springing up already!!  What fun!

It was a real race between me and the ducks with the compost.  They thought they had died and gone to heaven with all the bugs & worms in the compost heap!  But I wanted as many worms moved into my vege patch so we were working a little at odds with one another.  But a fun day in the garden was had by all!

Happy gardening!

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Flavour in the Garden

March 5th, 2010

GardenMarch10 026

Every garden should have the addition of herbs.  You can make this a small section dedicated to the growing of different types or you can just mix them in amongst other plants.  Even people with no garden at all can pop some into a pot and make a mini herb garden.  I love my herbs.  They are so useful for adding flavour to food and there is nothing quite a satisfying as taking a little stroll into the garden while preparing a meal and coming back with some fresh sage or basil.  Oh, how simple pleasures can lift the spirit.  It also gives you a great excuse to get out of the kitchen and into the garden.

GardenMarch10 001Herbs are different from most other plants because of the strong volatile oils and other substances contained within them.  Many herbs, such as rosemary, use these pungent flavours to survive because grazing animals are able to eat relatively small amounts of the stems and leaves, just ask my ducks!  They try rosemary every now and then, but don’t seem to like the taste, although parsley is another matter!  Still, herbs can be tough and that makes them my little buddies in the garden.  Useful, tough and pretty!  Who could ask for more?

Most herbs need a lot of sunshine to fully develop their characteristic flavours.  They also need a very well drained place in the garden.  So, if you keep that in mind you are sure to find a spot where they will be happy and make you happy too!  You don’t need to fuss about them – they  actually thrive in impoverished soil so you can just plant and forget most of the time.  So easy care!

Some additions to my garden which I have found very useful and pretty are:

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)  This is a very pretty perennial plant with a sharp, lemony scent and flavour.  It grows in sun or in part shade.  You can use the leaves as a flavouring and pop them into stir fries or cook them up with vegetables.  It also makes a lovely tea.  Or, just float some into a cool summer drink, just like you would do with mint.

Sage

Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) Who can live without this in their garden?  A superbly pungent herb, this little fellow loves the sun!  He also needs a very well-drained spot.  In the kitchen a touch of sage can add magnificent flavour so, if you don’t have any – get some!

 

 

 

 

 

Parsley

Parsley

Parsley (Petroselinum crisptum)  Here is one of the great herbs, being very rich in minerals and vitamins.  Parsely can be used in large amounts in most dishes.  Although, sometimes I can overdo it a bit when it is growing like mad and I am trying to get ahead of it and stop it all from going to seed!  My children have been known to wail ‘Can’t you leave out that green stuff?’  It really costs just as much to buy a bunch from the supermarket as to buy a punnet of seedlings and have parsley for months so it is very worthwile to try to keep some in the garden.

Of course there are many others: Thyme; Marjoram; Chives and all the mints.  Once you start you won’t want to stop!

Happy gardening.

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December Recipe

December 24th, 2009

Sage - the Christmas herb

Sage - the Christmas herb

Sage is truly the ‘Christmas herb’ and today being Christmas Eve I would like to share my recipe for Sage and Lemon Stuffing. This is a moist, well-flavoured stuffing just right to stuff chicken or turkey.

Sage, lemon & onion

Sage, lemon & onion

You will need:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/2 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
4 slices stale bread, crumbled

Cook your onion and celery in the butter in a covered pot for 3 – 5 minutes without browning. You just want to bring out the flavour. Now, remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients – mix well. Your stuffing is ready to be used. – Enjoy!

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

I hope your Christmas is a very happy one!

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Lifting the Spirits with herbs

December 17th, 2009

Since the very earliest times, we have used herbs not just for food but for healing. Every great civilization of the past – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, they all used plants to heal wounds, deaden pain, lift the spirits and balance the mind. Plants have been used for healing for thousands of years. Our grandmothers used them every day.

We can grow many herbs in our gardens or pots, not only for their usefulness but also for their beauty. Sage for example is perfect underplanting for roses. Don’t feel you need a special ‘herb garden’ to enjoy them; put them in the beds you already have for they are beautiful in their own right, and can add to any garden bed. But if you have the space and the sunshine then indulge yourself by creating a special herb garden.

Herbs can be grown in amongst other plants

Herbs can be grown in amongst other plants

I myself have only a small garden with space very limited so I decided to grow my healing plants in mixed beds. As my garden is also very shady this means I can use any spots that get enough sunshine to grow the herbs I really can’t get by without having. But whether you have a large garden, a small garden, a balcony or even only a window-sill, you have room to grow some herbs.
I use any space I can find. While many herbs like full sun, many others, such as chives, fennel, lemon balm, and parsley, are happy in part or dappled shade, while mint, comfrey and lungwort (Pulmonaria) will grow well in full shade.

Since I am trying to grow all my plants organically I can use them in my cooking without having any reservations about what sprays have been used on them. This means that I don’t use any weed killers and no insecticides. But with most herbs this is easy because most herbs are tough cookies. For most people who are concerned about the environment, as well as what they eat, it is the only way to garden anyway.

The essence of organic gardening is that you feed the soil with compost or well-rotted manure and allow the plants to draw their nutrients from these, instead of taking them directly from artificial fertilizers.

One of the best ways to keep herbs vigorous and growing well is by regular picking. So use your herbs in your cooking regularly, it is good for your plant keeping it bushy and producing lots of new growth and it is good for you as herbs not only add taste to your food but essential oils and minerals to your diet. Parsley for example is a tonic for the nervous system and good for digestion, stimulating the appetite and combating wind. It is also a diuretic, very useful for urinary infections as well as helping with such conditions as arthritis. So think of that as you sprinkle some over your next meal.

Sage makes a soothing tea

Sage makes a soothing tea

Rosemary has been a popular rememdy for centuries for improving concentration and memory – rosemary for remembrance – and since it works by stimulating the flow of blood to the head, that may well be true. It is certainly good for headaches. It can even be used as a mouthwash!
I just love the plants themselves. The fragrance in the early evenings, or while I work in amongst them. I often make myself a cup of lemon balm tea or sage tea just by snipping off a good handful and pouring the hot water over in my little tea pot. I let it infuse for about 5 minutes and then enjoy.
Happy gardening.

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