The index below lists some of the more common herbs growing in gardens today. I grow many of them in my own garden. I especially like the fragrant herbs which always give a pleasing sensation when touched. Two of my favorites are lemon and cinnamon basil which grow very well in my garden and self seed very easily. Hope you enjoy the list and find useful information for your needs.
Index of Herbs
Click on the name of a herb to view the selection
|Garlic||Goldenrod||Hawthorne Tree||Horseradish||Lavender||Lemon Balm||Lemon Verbena||Mint|
|Mustard||Oregano||Parsley||Rosemary||Sage||St. John' Wort||Thyme||Yarrow|
For additional information on herbs visit The GardenGuides website
When in flower, agrimony will reach a height of 20 inches. The hairy, serrated leaves are divided into leaflets, which have white undersides. The plant has upright, slender stems with smaller leaflets. The simple, fruit scented, sulfur-yellow flowers cluster on these long tapering stems. The seeds are contained in burr-like cases.
This perennial herb is usually grown from seeds. Sow in late winter, as germination takes place under cold conditions. Agrimony grows best in well-drained soil and full sun.
Cut the flowers when the plant starts to bloom. Cut the leaves as required and hang to dry.
In ancient times, this plant was used extensively for healing battlefield wounds. We now know that its ability to help heal wounds is due to it's high silica content. Its main medicinal action is as an astringent, and this makes it an extremely effective gargle for sore throat and also for cases of laryngitis. Its astringency makes it an excellent remedy for diarrhea, especially in the case of children, as its action is very mild. It also has a bitter tonic action on the liver and is very useful for digestive disorders and jaundice.
Do not take this herb if suffering from constipation.
Agrimony is a decorative plant that can be used in the perennial border.
Aloe comes from tropical Africa. Related species are used as an antidote to arrow poison, but we value the plant for its healing effect on burns, wounds and insect bites.
Aloe is a succulent, and grows to a height of 12 to 16 inches. It has a fibrous root system producing long, tapering, stemless leaves. These light green leaves have spiky margins and are blotched with cream. The firm upright stems bear several bell-shaped, fleshy, yellow-orange flowers.
Propagate from small, rooted offshoots at the base of the parent plant. It may be grown from seed. It prefers a rough, gritty growing medium and a well-drained, sunny location. It will also grow in partial shade. Aloe needs temperatures above 40 degrees, and is grown indoors in cooler climates. When grown indoors the offshoots can be removed and repotted when they are a few inches tall. Do not overwater.
Cut the leaves as required.
Keep a pot of Aloe vera on you kitchen windowsill for handy access. The fresh juice of the leaf blades can be applied directly to ulcers, burns, sunburn, and fungal infection.
Aloe-emodin, an ingredient in aloe, is a powerful laxative and should always be used with caution. It can be combined with a tinture of caraway seed to prevent intestinal cramps and pain. Taken in small doses, it is an excellent digestive tonic.
Be careful not to confuse this herb with Angelica pachycarpa, which is a purely ornamental plant with no medicinal or culinary value. A. archangelica has bright green basal leaves which divide into oval leaflets. A. pachycarpa has crinkled, shiny, dark green leaves.
Angelica is a perennial that flowers every two years.
Start from seeds directly sown or begin seeds indoors. Seeds should be sown as soon as possible after removing them from the plant. If they must be stored, seal them in a plastic container, and store the container in the refrigerator.
Plant angelica in the coolest part of the garden. The soil should be deep, rich, moist and slightly acid. Soggy soil will cause the plants to die back. Transplant seedlings when they have four to six leaves. They have long taproots, so don't delay transplanting too long.
Once the plant flowers, it will not come back the next year. You can cut the flowering stem the first two or three years, but the fourth year will probably be it's last, so let it flower.
These mites attack angelica when conditions are dry, so spray the underside of leaves daily during dry spells. If your plants are infested apply sulfur. The powder will stick better early in the morning when the plants are damp.
Chopped leaves may be added to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese in small amounts.
Add leaves to sour fruit such as rhubarb to neutralize acidity.
Boil the stems with jams to improve the flavor. Remove the stems before canning or freezing.
Young stems can be used as a substitute for celery.
Angelica tea is a stimulating tonic. Use it when an illness has left you feeling weak.
Use Angelica to ease the digestive tract. It eases colic, flatulence, and spasms.
It is useful in treating anorexia nervosa, cystitis and bronchitis.
Angelica helps to regulate menstruation while easing menstrual pain.
should not be used medicinally during pregnancy.
Avoid excessive sun after using angelica oil.
Use Angelica in baths and to make potpourri.
Sweet basil, with it's wonderful aroma and flavor, is one of the most popular and widely grown herbs in the world. We associate basil with Italian cooking, so you may be surprised to find that basil originated in the far eastern countries of India, Pakistan and Thailand.
There are so many uses for basil that every herb gardener will want to have a plant or two. It is an attractive plant that works well in vegetable, herb and flower gardens. Basil also makes a great kitchen windowsill plant and looks great in hanging baskets either alone or in combination with flowers. Basil is striking in containers when combined with nasturtiums, zinnias or marigolds. Place pots of basil around the deck or porch to enjoy the aroma.
Do you think of
basil as 'the spaghetti herb?' Read on to find out how versatile basil
The easiest way to start basil seeds is to sow them directly into the garden. In colder zones, start basil indoors in mid-spring. Seedlings should not be set outdoors until all danger of frost has past and the plant has four true leaves. Plants can also be started from cuttings or rooted suckers.
Once plants are established, pinch out the top to encourage a bushier plant. Frequent harvesting of the outer leaves will prolong the life of the plant. Basil leaves have the best flavor just before the plant flowers, and if you plan to preserve some of your basil or make a big batch of pesto, this is the best time to harvest. You can delay flowering by pinching or clipping off new flower buds.
Basil has a warm, resinous, clove-like flavor and fragrance. The flowers and leaves are best used fresh and added only during the last few minutes of cooking. Basil works well in combination with tomatoes. Finely chopped basil stirred into mayonnaise makes a good sauce for fish. Use as a garnish for vegetables, chicken and egg dishes. Large lettuce-leaf basil can be stuffed as you would a grape leaf.
Basil doesn't keep well in the refrigerator. Instead, place the cut stems in water and keep them on the windowsill. Sprigs stored this way will remain fresh a week or more.
Basil doesn't retain its flavor well when dried. Instead, layer basil between sheets of waxed paper and freeze. The leaves will darken when frozen this way, but you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well it will retain aroma and flavor. You can also fill ice cube trays with chopped basil, and then cover with water and freeze. Basil ice cubes are great for soups and stews.
Basic Pesto Sauce
Blend the basil leaves in a blender. If your supply of basil is insufficient, combine fresh parsley and basil for a slightly different flavor.
Add the garlic and olive oil and process for a few seconds. Gradually add the pine kernels, Parmesan cheese and salt. The consistency should be thick and creamy.
This quantity of pesto sauce is sufficient for 1 pound cooked, drained pasta. Mix 2 tablespoons pesto with the pasta and serve on individual plates with an extra spoonful of pesto on each helping.
To relieve sore gums, swish out the mouth often with a tea made from eight basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. A basil leaf tucked into the mouth over an ulcer and kept there for as long as possible will ease the pain.
Bay leaves are among the most versatile of herbs, and the plants, if regularly trimmed, make decorative shrubs. The glossy, sweetly scented leaves are indispensable in the kitchen.
Bay leaves are flat, pointed oval, about 3 inches long, dark green and glossy. Both leaves and wood are strongly aromatic. In ideal conditions, the shrub will grow to 25 feet tall and up to 6 feet across. The stems are tough and woody and have a gray bark. The flowers, which appear in late spring at the base of the leaf stem, are small, yellow, and rather insignificant.
Take 4-6 inches long cuttings in spring when the new growth has hardened a little. The cuttings may not take readily, despite your best efforts. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and pot in a good rooting medium. Once the plants are growing well, spray with water occasionally to keep the leaves glossy. If kept closely clipped, bay will continue to do well in its container.
When transplanting outdoors, choose a sunny location. The ground should be well prepared with compost and bone meal.
Scale manifests itself as hard brown ovals, which appear on the undersides of leaves or on woody stems. If the plant is not too big, remove scale by brushing with an old toothbrush dipped in a mixture of half water and half rubbing alcohol. Spray mature trees with horticultural oil, then repeat in ten days.
Bay has a spicy fragrance and flavor, and the leaves are used in all types of cooking. Try them in soups, stews, casseroles, stocks, syrups, sauces and as a decorative garnish. Since the flavor is strong, use with discretion. Check leaves carefully for scale before using, and never use immature leaf tips, as they have a high acid content. Bay leaves should be removed from food before serving. Dry leaves by hanging them in bunches in a warm, dry place.
An infusion of the leaves may be taken for flatulence.
Bay leaves add a strong, spicy fragrance to potpourri. To prevent silverfish damage to books or clothing, place a few leaves in drawers or on bookcases. A few leaves in the pantry shelves will keep weevils away.
Bergamot is an American herb that was once widely used by native Americans. It was introduced to the early colonists by the Oswego Indians, and Oswego tea was made by colonists during the time of the Boston Tea Party. The dark pink, red and purple flowers smell pleasantly of oranges. They are a nice addition to the flower border and attract bees.
Bergamot is a perennial that grows best in soil that stays damp in the summer, however it dislikes damp winters. The plant is not suitable for chalky soils. It prefers sun but is adaptable to shade as long as the soil remains damp. The plant will benefit from the addition of bone meal. Bergamot makes a nice container plant.
Cuttings of new growth can be taken in the spring, and they quickly root and establish themselves. Clumps of the plant form a mat-like growth and become bare in the center if not divided every three or four years. When lifting the plant, discard old growth and woody stems. Lemon bergamot can be started from seed indoors and set out in late spring.
Use fresh young leaves sparingly in salads, fruit salads and fruit drinks.
Five or six large fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon dried leaves in 8 ounces boiling water make a refreshing and relaxing tea.
Improves the flavor of pork dishes.
Use the leaves to make a facial steam.
The leaves and flowers add color and flavor to potpourri.
Lemon bergamot is a long-lasting cut flower.
The bright blue, star-shaped flowers (which bloom most of the summer) make borage one of the prettiest herb plants, thought the dark green leaves are rather plain. The flavor of the leaves resembles that of cucumber. The plant will grow to a height of about 18 inches, and spread about 12 inches. This hardy annual has a messy, straggling habit. It is a native of northern Europe, and grows well in the temperate regions of North America.
Borage is not a fussy plant, but the richer the soil, the bushier the plant will be. It prefers full sun, and needs protection from wind as it is easily blown over. Seeds can be sown throughout the season, and once growth is established, it will continue to seed itself. Place plants close together so they can support each other. A plant or two in an indoor pot will provide leaves all winter, but it will need lots of sun.
Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. The plant actually improves the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.
Borage flowers and leaves are the traditional decoration for gin-based summer cocktails, and may be set in ice cubes to garnish other drinks.
The flowers and young leaves may be used to garnish salads. dips, and cucumber soups.
Candied borage flowers make attractive cake decorations.
Chopped leaves can be added to soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking.
The leaves can be cooked with cabbage leaves (two parts cabbage, one part borage.)
Borage does not dry well for culinary use.
Because it is a tonic plant for the adrenal glands, borage provides an invaluable support for a stressful lifestyle.
Borage is rich in minerals, especially potassium.
A tea made with borage helps to reduce fevers and ease chest colds.
An infusion of borage acts as a galactogogue, promoting the production of milk in breastfeeding mothers.
Borage makes an excellent facial steam for improving very dry, sensitive skin.
The flowers may be dried to add color to potpourri.
Caraway is a biennial and grows to a height of up to 2 feet with a spread of 12 inches. It has a thick, tapering root like that of a parsnip. The leaves resemble those of carrots but tend to droop more. The flowers, in umbellifer clusters, are white tinged with pink and appear in mid summer. The oval seeds are pointed at each end and are very dark brown. It takes two years for caraway to mature and bear flowers. The stems of the delicate flowers produce seed cases, each containing two seeds.
A slender and straggly plant, caraway has delicate clusters of white flowers and small feathery leaves. It is most effective when grown in a large clump. Seedlings do not transplant well, so sow in the garden in spring or fall. Work the soil deeply, as caraway is deep-rooted. Germination is slow. It thrives in all but the most humid warm regions and does best from fall-sown seeds. The plants should be thinned so that they are about 6 inches apart. It needs well-drained soil and plenty of sun for the best flavor.
Cut the young leaves when they are required. When the seed turns light brown, cut the whole plant off at ground level. Preserve seeds by drying.
The leaves may be used in salads and soups, the seeds in baked goods, dumplings, cream cheese and meat dishes such as goulash and pork casserole. The roots can be boiled as a vegetable and served with a white sauce.
Prepare the seed as a tincture or infusion for medicinal use. Use caraway to ease stomach cramping, flatulence, diverticulitis, menstrual pain and labor pains. It also stimulates the flow of breast milk. In combination with other herbs, it eases a cough and sooths sore throats and laryngitis (use as a gargle). See Herbal Home Remedies for a list of herbs to be used in combination with caraway for coughs.
Catnip, renowned for the euphoria it causes in cats, also has a few human uses, both culinary and medicinal. It makes an attractive border plant if you don't mind frequent feline visitors.
This perennial herb can grow to a height of up to 3 feet with a spread of 15 inches. It has a straggly habit and is likely to be flattened by cats who love to roll in it. The only way to protect it is with wire netting.
Catnip is easily grown from seed in spring and summer. It prefers good, fertile soil and partial shade. Soil should be well-drained and slightly alkaline. Roots can be divided in spring and fall.
Use very sparingly in salads and use the flowers as a garnish.
Catnip tea made from the leaves and flowers may be taken for coughs, colds, catarrh, and a bedtime calmative.
The most common use for catnip is as a recreational herb for cats. Dry catnip by hanging it upside down in bags, then crumble and sew into cotton bags.
Cayenne is native to Central and South America and Zanzibar. It grows as a perennial in its native tropical habitat, but in North America and Europe it is grown as an annual.
Cayenne is a shrublike plant that grows to a height of 24 inches. The leaves are elliptical, slightly leathery, dark green and smooth. The flowers produce pods of flat, white, pungent seeds. These pods (peppers) range in color from green when immature to purple, red, orange or yellow when ripe. Plants grow well in containers and can be blended into the landscape.
Cayenne needs a sunny location and rich, well-composted soil. Start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before setting the plants out. Transplant outdoors when all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm.
Pick the pods when the color has developed fully and hang them up to dry until they are required. The pods may also be used fresh.
Use the fresh or dried whole pods. Grind the dried pods to use as spice.
Cayenne should never be used by pregnant or lactating women.
Cayenne for the Stomach
In many countries, red pepper is believed to be a stomach-settling digestive aid. Varro E. Tyler, PhD, professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue University School of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Ind., and author of The Honest Herbal believes it works. Cayenne stimulates the flow of saliva and stomach secretions. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the breakdown of carbohydrates, and stomach secretions contain acids and other digestive substances.
Contrary to popular belief, eating hot peppers doesn't harm the stomach. In one study, researchers used a tiny video camera to examine subjects' stomach linings after both bland meals and meals liberally spiced with jalapeno peppers, another close cousin of cayenne. They concluded that eating highly spiced meals causes no damage to the stomach in people with normal gastrointestinal tracts. Eating hot peppers may not be a good idea for people who have stomach or intestinal problems.
For red pepper burns in the mouth or on the skin, milk is the best remedy. The proteins in milk wash away capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the heat.
Cayenne for Muscle Pain
For centuries, herbalists have recommended rubbing red pepper onto sore muscles and joints. Medically known as a counterirritant, this treatment causes minor superficial discomfort but distracts the person from the more severe, deeper pain. Heet, a capsaicin-based counter-irritant cream, is available over the counter.
Recently, however, red pepper has been shown to provide more compelling relief for certain kinds of chronic pain. For reasons still not completely understood, capsaicin interferes with the action of substance P -- a nerve chemical that sends pain messages to the brain.
"Capsaicin has proved so effective at relieving pain that it's the active ingredient in the over-the-counter cream Zostrix," says James A. Duke, PhD, a retired botanist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Doctors now recommend Zostrix for arthritis, diabetic foot pain and the pain of shingles.
Cayenne for Headaches
Research suggests that capsaicin can also help relieve cluster headaches. In one study, people with cluster headaches rubbed a capsaicin preparation inside and outside their noses on the same side of the head as the headache pain. Within five days, 75 percent reported less pain and fewer headaches. They also reported burning nostrils and runny noses, but these side effects subsided within a week.
Finally, red pepper may help the heart. "It cuts cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of the internal blood clots that trigger heart attacks," says Daniel B. Mowrey, PhD, director of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City, and author of The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy cayenne's medicinal benefits is simply to season your food to taste. Even small amounts of red pepper can be therapeutic.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after using either cayenne or Zostrix. Cayenne may be kind to your stomach lining, but you definitely don't want to get any in your eyes.
To aid digestion and possibly reduce the risk of heart disease, experts recommend cayenne in capsules, available from most herbal stores. Follow the directions on the package.
Dried cayenne pods are attractive additions to dried arrangements and crafts. Cayenne can be made into a insect spray for the garden.
This perennial is also known as Roman chamomile. It can be used as a groundcover since it grows only 4 to 12 inches in height. The foliage is feathery with an apple scent, and it is accented by white, daisy-like flowers with down-turned petals.
The annual form of chamomile is also called German chamomile. It grows to 20 inches and has feathery foliage with daisy-like flowers like it's cousin. The flowers are scented, but the foliage is not.
Roman chamomile is usually propagated by root division, while German chamomile seeds are sown directly in early spring. The soil should be sandy and slightly acid. Full sun is preferred except in hot, dry climates where midday shade is necessary. Chamomile can also be used around the edges of containers with other herbs. After flowering, cut back to the main growth.
Harvesting and Drying
Cut the flowers from the stems with scissors and spread them out on muslin covered racks to dry.
Roman chamomile foliage can be chopped and stirred into butter or sour cream that is used to top baked potatoes.
German Chamomile is most often used for medicinal purposes, and is usually administered as a tea. It can also be administered as a compress for external healing and as a bath for babies. Here are a few uses:
Soothes and relaxes at bedtime.
Relieves restlessness, teething problems, and colic in children.
Relieves allergies, much as an antihistamine would.
Aids digestion when taken as a tea after meals.
Relieves morning sickness during pregnancy.
Speeds healing of skin ulcers, wounds, or burns.
Treats gastritis and ulcerative colitis.
Makes a relaxing bath or footbath.
Lightens fair hair and conditions complexion. Make a rinse by simmering 2 teaspoons dried flowers in 8 ounces of water for 15 minutes.
Potpourri (dry flowers face down.)
Chamomile Cleansing Milk
be kept refrigerated.
Place 1 cup of warm milk in a bowl. The milk must be kept warm throughout, however it must never boil and a skin must not form on the milk. The easiest way to accomplish this is by placing the bowl over a saucepan of hot water.
Add 3 tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers. Stir gently from time to time so as not to break up the flowers. Infuse until the milk smells strongly of chamomile. Strain into glass jars.
Excellent for oily skin
This herb is native to the Middle East, southern Russia, and the Caucasus, and was probably introduced to Europe by the Romans. It has become one of the classic herbs used in French cookery, in which it is considered indispensable.
Chervil is closely related to parsley. It grows to a height of 20 inches with a spread off about 8 inches. It has flat, light green and lacy leaves, which have a slightly aniseed-like aroma and turn reddish brown as the plant matures. It blooms in mid-summer, producing flat umbellifers of tiny white flowers.
The plant is easily grown from seeds planted in spring or late summer. Plants resist transplanting, so the seeds should be sown directly in the garden. Choose a moist, shady location and keep it well watered. It won't withstand very hot summers well. A succession of sowings will produce a harvest well into winter. Chervil makes a great container plant and adapts readily to window boxes.
Bits of chervil should be snipped from the outside edge of the plant with scissors and used fresh. The leaves will quickly loose their flavor and should be added to a dish just before serving. Finely chopped chervil enhances the flavor of chicken, fish, herb butter, vegetables, cottage cheese, salads and egg dishes. The whole leaves can be added to creamy soups as an aromatic garnish. This herb adds a nice flavor to white wine vinegar.
The leaves can be infused in water to use as a skin freshener
Chives grow in clumps, with their round, hollow, grass-like leaves reaching a height of 9 inches or so. The stems are firm, straight, smooth, and, like the leaves, bright dark green. The flowers, which bloom for two months in midsummer, form round deep purple or pink globes that make an attractive garnish.
The easiest way to start chives is to dig a clump from an established patch to transplant into your garden. They are also easy to start from seeds. Plant them directly in the garden as early in spring as the soil can be worked. Seeds can be planted as late as 2 months before the first fall frost.
Although they thrive in any good garden loam, chives show a preference for slightly acid soil and need to be kept moist throughout the growing season. In climates with hot summers, choose a location where they can enjoy some shade during the day.
Divide established clumps of bulbs every third spring, and transplant clusters from the outer edges of the clumps. Alternatively, chives can be raised afresh each year from seed.
Remove the flower heads to maintain a constant supply of flavorful leaves. The foliage dies down in the winter. You can encourage a few early spikes by covering some of the plants with crushed leaves or straw, or plant clumps in containers in the fall for early spring chives. Make sure your container chives get plenty of sun. For an attractive garnish, allow a few plants to produce flowers.
Use as required.
Use of Chives
Chives are easier to snip with scissors than cut with a knife. The snipped chives give a hint of onion flavor to egg dishes, cheese soufflés, salads, soups, cream cheese sandwiches, and sour cream dressing for baked potatoes. Chive butter is great with grilled chops and steak.
Both the green feathery leaves (also known as cilantro) and the spherical seeds of coriander are indispensable in the kitchen, especially to anyone who is fond of curries. Coriander looks like flat-leaved parsley. The seed is sold both whole and ground and is the main ingredient in curry powder. It has a sweet taste reminiscent of orange peel.
The plant grows to a height of 2 feet with a spread of 9 inches. The bright, green leaves are fan shaped and become more feathery towards the top of the plant. The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer, are small and white, formed in umbel-like clusters. The pale brown roots are fibrous and tapering, shaped like a carrot.
Coriander will not grow well in humid climates. It needs a dry summer and a sunny location. Seeds are sown directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed. It also does well as a container plant on a sunny porch or balcony. Stems are weak and the plant may require staking.
Cut the leaves as required. They do not dry well, but may be frozen.
Coriander is used to treat digestive ailments and colic.
Coriander is used widely in Indian, Greek and Asian cooking.
Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow and would make a great first herb for someone who has never grown herbs before. You'll find lots of uses for both the fronds and the seeds in the kitchen. A sprig of dill will perk up almost any soup, salad, or main dish. You can buy transplants at your local garden center, but there is no need because dill is easy to grow from seeds. You won't even have to start them indoors - just plant your dill seeds right in the garden where you want them to grow.
When to Plant
Dill likes to be planted in cool weather. In warm winter areas that don't experience a hard frost, you can plant dill in fall or winter. In cooler areas, plant dill a week or two before your last hard frost. After the first sowing, plant again every 10 days or so for a continuous crop.
When growing in containers, use a deep container to accommodate the long roots, and remember that you will eventually have a plant that is three feet tall. Plants grown in containers may require staking.
Here are a few suggestions to start you on your way to a healthy crop of dill:
Dill, like most herbs, loves to bask in the sun, but will tolerate afternoon shade.
Sow seeds close together. This will allow the plants, which blow over easily to support each other.
Cover the seeds lightly, and allow a week or two for them to germinate.
For a continuous crop, sow repeatedly from mid spring to early summer.
Don't plant near caraway, fennel or angelica.
are fond of dill, and can be handpicked if they become a nuisance.
Harvesting and Preserving
The best way to use dill is fresh from the garden, so during the growing season, cut your dill to use fresh as you need it. If not kept cut, your dill will go to seed, so cut often until you are ready to switch to seed production.
If you find that you have cut more than you can use, dry the excess in the microwave. Spread the dill in a single layer on a paper towel and microwave on high for 3 minutes. The result is beautiful and tasty - much better than dried dill you buy in the grocery store. After microwaving, remove and discard the hard stems, crumble the leaves, and store in an airtight container protected from light.
Once seedheads begin to form, it's time to stop cutting dill for fresh use. Allow the seedheads to develop and dry completely, then cut them. You'll be able to remove the seeds easily with your fingers.
To brew a stomach-soothing tea, use two teaspoons of mashed seeds per cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink up to three cups a day. In a tinture take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day. To treat colic or gas in children under two, give small amounts of a weak tea. Many herbalists recommend combining dill and fennel to ease colic in infants.`
The taste of dill leaves resembles that of caraway, while the seeds are pungent and aromatic. Freshly cut, chopped leaves enhance the flavor of dips, herb butter, soups, salads, fish dishes, and salads. The seeds are used in pickling and can also improve the taste of roasts, stews and vegetables. Try grinding the seeds to use as a salt substitute. Both the flowering heads and seeds are used in flavored vinegars and oils
Various forms of feverfew grow to heights of between 9 inches and 2 feet. The deeply cut leaves are brightly colored and have a sharp, unpleasantly bitter taste. The flowers, which are produced from summer until mid-fall, are thick and daisy like with yellow centers.
Feverfew will thrive in the poorest soils. They can even make find a home in pavement cracks and and walls. Full sun is a must, as the plant is susceptible to mildew in the shade. It can be grown from seed or by root division. Cuttings can be rooted in early summer.
Cut leaves and flowers as required. The flowers may be dried face down on a flat surface and used in potpourri.
Tablets and tinctures are the safest form of this herb when used medicinally. It is used for the relief of migraine, to help prevent blood clots, as an anti-inflammatory for relief of arthritis, to relieve some types of menstrual problems, and as a digestive aid.
Do not take this herb during pregnancy. Controlled doses of this herb are safest. Consult an herbalist if you are not sure about the dose.
Grow feverfew in the rose garden to attract aphids away from the rose bushes. Leaves and flowers act as a good moth deterrent. It also makes a nice cut flower.
With its umbels of tiny yellow flowers and dark green or bronze wispy leaves, fennel is a decorative addition to the herbaceous border where it makes a good background plant. Be warned, however, that many other plants dislike fennel and grow poorly when forced to share space with this strong herb. Never plant fennel near coriander or dill.
Fennel will grow in most any soil, but the richer the soil, the more tender the foliage. Seeds should be sown directly in the garden in the late spring. Seedlings do not transplant well. The deep taproots are difficult to pull up, so remove unwanted seedlings while young. The plant will self-sow generously. To maintain a continuous supply of fresh leaves throughout the season, sow a few seeds every 10 days. If seeds are not desired, remove flowerheads to promote bushier growth. Fennel can be grown as an annual, although the established roots will overwinter easily. Divide roots in fall after the seeds have been harvested.
Use the leaves with pork, veal and fish. They are also good in fish stock, sauces and stuffings, and in mayonnaise, flavored butters and salad dressings. The dried stalks are placed under grilled or barbecued fish. The seeds are used as a spice, particularly in breads. At the two-leafed stage, the seedlings make a pungent salad, reminiscent of mustard.
A tea made with a few fresh sprigs of fennel or a level teaspoon of seeds will relieve indigestion. An infusion of the seeds is an excellent carminative, especially for babies. Use 1 teaspoon (5ml) of infusion for colic and gas.
Fennel is an effective treatment for respiratory congestion and is a common ingredient in cough remedies.
A tea made from fennel helps to stimulate the flow of breast milk. It is sometimes added to baby formula to aid digestion.
An infusion makes a soothing eyewash.
Chew the seeds as a breath freshener
The bulbs you find in the grocery store will produce a fine crop of garlic. Since the plants will do most of their growing in cool weather, it's a good idea to plant in late summer or early fall and mulch the plants over in winter.
Planting and Maintenance
Break each bulb into individual cloves, then plant 3-4 inches apart, pointed end up. Give them two or three applications of manure or fertilizer during the season. The soil around them should be kept loose and moist.
When the tops fall over and die, pull up the bulbs. Let them dry in the sun for a few days, then braid the tops together or place them in a net bag. Hanging them in an airy location will help prevent rot. Peeled garlic cloves may be stored in a jar of oil. The garlic retains its flavor and the oil will add flavor to salad dressings.
Insects and Disease
Thripes are tiny insects that feed on leaves and cause white, blotchy areas. The plants weaken and the yield is reduced. Keep weeds out of the garden to eliminate alternate hosts. A blast of cold water will remove thripes from plants. Mild soaps and diatomaceous earth may be effective.
The onion maggot is the offspring of a small fly that lays eggs near the base of the plant or on the bulb itself. The maggots kill the plant by burrowing into the stem and bulb. Pull up and destroy any plants before the maggots mature into flies. You may also try making tarpaper collars around the plants. Wood ashes, rock phosphate, or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the base of the plant is said to be effective.
Neck rot is the most common problem. It strikes just after harvest or while the bulbs are in storage. Drying the bulbs at warm temperatures with good ventilation and storing in a cool, airy spot will help prevent the disease.
Garlic as a Companion Plant
Garlic helps deter Japanese beetles, and it makes a great companion for roses and raspberries.
Garlic has been used throughout the ages to ward off disease, and has saved many lives in epidemics of infectious diseases. It is antibacterial and gives protection against colds and flu. Garlic improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. In clinical studies, garlic reduced cholesterol levels. Further studies indicate that garlic may have a positive role in the prevention of coronary heart disease, thrombosis and arteriosclerosis. It may even offer some degree of protection against cancer.
This many-rooted rhizome grows to a height of about 30 inches. It has a creeping, somewhat invasive habit. The leaves at the base of the plant are bright green and pointed ovals, while the leaves on the flower stem are smaller ovals. The flower stems produce spikes of simple golden yellow flowers, which have clusters of stamens.
Propagate by root division or from seeds. The soil should be rich and light, and the location should be sunny. Lift roots every other year and replant to prevent matting and invasive spreading. S. canadensis is an ornamental variety , suitable for the herbaceous border.
Cut the plant off at ground level and hang upside down to dry.
Goldenrod has several anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and is an excellent diuretic. It can be used in conjunction with echinacea for the treatment of nephritis and cystitis. Use it for upper respiratory infections when there is an overabundance of mucus and postnasal drip.
Goldenrod contains bioflavonoids, which strengthen the veins and is therefore indicated for varicose veins and fragile capillaries. It is also a carminative, and will ease colic and flatulence. Because of its antifungal properties, it can be used as a douche. Goldenrod is generally prepared as an infusion.
Hawthorne (Crataegus) is deciduous and a member of the rose family. The common name for hawthorne comes from haw, which is an old English word for ‘hedge.’ The tree’s name simply means ‘thorny hedge.’ After the British General Enclosures Act of 1845 hawthorn was used extensively as hedgerow because of its thorny nature and quick growth, angering peasants who no longer could enter the lands they previously roamed at will. Its Latin name, Crataegus, means ‘hardness’, referring to the quality of the wood.
The hawthorne is native to the Mediterranean region including north Africa and all of Europe and central Asia, and now grows in many areas of North America. It is a tree that rapidly changes due to hybridizing, which causes it to appear in more than a thousand different species. Most of these are very difficult to tell apart and even professional foresters place them into a group and do not try to determine the exact species. Some of the more interesting, useful and common hawthorns are reflected below. Prior to planting a hawthorne in your area, check the species and note your hardiness zone before purchasing. Although hawthorne is hardy, the hardiness range is diverse depending on the species.
Crateaegus will grow in most soils, including alkaline, in sun or partial shade. Hawthorne does not have a large root system and doesn’t drain the soil of nutrients. They can live for over 400 years and have the capacity to flower twice a year, though this obviously depends on weather conditions. The alternate, simple, strongly veined, toothed leaves have deep or shallow lobes and vary radically from species to species. Most species of the hawthorne have very prominent, long, straight, sharp thorns, ranging from 1 to 5 inches in length. There are only a few species without thorns.
The flowers of the hawthorne are interspersed with the newly opened leaves and look like tiny white balls. When they open they have five snow-white petals set around slender stamens with bright pink heads. When in bloom, the hawthorne is weighted down and has a rich scent that permeates. Hawthorne blossoms contain both male and female parts and are fertilized by insects crawling over them.
On the back of each hawthorne flower are five green, star-like sepals. Below this the stalk looks slightly swollen, for it contains the seed, which by summer grows into a small green berry. By fall they have grown and ripened into a shiny red berry, hanging on long-stalked bunches. Birds, mice and other creatures love to eat them and help propagation by dropping the seeds wherever they go.
The C. laevigata flowers and fruits better in an open, sunny position. C. laevigata is also known as English Hawthorn. It has moderate growth to 18-25 ft with a 15-20 ft spread. It comes in varieties called: 'Paul's Scarlet', clusters of double rose to red flowers; 'Double White', 'Double Pink' (Doubles set little fruit so this may not the one you want to grow if you are looking for large berries.); or 'Crimson Cloud' ('Superba') has bright red single flowers with white centers and bright red fruit.
The C. monogyna is the classic hawthorn of English countryside for hedges and boundary plantings. It is available as 'Stricta'. It has a narrow growth habit of 30 ft tall and 8 ft wide. Plant 5 ft apart for dense narrow screen or barrier. Flowers are white and it has small red fruit clusters.
The C. pinnatifida is native to northeastern Asia. It grows 20 ft high, 10-12 ft wide. This one is tender and is best grown as a houseplant or in a warm climate.
The C. oxycantha is a small thorny tree or shrub that produces brilliant red clusters of berries. It can grow up to 30 ft high and is usually not broader than high.
Use the leaves, flowers and berries for medicinal and culinary purposes. The berries are collected when ripe and used raw or cooked, or dried whole for use in decoctions, liquid extracts, and tinctures. Harvest the leaf-buds in the early spring for cooking or as a substitute for smoking tobacco. Harvest the flowers in the spring and the berries after they ripen in the fall.
The hawthorne tree’s well being is affected by many diseases and pests. Many of them are also attackers of roses. This makes sense, since the hawthorne is a member of the rose family. There are also many unique pests that affect only the hawthorne.
Spot (Fabraea maculata)
Rust (Gymnosporangium globosum)
rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes)
blight (Erwinia amylovora)
Infected wood should be cut out well below the damaged part and burned or otherwise removed from the premises, making sure that pruning cuts are at least 10-12 inches below the visible symptoms. Pruning tools should be disinfested between cuts. Avoid excessive vigor, which can be caused by excessive nitrogen fertilizer.
(Aphis pomi, Rhopalosiphum fitchii, Amphorophora crataegi)
(Alsophila pometaria and Paleacrita vernata)
maple scale (Pulvinaria innumerabilis)
Compounds that can be used against this pest are horticultural oil, imidacloprid, malathion and chlorpyrifos. The best means of control are a dormant horticultural oil spray applied in early spring or imidacloprid applied as a systemic to be taken up by the roots. Malathion or chlorpyrifos sprays in early July will control the young crawlers.
moth (Lymantria dispar)
Caterpillars pupate in cracks or crevices spinning a very small amount of silk. The moths emerge in about 2 weeks. The female is buff with narrow zigzag lines across the forewings. The wingspread is about 2", and the body is so heavy that the female cannot fly. The male is reddish-brown with variable light gray and dark brown markings and a wingspread of 1 to 1 1/2". The males fly freely. Eggs are laid on the bark of trees, on stones, or lumber. They are laid in masses of about 400 eggs and covered with buff hairs from the body of the females.
A fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, gives natural control of larvae. Larvae killed by the fungus characteristically remain on the tree with their head hanging down. As these are the source of fungal spores to infect future gypsy moth caterpillars, do not destroy them. This fungus grows best in warm, humid weather. Bt (Bacillus thruingiensis) is another natural control used against the caterpillars. It is fatal to the caterpillars, but harmless to humans, pets and other animals.
Should chemical controls become necessary, sprays can be applied when caterpillars are young, about 1/4" long. Carbaryl, malathion and methoxychlor.
lace-bug (Corythucha cydoniae)
leaf-miner (Profenusa canadensis)
There are two wasp parasites that may provide control. If damage is severe, use imidacloprid, as a soil drench for season-long, systemic control. It should cause the least harm to the populations of beneficial wasps. Avoid planting Crataegus crus-galli, C. persimillis and C. erecta since they are the most susceptible species. Round-headed apple tree borer, Saperda candida. This insect is also a borer in hawthorn. Larvae of the round-headed apple tree borer tunnel deeply into the trunks of the trees from 4" below ground to 1-2' above ground. Borers mainly injure young trees, weakening or girdling them. Adults lay eggs from June to August. The adults are slender, long-horned beetles that are about 3/4" long and brown with two conspicuous longitudinal white stripes on the wing covers. The larvae may take up to 3 years to develop to maturity. Applications of chlorpyrifos or carbaryl to the trunk may kill adults before they lay eggs.
Jose scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus)
Scurfy scale ( Chionaspis furfura) These whitish or light gray scales infest hawthorn and other trees and shrubs, reducing tree vigor.
tentiform leaf-miner (Phyllonorycter crataegella)
Next year's population will be reduced if leaves are destroyed in the fall. Healthy earthworm populations assist in reducing over-wintering populations of tentiform leaf-miners by dragging leaves underground, from where adults the next year cannot successfully emerge. When needed, acephate can be applied in early May and again in early June to control young leaf miner larvae. Imidacloprid, also controls this pest and will provide season-long systemic control if applied in early spring as a soil drench.
limb-borer (Saperda fayi)
spider mite (Tetranychus urticae)
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Both ancient and modern herbalists have successfully used hawthorn for its food and health benefits. Modern science shows that hawthorne contains chemical components which are sedative, anti-spasmodic and diuretic. If you intend to use it for medicinal purposes, look for C. laevigata, C. monogyna, or C. pinnatifida, as these hybrids are known best for their medicinal uses. Read how to make a tincture or an infusion using hawthorne flowers or berries.
The hawthorne berry is one of the best cardiac tonics available, and is often used to treat high blood pressure.
Hawthorne berries are used to treat childhood diabetes. See Cautions.
Hawthorne flower tea is a safe diuretic.
Hawthorne berries, dried and crushed and made into a decoction, eases diarrhea and dysentery, kidney inflammations and disorders. See Cautions.
The young hawthorne leaves can be used as a safe, and non-nicotine tobacco substitute for those who desire to quite smoking. Enhance the flavor and help heal the throat by adding yarrow, mint, coltsfoot or mullein.
Chewing the hawthorne leaf has been known for centuries as a safe way to give nourishment, revive energy, and a feeling of well-being. That is why it can be used to treat those who have problems with apprehension, insomnia and despondency. Chewing hawthorne leaves takes away that ‘tummy grumble’ when you’re hungry. That is why the hawthorne became known as the ‘bread and cheese’ tree, giving as much sustenance as a plate of bread and cheese.
The hawthorne leaf-buds are good cooked (10 to 20 minutes) and have a similar taste to lima beans. They make a great addition to chilis and soups.
You can make jellies and fruit sauces from the berries, just make sure you strain the sauce. Hawthorne berries contain their own pectin so the sauce or jelly will thicken nicely.
Hawthorne flowers are edible and make an attractive addition to salads and other dishes.
Hawthorne seeds can be roasted and used in a manner similar to coffee.
Hawthorne wood is fine grained and works well for artist renditions with inlays and delicate carvings. The root wood is finer still and suitable for making boxes and combs.
Hawthorne wood is more prized than oak wood for wood fires, as it burns very hot. A hawthorne wood fire can produce fire that can melt pig iron.
Hawthorne hedgerow is still very evident in Britain and parts of Germany, used as a fence to keep cattle in and people out of private properties. Hedgerow makes a great security fence.
The large fleshy roots are strongly aromatic, and, like onions, can make your eyes water as you prepare them. The large coarse leaves have no aroma and no known uses.
Horseradish will spread to fill whatever space is available, so use restraint when planting. It is grown by dividing and replanting the root. A piece about 8 inches long is ideal. It likes deep, moist soil but will grow almost anywhere.
Plant as early in the spring as you can. Till or spade the area to a depth of 8 inches. Dig a hole or furrow 4-6 inches deep. Put a handful of compost in the bottom and cover it with 2 inches of soil.
Push each root piece into the soil at an angle rather than straight up and down. This will help the roots that grow along the length of each cutting to grow straight down without getting tangled up. The top of the root cutting should be 2 inches below the soil. The "downward end" of purchased root cuttings will be cut at a slant. If you take cuttings from a freind's garden, mark your roots in the same way.
Dig up a piece of the root, wash, and scrape it under water to prevent eye irritation. It can be stored in vinegar or oil in a screw top jar.
Mix small amounts of horseradish with cream, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, or cream cheese and dressings for sauces to serve with meat, fish, and potatoes. It is especially good with beef and smoked trout.
Lavender is a traditional cottage garden plant. Its gray-green spikes of foliage and purple flowers provide color all year. Since the Middle Ages, the dried flowers have been one of the main ingredients of potpourri. Fresh sprigs are included in herbal bunches known as tussie mussies, which have been used for hundreds of years to mask unpleasant odors and ward off illness.
The plant may grow to a height of 3 feet, but there are dwarf forms for edging which reach only about 10 inches. The stems are thick and woody, and become straggly if left unpruned. The leaves are long, spiky, and very narrow, and branch out near the ground. The tiny tubular flowers are carried on long spikes in thick clusters that surround the stem from the tip to about 4 inches down.
Cuttings from strong new growth can be propagated in summer or autumn or from seeds sown indoors in trays. Once rooted, plant them in a well drained, poor soil. Foliage will yellow in poorly drained soil. The bushes tend to look after themselves and respond to an annual pruning in fall after flowering or in early spring. Bushes tend to straggle as they mature and it is often necessary to cut back severely in fall to generate strong growth.
Fresh lavender flowers can be used to flavor syrup for jellies. Mix 6 flowerheads into each pint of apple jelly syrup. Remove the lavender before bottling. It is also used to flavor fruit salad and milk and cream for deserts. Flowers be candied to decorate cakes and puddings. Use lavender instead of rosemary when cooking chicken. Lavender ice-cream is a real treat.
Use an infusion of lavender on insect bites. Dried flowers and seeds are used in herbal sleep pillows and baths for soothing and calming frayed nerves. Lavender oil applied at the temples will relieve a headache. Three flowerheads in a cup of boiling water makes a soothing tea at bedtime.
Bunches of lavender are said to ward off insects. Fresh or dried flowers are used in rinsing water for clothes and hair. Dried flowers and seeds are often used in potpourri and sachets. The stems are used to weave decorative baskets.
To dry the flowers, cut them as soon as they begin to open and hang upside down in bunches in a well-ventilated area.
Easy Lavender Soap
10 tablespoons finely grated castille soap
8 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons crushed dried lavender flowers
4 drops lavender oil
Melt the soap in the water in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water, stirring frequently, until smooth.
Crush the flowers to a powder and take the bowl off the saucepan. Stir the flowers into the soap with oil.
Store in a glass or plastic bottle.
Lemon balm is an attractive herb with yellow or variegated leaves smelling strongly of lemons. Is is a great addition to any garden since it is very attractive to bees. A tea made from the leaves is said to relieve tiredness, sooth headaches, and calm nerves.
This vigorous plant will readily spread throughout the border. It reaches a height of 3 feet with a spread of 2 feet. The oval, almost heart-shaped leaves have slightly serrated edges and a pronounced network of veins; they can be up to 2½ inches across. The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer are small, white, and insignificant.
Seeds are slow to germinate and are so fine that they hardly need covering at all. An alternative method of propagation is to take cuttings in late spring and root them in water. Plant in warm, moist soil in a sunny location. Good sun and moisture are necessary for the production of essential oil and good fragrance. Cut back to soil level in the fall to encourage strong growth. The plant will not tolerate high humidity. Lemon Balm performs well in containers.
Use fresh leaves in salads and as a garnish for fish and other dishes. When candied, the leaves make attractive cake decorations. Chopped leaves can be added to fish and chicken dishes and sprinkled over fresh vegetables. Add the leaves to cooked dishes in the last few minutes. They can also be added to summer drinks and fruit salads, and make a good substitute for lemon peel in recipes.
Lemon balm is traditionally used to restore nerves. It helps relieve anxiety attacks, palpitations with nausea, mild insomnia and phobias. It combines well with peppermint to stimulate circulation, and can also be used for colds and flu.
An infusion of leaves makes a refreshing skin toner and can be used in rinse water for clothes. A stronger infusion makes a good rinse for oily hair. Use as a facial steam for dry skin. Dried leaves add a lemony scent to Potpourris.
Return to Index
Lemon Verbena is a shrub that grows to a height of 2-4 feet in most of the US. In very hot climates it grows much taller. It has a woody trunk and branches with tender stems holding long pointed leaves. Small, pale mauve flowers are produced from summer to autumn. Leaves have a strong lemon fragrance and flavor.
Propagate from cuttings taken in spring or summer.
Protect from frost by planting in a sheltered area. If you have a sunny location in your home, try bringing it indoors for winter.
Plant in a sunny area.
Prefers a neutral pH and good drainage.
Prune hard in autumn.
Cut leaves as needed and save all prunings for drying.
These mites appear when conditions are dry, so pray the underside of leaves daily during dry spells. If your plants are infested apply .
These hardbacked gray bugs cause extensive tip-wilting. They tend to drop when disturbed, so try shaking or brushing them into a can. Be sure to destroy them before they get away!
Sprinkle over salads or vegetables for a lemony flavor.
Use to flavor stuffings for meat.
Stir into herb butter or cottage cheese.
Makes a refreshing tea in combination with mint or alone. Good served iced.
Use liberally when on a low salt diet. Try combining with dried celery and lovage leaves.
Put leaves in the vacuum cleaner to freshen the house.
An infusion will make a nice skin freshener an toner.
Flowers can be used in arrangements.
The leaves lend a pleasant sent to bed linens.
Great for potpourri.
Return to Index
The common types
of mint are peppermint, pennyroyal, crinkle-leafed spearmint, spearmint, and
Never eat pennyroyal, as it is toxic.
Mint is a perennial herb that is propagated by root division or rooting cuttings in water. The plant is invasive and should be grown in pots or in lengths of plastic pipe buried in the ground. It enjoys a damp location, shaded from strong afternoon sun, and rich soil. Pennyroyal is an attractive addition to hanging baskets. Mint planted outdoors should be mulched heavily to protect against frost.
Pests and Diseases
Caterpillars can usually be handpicked. They are repelled by wormwood spray or insect spray.
Rust appears as bright orange markings on the foliage of herbs such as mint and chives. Destroy all affected foliage. Do not place diseased plants or foliage in the compost bin. If a mild commercial copper spray does not curb the disease, destroy the plants.
Spearmint and crinkle-leafed spearmint are best for sauces. You can cook a few sprigs with peas and new potatoes to enhance the flavor.
Spearmint, peppermint and applemint sprigs can be added to drinks and fruit dishes as a garnish. It also makes a refreshing tea.
Peppermint makes an excellent flavoring for ice cream, chocolates, and other deserts.
Peppermint is the mint of choice for medicinal purposes. It's many uses include the following:
The menthol in peppermint soothes the lining of the digestive tract an stimulates the production of bile, which is an essential digestive fluid. A hot cup of herbal tea is an excellent way to settle your stomach after a big meal.
There is a very good reason that peppermint is the flavoring of choice for toothpaste. Peppermint is an excellent breath freshener. When using peppermint tea as a breath freshener, increase the effectiveness by adding a pinch of anise, caraway or cinnamon.
Peppermint is reputed to have the calming, sedative effect.
Menthol vapors are famous for relieving nasal, sinus and chest congestion. Remember those minty-smelling ointments your mother rubbed on your chest when you were a child with a cold? You can also get relief with a steaming cup of peppermint tea. For a more effective cold remedy, combine peppermint with elder flower and yarrow. For a hacking cough, drink 3 to four cups of cool peppermint tea throughout the day, taking a sip every 15 to 30 minutes.
To make peppermint tea, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes.
Pennyroyal, which is toxic when taken internally, has many other uses around the house.
Use in potpourri.
Return to Index
There are three types of mustard: Brassica niger, black mustard, which can grow to 10 feet; B. juncea, brown mustard, which grows to only 4½ feet; and B. alba, white mustard, a much milder form.
The pungency of the herb is due to an essential oil which forms only when the dry mustard powder is mixed with water. B. juncea (brown mustard) is the type most commonly grown today.
Brown mustard has a mass of small, four petaled yellow flowers that form a dense carpet over the fields where they grow. It originates from china, India and Poland.
Mustard is grown from seeds sown in spring. It likes a moist soil and a sunny location. Harvest the seedpods in late summer before they dry, and allow the seed to ripen in the pods. Store the seed in airtight jars, away form strong light.
Powdered mustard seed should be mixed with cold water. Hot water will kill the enzymes and produce a bitter flavor. Dry mustard powder is added to salad dressings to give them pungency, and also added to egg and cheese dishes and rubbed over meat before roasting. White mustard seed is a preservative used in pickling, either alone or as an ingredient in mixed pickling spice.
A mustard bath, where the powder is mixed with hot water, is comforting for sore and aching feet and relaxes and revives the entire body.
Return to Index
originates from the Mediterranean and is closely related to marjoram. Its
pungency is in direct proportion to the amount of sun it receives. It grows to a
height of about 8 inches with woody stems and dark green leaves around 3/4 inch
long. Small, white flowers are borne on long spikes.
The plant demands a well-drained soil in full sun. Plant seeds in warm soil in late spring or in pots or seed trays under glass in mid-spring. Plants can be moved outdoors when the temperatures are expected to remain above 45 degrees. Oregano is best treated as an annual in cold climates where it will not overwinter well. When grown as a perennial, roots should be divided every 3 years for best growth and flavor. Older plants It will do well as a potted plant as long as it receives lots of sun. As with most herbs, remove dead wood and flowers as necessary.
Begin harvesting the leaves and stem tips when plants are 4 to 5 inches high. The flavor will improve after the flower buds form, just before flowering. To harvest, cut the stem tops down to the first two sets of leaves. New stems and shoots will grow, producing second and sometimes third crops. Dry the leaves in a warm, dry, shaded place, and store them in an airtight container.
For the best flavor, add oregano in the last few minutes of cooking. The flavor can become bitter if cooked more than 30 minutes. Add it to salads, casseroles, soups, sauces, pates and poultry dishes. Dried oregano is especially good with tomatoes, beans, eggplant, zucchini and rice dishes such as pilaf and risotto.
Return to Index
(Petroselinum crispum )
Parsley is one of the best known and most widely used herbs. It is actually a biennial, but is usually cultivated as an annual because the first year leaves have the best flavor. The crisp, tight foliage of the curly parsley is the most attractive variety to use fresh as a garnish, but the flat-leaved Italian parsley has a superior flavor when cooked. The curly variety grows 10 to 12 inches tall and the Italian about 18 inches, although a dwarf variety is available. In the second year, 2-foot-tall flower stalks appear, and their blossoms ripen into seeds. Seeds collected from second year plants and dried thoroughly will keep for two or three years.
Parsley grows well in Zones 3-10. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade. Plant in a rich soil amended with manure or compost. The soil should be well-drained and the pH should be neutral to acid.
Sow seeds outdoors in the very early spring or in the late fall just before the soil freezes. Gardeners in climates with hot summers will have better results planting in the fall. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep, and be prepared for a wait since germination can take six to eight weeks. (Legend has it that parsley seeds go nine times to the devil and back before germinating.) It will go a little faster if seeds are soaked in lukewarm water for 24 hours before planting. Keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated. Thin seedlings to three inches apart when they are two to three inches high. Allow plants to spread until they touch, then pull and use every other plant. Continue harvesting alternate plants until they stand a foot apart.
Parsley leaves can be harvested as soon as the plant is 6 inches tall. Leaves can be refrigerated for use fresh, or they can be frozen. Both varieties of parsley can be grown indoors as pot plants on a sunny windowsill. The dark green foliage also looks nice planted among flowers. Outdoor plants can be potted in late summer and brought indoors to grow on a cool, sunny window sill, where they will produce fresh leaves for harvesting all winter. Dig deeply when potting your plants to get as much of the long taproot as possible.
Return to Index
Rosemary is an attractive evergreen shrub with pine needle-like leaves. It's trusses of blue flowers last through spring and summer in a warm, humid environment. It will grow to a height of between 3 and 5 feet.
Propagate from cuttings of the twisted wood of non-flowering branches in early summer, or layer established branches. Rosemary can also be grown from seed. Choose a sheltered position and well-drained soil, and allow the plant lots of sun. The thick shrub tolerates clipping so that the size can be kept in check. In hot weather it will appreciate a good hosing down. In a warm climate it can remain in the same location for up to 30 years, but in climates where freezing temperatures are expected it is best grown in pots so that it can be brought indoors in winter.
History and Tradition
The botanical name Rosmarinus is derived form the old Latin for 'dew of the sea', a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it is often grown near the sea. It is a symbol or remembrance and friendship, and is often carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity.
Tradition says that rosemary will grow for thirty-three years, until it reaches the height of Christ when he was crucified, then it will die. Sprigs of rosemary were placed under pillows at night to ward off evil spirits and bad dreams. The wood was used to make lutes and other musical instruments.
We continue to use rosemary in many of the same ways that our ancestors did: in potpourris to freshen the air, and in cosmetics, disinfectants and shampoos.
Rosemary for Remembrance
Scientists at the University of Cincinnati say that the scent of rosemary is an effective memory stimulant. This might make a nice potted plant for your desk at work, or where the kids do their homework!
The leaves can be harvested any time. Harvest no more than you can use fresh, as they loose most of their flavor when dried.
Cancer Prevention Properties
Several studies done in the last several years show that oil from the leaves of the very plant sold as a spice for flavoring can help prevent the development of cancerous tumors in laboratory animals. One study, led by Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, showed that applying rosemary oil to the skin of experimental animals reduced their risk of cancer to half that found in animals that did not receive the application of oil. In other studies by the same research team, animals whose diets contained some rosemary oil had about half the incidence of colon cancer or lung cancer compared with animals not eating rosemary. And researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana found that rosemary cut by half the incidence of breast cancer in animals at high risk for developing the disease. Future studies will demonstrate whether these properties extend to humans as well.
Though these experiments have used rosemary oil to test the effectiveness in preventing cancer, the oil should not be taken internally. Even small doses can cause stomach, kidney and intestinal problems, and large amounts may be poisonous. Use a tea instead. Pregnant women should not use the herb medicinally, although it's okay to use it as a seasoning.
Other Medicinal Properties
Rosemary helps to relax muscles, including the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus. Because of this property it can be used to soothe digestive upsets and relieve menstrual cramps. When used in large amounts it can have the opposite effect, causing irritation of the intestines and cramps. A tea made form the leaves is also taken as a tonic for calming nerves and used as an antiseptic.
Rosemary makes a pleasant-tasting tea. Use one teaspoon of crushed dried leaves in a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes.
Use an infusion as a rinse to lighten blond hair, and to condition and tone all hair. Try mixing an infusion half and half with shampoo to strengthen hair.
An infusion can also be used as an invigorating toner and astringent. Rosemary added to a bath strengthens and refreshes, especially when used following an illness.
Rosemary and lamb go well together. Make slits in lamb for roasting and tuck in sprigs of the herb. Place larger sprigs over chops for grilling and use chopped leaves sparingly in soups and stews. Use rosemary in bouquets garnis and sparingly with fish and in rice dishes.
Use the dried leaves as potpourri and in sachets to scent clothes and linen and deter moths.
Rosemary is grown as a companion plant for cabbage, beans carrots and sage. It helps to deter cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies.
Return to Index
Sage is a decorative evergreen shrub with downy foliage that varies in color from gray to gray-green, with one variety producing deep purple leaves. The camphor scented, purple-blue flowers, which appear in mid-summer are exceptionally attractive. Plants can reach a height of 2 feet with a spread of 18 inches.
Sage prefers a sunny location with alkaline soil. It grows best in a warm climate. Propagate from summer cuttings taken with a heel or by layering established branches in spring and fall. Seed is unreliable and slow to flower. Keep the plant well pruned to encourage young shoots with a strong flavor. Pruning also keeps the plants from becoming leggy and twiggy.
Use in sauces and stuffings for fatty meats such as goose, duck, pork and sausage.
In Italy, the fresh leaves are lightly fried with liver, and rolled up with ham and veal in saltimbocca.
In Germany and Belgium, the leaves are added to eel and other oily fish dishes.
In Middle Eastern countries the leaves are used liberally in salads.
Leaves can be strewn in bathwater and in rinsewater to enhance dark hair.
Because of its antiseptic qualities, sage tea is used as a gargle for a sore throat. There's also compelling new research indicating that sage may be of value to people with diabetes. Laboratory studies indicate that sage may boost insulin's action. Sage was among 24 herbs tested that were found to boost insulin activity two- to fivefold or more in patients with Type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes. For people who have diabetes, this means that drinking sage tea in conjunction with their insulin treatments is worth a try.
To make a tea, pour a cup of boiling water over one to two teaspoons of dried leaves and steep for ten minutes. If you have diabetes, it would be a good idea to discuss using sage with your doctor. For sore throat, allow the tea to cool till warm, then gargle as needed.
Dark sage leaves are an attractive addition to potpourri.
Return to Index
|St. John's Wort
This tough little perennial shrub grows 12-36 inches tall and is covered with pretty, fragrant yellow flowers from mid to late summer. The flowers have 5 petals and clusters of feathery gold stamens. The dark green leaves have oil glands which look like tiny perforations on their undersides.
St. John's wort is usually propagated from runners in the autumn or by seed sown early in the spring. The plant does best when planted on an average soil and prefers dappled shade or full sun. the plants grow rapidly but are short lived, usually lasting only five or six years. Because of their dense, compact habit of growth they rarely need pruning, but if it is necessary to cut off deadwood, do so in early spring. New plants can be started from softwood cuttings of young growth in late spring or early summer.
Cut flowers when fully open and pick leaves as required. Always harvest before the heat of the day.
Use caution as this plant can cause photosensitivity in some people.
Many clinical trials show Saint-John's-wort to be useful in treating mild depressive states. Studies in 3,250 patients found improvement or total freedom from symptoms in about 80% of the cases treated, with only 15% not responding.
In Germany, the most popular prescription drug of any type, natural or synthetic, for the treatment of mild depression is a concentrated extract of the flowers and leaves of Saint-John's-wort, often simply called hypericum. There, just under 200,000 prescriptions per month are filled for a single brand (Jarsin), compared with about 30,000 per month for fluoxetine (Prozac). This figure does not include sales of other hypericum products, whether they are prescribed or self-selected. Approximately 80% of the sales are prescriptions, which allows their cost to be reimbursed by the German health-insurance system.
When preparing St. John's Wort grown in your garden, use two to four grams of dried herb daily. The herb can be prepared as a tea. Both leaves and flowers are used.
For medicinal use, prepare a tincture or infusion of the aerial parts.
It is useful as a wound healer, encouraging the formation of granulation tissue and promoting nerve repair.
Taken internally, the red oil from the plant helps to heal stomach ulcers.
Take an infusion or tincture internally for rheumatism, or massage the oil into the joint.
Treats nerve-related disorders such as neuralgia, sciatica and shingles.
Eases symptoms of menopause.
The oil is good to use topically for wounds, sunburn, burns, and post-operative scars.
In Germany it is traditionally used for colic, aches and pains, inflammation of the digestive tract and bed-wetting.
Return to Index
Thyme is a perennial native to the Mediterranean. It is hardy to zone five, but is prone to disease and insect infestation in the deep south. Southern gardeners may want to grow thyme indoors in containers so that conditions may be carefully controlled. Most varieties grow to only six to twelve inches in height, and they make an attractive edging for the perennial border. Leaves are dark gray-green in color, and pale pink flowers bloom at the tips of the stems in summer.
You can start thyme from seeds to get a wider selection of varieties. Most nurseries carry transplants in spring and summer. It prefers a sandy, dry soil and plenty of sun. If your soil is acidic, add some lime. If you live in a very cold climate, protect the plants in winter by mulching heavily. Once established, the only care will be regular pruning of the plants and removal of dead flowers and pruning to remove old wood.
Leaves can be harvested for fresh use throughout the summer, but the flavor is best just before flowering. To dry, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang in small bunches. Harvest sparingly the first year.
Thyme has a strong piquant or lemony flavor. For fresh use, the flavor is best just before flowering.
Enhance the flavor of meat, fish and poultry dishes with thyme.
For chicken and fish marinades, bruise fresh sprigs of thyme and tarragon, and combine with red-wine vinegar and olive oil.
Use in herb butters and cottage cheese.
It is safe to use thyme as a seasoning during pregnancy, but strong medicinal doses should be avoided if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
Thyme was grown in monastery gardens in southern France and in Spain and Italy during the Middle Ages for use as a cough remedy, digestive aid and treatment for intestinal parasites.
A solution of thyme's most active ingredient, thymol, thyme's most active ingredient, is used in such over-the-counter products as Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its well-known antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thymol apparently also has a therapeutic effect on the lungs. Ingesting or inhaling the oil helps to loosen phlegm and relax the muscles in the respiratory tract.
In Germany, concoctions of thyme are frequently prescribed for coughs, including those resulting from whooping cough, bronchitis and emphysema. In the United States, thyme extract was included in a popular cough syrup, Pertussin, that is no longer on the market. Thyme is used in herbal teas prepared for colds and flus. In addition, thyme has antifungal properties and can be used against athlete's foot.
To make a tea, use two teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Add sage to the tea if you have a nagging cough. The Food and Drug Administration includes thyme on its list of herbs generally regarded as safe, but large doses may cause intestinal problems. If you experience diarrhea or bloating, cut back on the amount you're using or discontinue use altogether.
A stronger tea is useful as a mouthwash or rinse to treat sore gums.
Return to Index
Yarrow has been valued since ancient times for its ability to stop bleeding, hence its folk name "nosebleed." Today, yarrow is valued for its ability to fight off colds and flu. It is also an ingredient in many herbal cosmetics. Dried and cut flowers are used in arrangements.
Flowers heads are flat and 2" to 6" across on 2' to 5' stems. Colors include white, yellow, gold, pink and red. The aromatic foliage is green or gray.
Yarrow is an undemanding plant that thrives even in poor soil but does best in a sunny position with good drainage and light soil. Yarrow grows well in zones 3-8 with some cultivars extending to zone 10. Plants are susceptible to disease in humid areas.
Propagate from seeds, by root division or from woody cuttings taken in autumn or spring. They can take a year or two to establish themselves from seed. Place the plants 1-2 feet apart and divide the clumps when they become crowded. Taller cultivars may need to be staked, especially if grown in very fertile soil.
Mildew is a fungal disease which causes grayish downy spots on leaves. Plants which do not have adequate sunshine or air circulation, or those grown in humid climates are most susceptible. Spray with sulfur early in the morning while foliage is still slightly moist with dew. Badly infected plants should be cut down and destroyed.
Do not use yarrow during pregnancy, for undiagnosed bleeding, or for more than two weeks.
Use flowers, leaves and stems.
A piece of the plant held against a wound will staunch bleeding.
An infusion can help to break a fever.
A tea made from yarrow with peppermint and elderflower can be used to fight colds and flu.
Yarrow can be of benefit in mild cystitis.
Improves circulation by acting as a vasodilator.
Lowers blood pressure.
Adds color to a border. The flat heads add contrast to mounding or spiky plants.
Use in fresh arrangements.
Makes attractive dried flowers if cut before the sun bleaches them. To dry the flowers, cut them at their peak before they start to fade and hang them head-down in clusters of six to 12 in a dry, airy place out of the sun.
Fragrant addition to potpourri.