With spring just around the corner I'm starting to think about what I want to grow in my garden this year. Looking out at my front porch where I keep my container garden, I think it's going to need some attention and a refresh. I love being able to go outside my door and pick fresh parsley or chives to put into dishes I'm cooking. Fresh herbs are great for adding flavor and some can also be used as natural medicine for common ailments like colds/flu, stress, insomnia, anxiety, and digestive issues. Bees also love many commonly grown herbs so plant some for them to help keep their populations healthy too.
Parsley - This is one that I use in almost every dish I cook and it's nice to have it near the house in a container so you can just step outside and trim a stalk or two when you need it. The bright green leaves can be added to almost any dish including soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta. Parsley can take a while to start from seed so planting starts may be easier. Bees love it so plant some that you let flower and one that you'll use as a culinary herb. Parsley is very nutritious and has diuretic properties where it's used for high blood pressure and water retention.
Mint - I've included both peppermint and spearmint in this category. Mints are very easy to grow and will spread easily so I'd recommend growing these in a container. Mints like moist soil and will tolerate some shade. The essential oils in both peppermint and spearmint are great for improving digestion, relieving nausea, and reducing gas and bloating. Peppermint may worsen reflux for some people so if that's something you deal with, try spearmint instead.
Chamomile - There are two types of chamomile that you may come across: Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) and German (Matricaria chamomilla). They can be used interchangeably. Both types have cute little daisy-like flowers and are easy to grow in sunny conditions. You can pick the flower heads and use them as a sedative for relaxation, insomnia, and to calm anxiety and nervousness. Chamomile is slightly bitter and can help settle the stomach and relieve indigestion and bloating. This is a gentle herb that is safe for kids.
Sage, thyme & rosemary - I put these three herbs together because you can grow them near each other or in one large container. Being Mediterranean herbs, they like dry, sandy soil and lots of sunshine. Sage is great for seasoning meat and poultry and can be used for congestion and sore throat. Butterflies and bees love thyme and it makes an excellent antimicrobial for respiratory issues like sinusitis, colds and flu. Rosemary is great as a rub for pork and lamb and has traditionally been used for enhancing memory, improving circulation and for promoting hair growth.
Lavender - I live in Sequim, Washington, the Lavender Capital of North America, so I'm sort of biased towards this herb. If you've ever walked through a lavender field you'll know how much bees love this plant! Lavender comes in many different varieties and shades of purple. I've even seen a beautiful pale pink variety that looks almost white. This herb is also a Mediterranean plant and likes full sun and dry, sandy soil. The essential oils in lavender makes it great for relieving stress, anxiety and promoting restful sleep.
Catnip - This herb may attract cats to your yard, but it's easy to grow and has soft, fuzzy leaves. Even though it may make your cat go crazy, it has a relaxing effect on people, making it great for relieving nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. It also acts as a digestive aid for indigestion, gas, bloating and diarrhea. It's a gentle herb that is safe for kids for reducing a fever, useful during teething and for colic. Let some of your catnip flower for the bees because they love the tiny flowers!
Chives - These taste so much better picked fresh and grow easily in a patch of the garden or as a container plant. The flowers look like purple "pom-poms" that bees love so let some of your chives flower for them. You can cut some of the green stalks before they flower to add a mild garlic-onion flavor to soup, eggs, and tuna or chicken salad. I like to add it to mayo with dijon mustard and use it as a sandwich spread.
Lemonbalm - This is another easy-to-grow herb in the mint family that bees love. The leaves have a wonderful lemon scent. Lemonbalm makes a tasty tea especially when paired with lemon and honey. Lemonbalm is useful for relaxation, relieving nervousness and anxiety, and has antiviral benefits.
This year as you plan your garden I hope you'll consider adding some of these culinary and medicinal herbs! Try out parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and chives for seasoning your food and mint, chamomile, lavender, catnip and lemonbalm as natural remedies for soothing digestive and respiratory issues, anxiety, insomnia and colds/flu. Many of these herbs are easy to grow in the ground or a container garden and pollinators like butterflies and bees love them. Happy gardening!
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Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality. North Adams, MA: Storey, 2001. Print.
Old Farmer's Almanac. “The Old Farmer's Almanac.” Old Farmer's Almanac, Yankee Publishing Inc, www.almanac.com/.
"Purveyor of Sustainable Organic Ingredients." Bulk Organic Herbs, Spices & Essential Oils – Mountain Rose Herbs. www.mountainroseherbs.com. 13 Mar. 2019.
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