I Love My Herbs:
I find herb growing to be a very enjoyable and delightful experience. There’s nothing quite like taking a stroll through the herb garden on a warm summers’ day, than bending over and crushing some aromatic leaves in your fingers.
Most herbs are very easy to grow and very forgiving plants even if slightly neglected. I did say ‘most’ herbs because there are some that are far more difficult to grow and can be healthy one day and dying the next.
I decided to write about some more common herbs available to the avid gardener and tried to keep the inclusions to those plants that the beginner gardener would find easier to grow. I did include some more difficult species, simply because I can’t help myself and I thought you might find them interesting.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I do intend to add more varieties and construct a far more comprehensive guide in an ebook I am developing. However, that’s for the future. In the meantime this current blog, “Herbs for the Garden” will cover a selected variety from A to C.
I am currently developing further blogs covering the remainder of those plants that I have selected for you from A to Z. All these blogs will form parts 1 to 8 of a series.
PART 1. Herbs For The Garden.
If you’re a beginner Gardener I wouldn’t encourage you to grow all the herbs listed in this article. Start of with the basic species that you will be able to use in your day to day lives. Herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, sage and rosemary are all used in day to day cooking and are some easiest varieties to grow.
Fresh herbs are always far better to utilize in cooking than dried ones. Often we don’t really know just how old the dried varieties are. They may have package ‘use by dates’ on them, but who knows how long they would have been in storage before being packaged.
We will begin part one of “Herbs for the garden” with The A to C of Herbs.
A to C of Herbs.
Latin Name: anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Common names: aniseed, sweet fennel, sweet cumin, anis vert or yank.
The plant has a hollow stem and alternately arranged leaves. The lower leaves are feathered with round toothed edges while the upper leaves are feathered progressively towards the top of the plant.
The anise plant usually produces umbels of bright white flowers and flat, oval, hairy fruit which has a single seed.
The plant can reach a height of between 1 to 2 feet (45 to 60 cm), depending on the soil structure and climatic zone, and is an annual plant that survives for one season only,
The anise seeds are usually brownish to grey-green and develop on long stems that are ribbed and ovate and measure 2 to 4 cm long. There are two styles of leaves on the plants, those at the base are simple, 1 to 2 in (1–5 cm) long and shallowly lobed.
The leaves higher up on the stems have a feathery appearance with each leaf divided into numerous small leaflets. The leaves omit a delicious licorice and sweet fennel aroma during the warmth of the day.
The Anise plant originates from the Eastern Mediterranean and South West Asian regions. It was highly sought after and cultivated for its egg shaped fruits, or seeds, which have a licorice flavor.
The anise plant is used primarily in Europe to flavor biscuits and cakes, and is also used to flavor savory foods, fish soups and root vegetable dishes.
The leaves can be eaten in salads, with vegetables and some cheeses. The seeds are also used to flavor some strong alcoholic liquors.
B). Medicinal/ Aromatherapy:
The essential oil produced from the seed has many known to have many medical benefits. The fragrant oil known as anethole is utilized in scented oils and soaps. It is also incorporated into many herbal medicines and is known to alleviate stomach pains as well as being anti viral and being useful in destroying, or controlling, many of the bad bacterial pathogens.
In ancient times it was supposed to have had Magical usage. Traditional believers used anise, especially in the Roman era, to avert evil. The fresh leaves of the Anise herb would be placed in a room to drive off evil spirits.
This plant develops umbels of very pretty, lace like, flowers that grow on tall hollow stems that can reach up to two feet or more in height. It is an ideal ornamental plant that would look good centrally placed in any cottage or herbal garden. The flowers have a remarkable resemblance to the “Queen Anne’s Lace’ plant.
The Anise plant thrives best in a tropical climate with temperatures that lies between 6 and 24-degree Celsius. It doesn’t tolerate frost very well.
The plant will thrive in a sunny position in the garden, preferring full sun.
Anise will grow in many soil types as long as the ground is well-prepared, free draining and has plenty of rich organic matter incorporated into it.
PH levels of between 6 to 7 are preferred, however, it can survive in slightly lower or higher levels.
Anise is best grown from seed and planted directly into a previously prepared location in the garden plot where you want it to grow. This plant doesn’t transplant well and those seedlings that are transplanted usually don’t survive.
The developing plant will need regular watering, at least until the plants are fully established. Once established they will tolerate long periods of dry weather.
The Anise plant may be harvested in August to September when the flowers go to seed. You can place the seed heads into a paper bag left hanging in a dry place and away from vermin. Once the seeds fall out you will be able to either store them in a dry, dark, cool place until spring for replanting, or utilize them in your cooking or for oil production.
The leaves of the plant can be harvested at any time during the growing season and used in salads or food recipes.
Latin Name: Angelica archangelica
Common Names: Angelica, Garden Angelica, Archangel, Alexanders.
Angelica is part of a Genus of approximately sixty species of either biennial or perennial herbs that are native to the temperate and subtropical regions of the northern hemisphere.
For the sake of simplicity and the fact that it is the most widely used of the genus, I will be discussing Angelica archangelica in this article.
Angelica is a biennial herb that grows to a height varying from 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters).
However, it can display perennial characteristics if the flowers are cut off before they die. By doing this the plants life can be increased by a number of years.
The large leaves of this plant divide into tooth like segments, and greenish white flowers form a ball on top of the tall stalks. These balls can grow to 6 inches(10 to 15 cms) across.
The stems of Angelica are often candied and used in cake decoration.
The leaves can be added to salads adding a slightly sweet, licorice flavor.
The roots are often treated as a vegetable and make a delicious addition to any meal.
Much the same as ‘Orris’, the roots are also used as a fixative for making potpourri, other parts of the plant, including the flowers, can also be dried and used in the mixture.
The leaves and seed can be made into a tea to use as an elixir to treat colds and arthritic pains.
Because of the height of this plant when in flower, it can be used as a ‘backdrop’ plant in any cottage garden setting. The flowers are an attractant to bees and other beneficial predatory insects.
This beautiful herb prefers cool climates but will grow in most temperate zones if protected during hot summers’. If you are living in a warmer zone and wish to try growing Angelica, plant it in a light but cooler, shaded part of the garden.
Ideally it’s wise to situate this plant in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
Angelica thrives in a well drained, healthy, rich soil. Make sure that you keep the soil moist but not wet.
The best pH levels are those between 6 to 6.5.
This striking herb is best grown from seed. However, the seed should be sown while still fresh and either directly into the area you want the plant to grow, or It can be grown in seedling trays and transplanted later. Angelica self seeds readily in cooler climates.
The leaves and stems of this versatile plant can be harvested at any time during the growing season before flowering occurs.
If you’re after the seeds they can be harvested when they begin to brown. Place the whole head of the flower ball into a brown paper bag and leave in a dry, cool place.
Some people have had success when leaving the heads hanging from a drying rake in full sun for a few hours before placing them in the bag. This way you can be sure the heads are properly dried and won’t encourage mold.
Latin Names: Melissa officinalis
Common Names: sweet balm, honey plant, cure-all, or lemon balm
The Balm plant is a member of the aromatic herbs of the mint family Lamiaceae . It is perennial herbaceous plant that is native to south-central Europe and the Mediterranean.
The leaves of this herb have blunt tips, while the base is wedge-shaped to round. The foliage has a natural lemon fragrance and bland taste, although this varies with the cultivar.
Balm is a clumping plant that grows from 30cms to 90cms (1 to 3 ft) in height. The blooming period usually occurs from the late spring to late summer.
Often only a few flowers bloom at the same time on an individual plant, which suggests blooming spreads over a rather long period.
The young fresh leaves from balm are used in milk puddings or fruits salads.
The herb is also used as a flavoring agent in some alcoholic beverages and liqueurs and in herbal teas.
B). Medical/ Aromatherapy.
The leaves of the balm bush are used to clean sores, preventing infection, and for easing the pain of gout. It induces perspiration and makes a soft cooling teal that is used by feverish patients in the cases of catarrh or influenza. Other uses are for mental performances, alleviating depression, restlessness and more.
Dried leaves are another ingredient often used in potpourris.
This plant rarely flowers out of its own climatic zone. However, it does grow well in other regions and is a useful little border plant. There is a variegated variety available that at least gives some foliage color.
Balm is another versatile plant that is said to prefer hot dry summers and cool to cold winters. It can however tolerate both cold and heat if grown in the correct part of the garden. In temperate Zones the plants tend to die of in winter and return in spring.
Balm can tolerate direct sunlight but thrives in shade. Try to avoid growing the plant in full sun in regions that experience spells of long hot sunny weather. The plant will grow far more succulent in a shady position.
Balm plant prefers fertile clay or sandy loam soil that is well drained. Lemon balm prefers rich moist soil and partial shade. It can tolerate direct sunlight but the leaves may yellow slightly during hot summers in full sun, plants grown in shade tend to be larger and more succulent. Lemon balm
This herb can tolerate a relative wide pH range that is between 5.6 and 9.0, but has a preferred range of between 6.0 to 7.5.
Lemon balm is very easily propagated from seeds. Simply place the seeds where you want them to grow in the garden, cover only very lightly, water in and they well grow for you.
Once the clumps have established you are able to dig them up and divide them to provide you with an abundance of new plants. You can than give some away to your family and friends.
They also grow easily from cuttings, but this is probably not a very economical way to produce them as they grow so easily from the other methods I’ve mentioned.
Latin Names: Ocimum Basilicum.
Common Names: Basil, Sweet Basil, St Josephs Wort, common Basil.
I love everything about this incredible herb, from the wonderful aroma you can create when squeezing the leaves on a hot summers day, to the delicious flavors it releases when used in various food dishes.
Basil is another easy to grow plant that should have prize of place in either your herb, vegetable or ornamental garden.
Originally it was considered a perennial in its native country of India. However, today basil is grown around the world and treated as an annual in most climatic conditions.
Basil is a tasty herb that is widely used in many kitchen dishes but best known for its flavor enhancing qualities in pasta dishes when teamed up with oregano or marjoram.
You can use it to either garnish a meal such as soup, or add to other dishes at the end of the cooking period.
B). Medical/ Aromatherapy:
The plant has also been used in both ancient times and modern, for the relief of stomach issues, loss of appetite, and as a balance for constipation or Diarrhea.
Although not known as an ornamental plant, I believe it looks great in any garden setting and can be used as a filler plant, or simply for its fantastic aroma. The little purplish white flowers it develops, will also help enhance the edgings of any cottage garden.
Basil is another one of those herbs that is often classified to suit particular climate zones. The truth is that it has adapted well, growing in many places around the world. The plant can be found doing well in the sub tropics and absolutely booming in colder climates.
I wouldn’t be afraid to try it in any zone, except maybe the northern arctic. The fact is that even in areas where it has a limited growing period, it is worthwhile trying it because the plant grows so fast that you will still get to harvest it I time.
You will than be able to dry any surplus to provide you with enough of the herb to last until the next season.
Basil loves full sun to part shade. I would simply grow it in an area where it will get enough light and sun without ever getting to hot or to cold. In other words, the hotter the climate you live in, the more shade you could allow it to live in.
This popular herb is easy to grow in most soil types as long as it is well drained, and compost or animal manures have been added to poorer soils.
Basil will grow easily in ph levels of between 5.5 to 6.5. Having said that, many people have reported success in ranges from 5 to 8.
This is one plant that germinates readily, so it is best grown from seed. You can plant them in a container or seedling tray first and than transplant into a suitable spot in the garden, or you can place the seed directly where you want them to grow.
Pick the leaves of this versatile plant during its growing season and use fresh in your food dishes, or harvest the whole plant before it bolts and dry the leaves in a ‘commercial style’ drier.
Latin Name: Lauris Nobilis.
Common Names: Sweet Bay, Bay, Laurel, Laurel Tree
What a wonderful herb to have in your collection. The humble bay tree makes a great center piece in any herb garden. It holds its own in a cottage or informal garden and can be hedged in a formal setting. This incredible plant is easy to grow and can handle a fair bit of neglect.
This true Laurel plant is an evergreen tree with small dark green leaves. It makes an excellent showpiece when grown directly in the garden or in a large pot, where it can be clipped and shaped according to your desire.
If grown directly, please remember that it can grow up 10 meters or 33 feet in height.
The Bay leaf is one of the ingredients used in making a ‘Bouquet garni’, which consists of a number of herbs either tied together with string, or placed in a small muslin bag, and placed in stews, soups or stock.
Many years ago my wife and I had great pleasure in constructing these little bags and selling them, along with other herb products, at a local market stall.
The leaves are also used individually in soups ,stews and when cooking corned meat or silverside. Some people recommend the use of dry leaves only, as they have reported a slightly bitter taste from fresh leaves. However, we have always used the fresh leaves with no real issues.
B). Medical/ Aromatherapy.
Bay leaves were, and still are, used in the production of ‘Potpourri’. These mixes consist of a variety of dried flowers and herbs, including rose petals, that are fixed together with Orris root powder. Unfortunately these sensational, aromatic products are rarely available today.
You are still able to purchase the synthetic varieties in most stores, but they don’t come close to matching those made naturally.
As already stated, these small trees look fantastic when grown in pots or the featured in a garden setting. They are easily shaped into hedges or utilized as a center piece in either the herb,vegetable or ornamental garden.
Although the Laurels home base is in the Mediterranean regions, it can be easily grown in most climatic zones. The plant is fully hardy in temperate to subtropical zones and can withstand cold conditions as well.
In the coldest areas its best to grow the herb in a pot and bring the plant indoors or into a hothouse during the worst of the winter weather.
The Bay tree prefers to be grown in full sun or partial shade. However, i extremely hot conditions I have seen it growing beautifully in areas that only receive morning sun.
Like most plants, the Bay tree prefers a well drained soil. It performs well in most soil types but doesn’t like heavy clay conditions that become easily waterlogged.
The laurel tree prefers a Ph level of between 6 to 8.
It is possible to grow the Bay tree from seed. However, seed can be both difficult to obtain and to germinate. Fortunately it is very easy to grow this plants from bot soft wood and hardwood cuttings. Hardwood is the easiest of the two methods available.
==>Click here to be directed to my blog on cuttings<==
It’s best to harvest leaves from trees that have had a chance to reach some level of maturity. Personally I would leave them for at least two years.
Pick the leaves once the morning dew, or any rain, has thoroughly dried off. But don’t leave it to long on a hot sunny day. Place the leaves on a drying rack . It is simple to construct one of these using and old fly screen door.
Leave the rack in a warm dry place, safe from insects and rodents, for approximately 2 weeks. Turn the leaves every few days and make sure they are kept out of direct sunlight.
Once dried, keep the leaves in an airtight jar or plastic zip lock bags. If the drying process is performed successfully, these leaves will last at least two years.
If drying the leaves seems like a daunting task, and you’re after quicker results, you can purchase a drier online.
CILANTRO or CORIANDER.
Latin Name: Coriandrum sativum.
Common Names: Chinese parsley, Kustumburi, Persil Arabe, Persil Mexican or Dhania which originates from India.
This unique herb is known by the two names depending on the part harvested. When the leaves are harvested, it is called cilantro, whereas if one harvests the seeds, they are referred to as coriander.
Cilantro leaves usually taste much different from the seeds. The plant has a deep flavor and odor. The herb produces an oval shaped fruit which has a yellow-brown color and consists of two seeds.
Both the seeds and leaves are used as flavoring agents in many recipes. Most often it is used when cooking salsa, fish or chicken dishes.
Cilantro is taken orally to treat cancer and to remove poisonous metals from the body such as lead, mercury or aluminum.
Coriander is used in natural medicine for digestive issues including nausea, diarrhea, intestinal gas and other stomach related issues. Other uses it has includes treatments for toothaches, worms and measles and for the control of infections caused by bacteria and fungi.
Although this is plant is not widely know as an ornamental plant, it can be placed in the garden as a filler. The pretty parsley like leaves gives the herb almost a fern like look and the small delicate white flowers, that adorn the top of the long stems, are an enhancement to any garden setting.
Coriander is basically a cool climate plant that will tolerate cold temperatures at frost levels. It also grows in area that have relatively hot summers and cool winters. However, if the temperature goes over about 85f (29c) the plant will bolt to seed.
This plant relishes full sun but will grow in semi shade in very hot regions where it protected from the afternoon sun.
Coriander grows to its optimum size and quality in well drained, sandy loam soils. But will also perform in other soil types if the drainage is sufficient and compost or fertilizers have been added.
Cilantro or coriander tends to grow within a relatively wide Ph range from 6.1 to 7.8, however the ideal range is 6.5 to 7.5.
It is best to grow this plant by seed placed directly where you want the plant to grow. However, it can also be grown in seedling trays in late winter and planted out when the danger of severe frosts is gone. Make sure you plant the seeds early as this way you can harvest the plant for the leaves before it bolts to seed.
The leaves can be harvested anytime during the growing season and added to you favorite recipes.
The coriander seeds early in the day when the dew had evaporated off. Don’t leave it to late as the hot sun can remove essential oils within the seed while it is drying. You can hang the long stems of the plant upside down preferably in a brown paper bag placed in a dark, well-ventilated room.
Shake the bag every now and than and the seeds will fall into the bottom of the bag. They should than be stored in an airtight jar where insects and rodents can’t feed on them.
PART 1 COMPLETE:
That covers my article on herbs from A to C. Please watch out for my nest blog that will include herbs from D to F.
The list of herbs mentioned here is by no means exhaustive. I do intend to construct an ebook on herbs from A to Z in the near future. The project could take at least a year to complete and will be far more comprehensive than the format used here and will cover many more varieties as well.
If you have any questions regarding this blog, or believe you can add to the knowledge provided, I would be more than happy to hear from you.
Please either leave your comments in the box provided below, or if you would like to make the discussion on a more private level, you can send me an email in the “Contact Us” tab at the top of the website.