The robins have arrived. I can see them through the falling snow.
As promised here is the garden plan for my largest garden. Click here to view it. It sits in the middle of a large field that enjoys great sunshine. I call it my Mandala. It is in the shape of a simple labyrinth.
After consulting with two dear friends Nancy and Mimi, who are wonderful cooks and knowledgeable about the medicinal and health value of herbs, I have decided to significantly increase the space given over to a greater variety of herbs that will be available fresh and dried in Hestia’s Garden Shop. The choices were made either because of their sheer beauty and wonderful aroma but also because they can make tinctures, dry wonderfully and serve as delectable flavorings in foods.
Have you noticed the price on herbs when browsing the grocery store shelves? The prices take ones breath away! I want to know where my herbs come from and that they are herbicide and insecticide free. Many of these herbs bring beneficial insects into the garden, ward off unwanted plant predators, help fix nitrogen in the soil and/or bring out the flavor of other vegetables.
Much of the herb descriptions below are taken from The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening by Reader’s Digest
SOME COMMON HERBS & THEIR USES
Angelica – Tall perennial with green and white flowers – use stems to decorate cakes and pastry. Leaves are good in salads as substitute for celery. Chopped leaves can replace some sugar in fruit pies. Brew seeds into a sweet tea.
Basil – Annual in New York. Use leaves in soups, sauces, salads, omelets and with meat, poultry and fish and as a base for pesto.
Borage – Star shaped flowers of sky blue, pink or lavender. Bees love this plant. Teas brewed with borage leaves are a source of courage. Good companion plant for strawberries and in fruit orchards. It’s repellent to tomato worms. Young leaves good in salads due to their cucumber flavor. Candy flowers may be used for pastry decoration or float in wine or punch.
Caraway – Seeds are supposed to aid digestion, strengthen vision and improve memory, cure baldness, stop a lover’s fickleness and prevent theft of any objects containing them. These tangy flavored seeds are delicious with pork, lamb and veal. It helps reduce the cooking odor of cabbage. Young leaves are good in soup and salads. Older leaves can be cooked like spinach.
Dill – This is a good companion plant for cabbage. Avoid planting near carrots. Use dried or fresh leaves (known as dill weed) to flavor fish, soups, salads, meat, poultry, omelets and potatoes. Seeds can be used as leaves but use sparingly as flavor is stronger. And of course, great in homemade dill pickles.
Fennel – Use in fish, pork and veal dishes as well as in salads and soups. Fennel seeds, because of their sharper flavor, should be used sparingly in sauerkraut, spaghetti sauce, chili, and hearty soups.
Hyssop – This is just a beautiful plant that attracts bees and butterflies. It has a musky odor and flower spikes may be blue, pink or white appearing in mid-summer. Leaves can be bitter. If brewing the tea, best sweetened with honey.
Mint – I will be planting spearmint. It will be placed in a container to prevent it from invading the rest of the mandala. Mints are excellent as a garnish for cold drinks. Spearmint is often used to make a mint sauce or jelly. Dried or fresh leaves can be placed over lamb before cooking.
Oregano – Ancient herbalists used it to aid digestion, stimulate appetite (Oh, no!), and act as a purgative (laxative). Dried leaves are used in Spanish and Mexican dishes, especially in meat and tomato sauces. It is used in salad, stews, stuffings, egg and cheese dishes and with fish.
Parsley – Interplant with roses and tomatoes to enhance vigor of both. Used since antiquity to sweeten breath. Leaves are used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles and omelets. Use as a garnish with meat, fish and onion dishes. It is best to freeze rather than dry to retain flavor.
Rosemary – These are hard to start from seed so best to buy young plants. Good with fish, poultry and meats. Use sparingly in soups, stews, sauces and vegetables. Add to boiling water when cooking rice. Brew for a tasty tea.
Sage – It has been a medicinal herb since antiquity. It was prescribed for ailments of blood, brain, heart, liver and stomach and as a cure for epilepsy and fever and as a preventative of plague. It is a repellent to white cabbage butterflies, carrot flies and ticks. Avoid growing near annual flower beds as it inhibits growth.
Tarragon, French – Best to start from nursery plants. This is a hardy perennial to Zone 4. It is a little less flavorful than Russian tarragon. Chop the anise-flavored leaves for use in soups, salads, egg dishes, stews and soft cheese. It’s excellent with lamb. Serve in melted butter with fish, steak and vegetables. It makes a good flavoring for vinegar when leaves are steeped for 2 to 3 weeks.
Thyme, Common – Great edging plant that has small, lilac-colored flowers that appear in late spring and summer. It attracts bees and makes excellent honey. This is another ancient medicinal herb as it yields an oil called thymol that is used in antiseptics, deodorants, and cough drops. It may repel the cabbage butter fly. Rub the dry or fresh chopped leaves on beef, lamb, veal or pork before roasting. It may be sprinkled over eggs, cheese dishes, vegetables, fish and poultry. It may be added to soups, stews, stuffing and rice. Combined with rosemary and mint, it can be brewed as a tea. Again, it is best to purchase nursery-grown plants.