Real Food Revival: Expanding Your Herb Garden
This year I’m expanding the herb garden because I want to have more available to us for those sniffles and belly aches. Herbs are nothing new to me. I used to own Shady Side Herb Farm in Coram where I grew thousands of basil plants for local restaurants, as well as thousands of other herbs and flowers. But I never got very deep into it. That’s changing as I’m working with Jennephyr Reiche- Sterling who is a fabulous herbalist and teacher. She’s definitely opening my awareness of what these wonderful plants are capable of in terms of improving and maintaining our health.
Part of the learning process is harvesting what I already have. I can send the boys out to pick chamomile, and it’ll keep them busy for a long time. I love it! I also need to start picking raspberry leaves, yarrow, lovage, mint and oregano because it’s all ready now.
Here are some other herbs I have in the garden:
Echinacea – This is a well-known herb (also called coneflower) used to fight the cold and generally boost the immune system. Years ago when I took horses into a camp while filming for National Geographic another guest came down with a nasty cold. Since I’m a walking medicine cabinet, I was quick to offer her the Nyquil I had in my bag of goodies, as well as Echinacea capsules. She was from Germany, and shocked I had Echinacea with me. She said if she were to go to a pharmacist in Germany, that’s what they would’ve given her. Most use the herb in either a tincture or decoction.
Astralagus – This one is right up there with Echinacea on being a stellar herb to boost the immunity. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The root is used for conditions such as diabetes, colds, flu, heart disease and possibly the side effects from chemotherapy.
Licorice – When I had a sore throat as a kid I always chewed on licorice root. Aunt Francie had a little gift and herb shop called Catnip Corner, and she gave me several “sticks” of it to keep handy. It works great, and is super sweet. I like to have licorice root around to make a tea or tincture for the same reasons.
Chamomile – This is the go-to herb for belly aches. I love it that the boys automatically ask for it when they don’t feel well, and thankfully it’s a very prolific grower. Plus, sending the boys out to pick off the pretty white and yellow blossoms is a great way to keep them busy for at least a half an hour. We simply make a tea out of it, and add honey to make it taste even better.
Wood Betony – Jennephyr recommended this one, and I started an extra plant to give to her. It’s in the mint family, and from what I understand is very good for stress and headaches. It’s also good in a poultice for wounds. Right now I have it growing in the ground in the greenhouse to protect it from our nasty windy and erratic weather, but hopefully once it is established I’ll be able to move it out in the new herb garden.
Feverfew – Along with wood betony, feverfew is known for its help in relieving headaches, as well. From what I understand it dilates the blood vessels.
Elecampane – Right now it’s very small, but supposedly it’ll grow over 5 feet tall. Elecampane is a member of the sunflower and ragweed family that is good to relieve congestion, as well as stimulate the digestive system.
Horehound – I grew horehound growing up, but my siblings were never impressed with the “candy” I made from it. It takes a lot of sugar (or honey) to make this stuff palatable because it’s very bitter, but it’s excellent for coughs.
Marshmallow – This is on my list for plants to acquire since it’s a well-known mucilage that coats the throat or stomach. It’s a good anti-inflammatory.
Comfrey – I want to plant this underneath my fruit trees to help break up the soil, as well as pull up minerals from the soil. The thought is the comfrey brings calcium and other minerals with its deep tap root, then when I cut the leaves and allow them to compost on the soil around the fruit trees it makes the nutrients available to the tree. Comfrey, which is also called bone knit, is very good for external wounds, but should not be taken internally.
Little by little the herb garden will grow. Hopefully, I can keep up with building enough space to accommodate the numerous varieties, as well as to give them all enough room to grow. I need to harvest so I’m going to need a lot.