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Plus a tea to give any shmuck of a virus a run for its money
There is a lot to love about herb gardens. Making one was the first thing I did on my land after connecting the water, because herbs are so flipping easy to grow. Herbs are usually hardier than other vegetables, and far less prone to pest attacks, so you can often just stick the lovelies in and let them go (my kind of gardening). Many herbs are actually pest deterrents.
Herbs are delicious of course, but they are also my first (and pretty much only) line of defence against disease. I am allergic to antibiotics, and plenty of other pharmaceuticals. So basically I have to make very sure I don’t end up at the doctor, because if you see a medic’s face when you tell them you have an antibiotic allergy, you soon work out they basically don’t know what to do with you.
Now is the time!
All in all, if you have even the smallest of spaces, now would be a very good time to make a herb garden. This is especially true in the northern hemisphere, because early spring is exactly the time to get the herbs in. You can either buy them as seedlings (easier) and then plant them in some nice compost-filled soil, or you can buy seeds, and then choose either to grow them in tiny seed trays and replant later, or throw the seeds directly in the ground. Some plants work better one way, others another. Here’s a quick tour of my herb garden, and the herbs in question.
Please note: I’m not a doctor, nor have I tested each herb in the lab. In fact I have zero qualifications to tell you about herbs. On the other hand, I have used all the herbs in my garden for almost ten years now, for many of the reasons listed, and find them fabulously effective. They don’t have the horrible side-effects of pharma drugs, nor the outrageous price tag, and leave you fit and healthy and shiny. Obviously I may be a weird mutant, and I make no guarantees for anyone else.
Heck, if you can’t grow this, you must be in the arctic. Rosemary is one of the hardiest and most prolific herbs. It will grow into a reasonably-sized bush in a couple of years, but will be plenty big enough to harvest in year one.
Climate: It can cope with hot/dry (as long as you water) and cool/wet. There are different types though. I have both a Mediterranean rosemary, and another one which is a sprawler that likes colder climates better.
Medicinal benefits: Rosemary is pretty fab stuff. It’s been around a long time too, at least since 5000 BC. It’s good for memory, and it’s an anti-inflammatory, a pain-reliever, and an immune system booster (I use it for all these, and attest it works for all). It’s also good for circulation, to detoxify the body, and protect to it from bacterial infections. Apparently it also delays ageing and heals skin conditions. I’ve also used it as a conditioner in my hair (just boil it up in water to create a rosemary tea, and throw it on your hair after you wash it. It leaves your hair just luverly and silky:))
Growing: I’ve never grown rosemary from seed. It works better to take cuttings and plant them, or buy a small one in a pot and plant that. It will grow pretty fast and barge anything else out the way, so give it space.
This is the sister of rosemary, with many of the same benefits.
Climate: Usually likes a hot dry climate, but mine is growing very happily up here at 650 metres in the cool/cold and wet.
Like rosemary, it’s good for brain function, an anti-inflammatory, and an immune system booster. It also regulates digestion, is good for the skin and hair like rosemary, strengthens the bones, and helps prevent diabetes. In Turkey it is well-known as being a herb for women’s health, and is known worldwide for its balancing effect during the menopause.
Growing: Like rosemary, I bought a small potted sage for one euro and stuck it straight in the garden. It’s doing well. Sage is not as prolific as rosemary, but fairly easy to grow as long as it doesn’t get too cold or too dry.
Oregano is the third and final herb in my immune-system-boosting triumvirate of herbal witchcraft, and I love the flavour of it.
Climate: There are a bunch of different kinds of oreganos for different climates. I had a smaller-leaved version that grew very easily in hot, dry, southern Turkey. Here in cool, wet northern Spain my oregano is rounder and greener.
Medicinal Benefits: It’s an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, an antibacterial, and an immune system booster. It also regulates digestion, and is good for the heart. It may help boost energy too.
Growing: Oregano is pretty easy to grow from seed. The one in my garden was a pot plant I bought for speed, but I have oregano seeds in my veggie patch too, as they help ward off some pests. As with most of this stuff, plant in late winter/early spring, and it will start pushing up in a month or two. It dies back in winter. If you want it to grow more, cut it right back in autumn, and it will simply burst back in spring. It really benefits from a good prune.
Arguably the easiest, fastest, possibly most invasive herb out there, but because I love mint so much, it has no chance to take over my garden. I literally eat it into submission.
Climate: Loves the damp and not too hot.
Medicinal Benefits: Alleviates respiratory issues, asthma, and hay fever. Aids digestions and is good for nausea. Apparently it helps headaches (I never get them, so can’t comment here) and fights depression and fatigue. It’s also great as a mouthwash or in homemade toothpaste, because it’s antibacterial and leaves a fresh, clean smell.
Growing: Many consider mint an invasive plant, so if you’re not going to use a lot, give it plenty of space, or keep it separate from the rest of your garden. It doesn’t enjoy a sun roasting, and loves moisture. So in a hot, dry climate, grow it in a shady place; in a cooler, wetter climate, it will prefer a sunny place. Like rosemary, you can grow it from cuttings (it grows fast in springtime) or buy a small potted version, and watch it go!
Some love it, some hate it. I’m in the coriander love camp. But the haters have their own Facebook group, should you wish to express your loathing to other like minds (bad language warning for folk who don’t like that kinda thing). Who knew a herb could cause so much controversy?
Climate: Coriander hates the heat, which may come as a surprise as people equate it with Indian cooking. It was impossible to grow in southern Turkey. But here in cool, wet northern Spain it’s sooo happy.
Medicinal benefits: Coriander helps lower cholesterol levels and regulates blood pressure, It’s rich in calcium, so good for the bones, and it’s also good for anaemia and indigestion. Apparently it also helps manage diabetes by increasing insulin secretion. It’s another anti-inflammatory and relieves skin disorders.
Growing: I always grow coriander from seed. Some I put in straight in the ground, and others I put into to seed trays. If you sow directly into your plant bed, make sure other plants and weeds don’t choke it in the early weeks.
My fennel is only just poking its head through the dirt. It’s a delicious herb though, and absolutely packed full of vitamins. I use it on eggs, in salads, and of course as a tea. You can find two kinds of fennel. One is the bulb form, which is absolutely yummy as a vegetable. The other is without the bulb and grows in fine, feathery stems that you can harvest as a herb.
Climate: Tends to like a temperate climate. Grows wild on the Spain’s Atlantic coast.
Medicinal benefits: One of fennel’s main benefits is for the digestive system. It’s good for wind (flatulence), and can relieve trapped gas and even colic. It’s also good for constipation and diarrhoea. Another of its well-known uses is for PMS, menstrual disorders, and menopause relief. Like mint, it can be used as a mouth freshener or in toothpaste. It’s stuffed full of antioxidants too, so ingesting it helps reduce eye inflammations, irritation, or fatigue. Good, huh?
Growing: Easy to grow from seed. I just threw a bunch in among my onions and off it went.
There are a lot of different kinds of lavender, and as a herb it’s so beautiful and good to smell.
Climate: I grew it both in hot, dry southern Turkey, and here in cool, wet northern Spain. It seems to cope with our snow, but we rarely suffer frost here. Lavender prefers a bit of warmth and sunshine though, as it’s definitely slower to grow up here at 650 metres than it was on the Med. I bought a small pot plant, and just stuffed it in my herb garden in a sunny spot.
Medicinal benefits: Lavender has been used for thousands of years for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Just steep it in hot water and drink it. Like rosemary and sage, it’s a wonderful hair tonic. Again make a tea, let it cool, and pour it over your hair after washing. Apparently it helps hair loss too. It’s great for the heart, reduces blood pressure, and also relieves stress. Here are more details about the tea. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/lavender-tea.html
Growing: It’s very low-maintenance, like rosemary, and likes to be pruned. It prefers lighter clay-free soils, and doesn’t like being waterlogged.
Climate: Parsley likes water, and doesn’t want to dry out, so it prefers a damp climate, especially tropical. But as long as you can water it, it will grow in other climates too. In Mediterranean Turkey it was a winter crop. In northern Europe it’s a summer crop.
Medicinal Benefits: Parsley is packed full of a variety of antioxidants, and functions as a kidney cleanser. It also reduces water retention, boosts the metabolism, apparently helps manage diabetes, and is good for rheumatoid arthritis too. If you chew it, it’s a great mouth freshener.
Growing: I threw some seeds straight into the ground in my veggie patch, and planted some pre-bought seedlings in my herb garden.
9. Other herbs I love
Other herbs I will add to the witch patch very soon include thyme and lemon grass. I love basil, but unfortunately it won’t grow here. It abhors too much cold and wet.
My Mud Witch Virus-Thwacker Tea
There are stacks of teas you can drink to boost your immune system if you start to feel under the weather. My favourite is a mixture of sage, rosemary, and oregano. I just pick a stalk of each, throw them in a cup, and add hot water. Boom! If you really want to give an illness a run for its money, add a squirt of propolis into the tea too.
Extra note: I find, for most herbal teas to have a decent effect, you need to drink a fair bit of them*. So if I’m feeling low, I just keep drinking a this tea as if it were water. This cleans the entire system out pretty fast.
*Do check herbs don't have any side-effects if taken in excess.
This website describes pretty much every herb you can imagine, and their medicinal benefits. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices
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