Saturday, June 4, 2011

Herbs in the Garden

Amy over at Homestead Revival chose as her topic for today's Preparedness Challenge - medicinal herbs.   Herbs in my garden is just what I was going to post about today!  Interest in herbs and all their uses is booming.  Those who are farming, 'homesteading' or even trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle are suddenly interested in herbs.


I have grown herbs most of my adult life, and have studied a number of books about them, but never got serious about doing something with them - except drying some basil and oregano, maybe peppermint  - until this year.  I decided to take an inventory of the herbs and useful plants grown here at Wren Cottage.  I will also show a key, to give you an idea of the wide variety of uses these plants have:

C - culinary
M - medicinal - can include external (salves, lotions, etc) and internal (tinctures, teas, etc.  I have decided NOT to get specific about these for the most part, since I am no expert, and don't want someone  suing me because they got sick.
B - beauty, i.e. cosmetic (creams, lotions, waters, etc)
P - pest control - this goes along with my new study of companion planting, plants that can repel certain     bugs, blights, and other crop damage , or attract favorable insects.
O - ornamental - pretty, as well as useful
There are other uses, like potpourris and drying for wreaths and things, that I'm not getting into.

Here's what I have, in no particular order:
Basil - Mammoth variety, C, M
        - Opal, C, M, P 
Cilantro,  C
Parsley - curley, C,           
            - flat leaf, C, M          
Sage, C, M
Rosemary, C, M, P, B 
Thyme,  C, M
(I couldn't resist putting those together)
Marigold - French, P, O
               - Calendula (Pot Marigold) , C, M, O
Nasturtium, P, C, O
Dill, C, P
Chervil, C
Lavender, C, M, O, P
Sweet Marjoram, C
Sweet Woodruff, C
Tarragon, C, P
Feverfew, M, O
Borage, C, M, O
Flax, C, M, P
Lemon Verbena, M, O 
Lemon Balm, M
Rose, O, M
Oregano, C,M
Garlic, C, M   - not an herb technically, but found in every Herbal due to it's medicinal properties 
Mint - peppermint C, M
        - apple mint, C

Dandelion - I don't pull out my dandelions.  Although I haven't gotten into jelly, medicinal tinctures, or wine with these, they are worth their weight in gold for the digestive assistance they give my rabbits!
Plantain  - The mowers here at the townhouse neighborhood would plow these down, so when I see one, I dig it up and pot it.  Again for bunnies (the chickens love it too) and medicinal use.

I'm sure readers will come up with lots more uses, and things I missed, or that didn't fit into my key:
Take the Borage photo above, for example.  It's not a very attractive plant, big, awkward, with prickly leaves, but those leaves have medicinal use, the plant is supposed to be a bee magnet, when planted with strawberries it's supposed to increase size, yield, health and sweetness, and the sweet sky-blue flowers (very unusual color in the plant world) can be frozen into ice cubes for pretty summer cold drinks, or candied to decorate baked goods.

Who thinks of Flax as anything but the basis for linen?  Besides it's commercial properties (linseed oil)  it has medicinal use, can be baked into bread, and when planted with potatoes, is supposed to repel potato bugs!

My list may seem like a lot for a townhouse, but in many cases it is just one plant - depending on the plant, some actually do better in a pot than in the garden, and vice versa. Depending on the herb, one plant can often produce as much as you need for the year. Except Basil - can never get enough basil :) and those plants that I can't grow here due to space limitations, climate, etc.  I can buy  from places like  Mountain Rose Herbs. I just bought some Comfrey (until mine grows up), Chickweed and Nettle from them this week. 

As for books to study the subject, my two favorites are The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness, and The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffman.  Used together, they are great - what one doesn't cover, the other one does.  Mine are many years old.  Amazon has the first one (used) but the second one is out of stock. 

I also have The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook, by James Green, which I didn't like.  It gets into the chemistry of it all (my mind doesn't work like that) and his writing - let us say, is so full of 'whimsy' that I found it very hard to follow.      

Until next time, from Wren Cottage ......

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