Herbs for healing and herbs for flavour this garden will keep giving.
*Disclaimer in this post I mention the healing properties of certain herbs. I am not a healthcare professional I have simply researched and decided at my own risk to use certain herbs in this way. As with all alternative medicines and plants with purported medicinal benefits it is important to inform your health care providers that you are using them; this helps to ensure safe and coordinated care. I can accept no liability for any side effect or contingency from any allergy or any other cause or harm that may arise. If in doubt please do consult a medical practitioner before using.
Yes we know about the cut flower garden trend but what about creating a herb garden. What herbs should you grow? In this post I will talk about my 10 must have perennial herbs but there are more and don’t get me started on the annuals. Growing herbs not only look great but herb gardens smell terrific too.
Since quarantine the nation decided that boozing and gardening would become the national pastime. An interesting choice but who am I to argue with the masses. I am not the best at drinking but I have been a gardener for quite some time. Whilst I would not put myself as an expert, there is always more learning to be done I have been tending allotments and garden for years now and I have learned a lot about making a garden work for you.
Having a garden of fast growing perennial herbs will give you endless joy and a multitude of benefits
A garden offers up a connection with nature, the benefit of which seriously improves one’s mental health, it is not surprising that compost was harder to come by than flour. A garden provides physical exercise and guess what that helps your body and your mind. A garden brings such beauty, the aesthetics of our surroundings impact not only on our mood but our productivity.
Growing herbs is something that can be achieved from the largest of plots to the smallest of window boxes. Not only are herbs beautiful but they can offer further benefits to your health and your culinary exploits. Let me talk you through my top 10.
This is an ideal herb for a container gardener, hello to those of you confined to window box growing. Mint is invasive, what I mean by that is it spreads so most gardeners restrict it pots. I have a bed of mint in my garden that was a problem area for weeds so I fought fire with fire and now have 3 varieties of mint growing that gives off a wonderful aroma every time I brush past it and it can casually adorn my Pimm’s on a sunny day in the garden. A win win in anyone’s books.
Mint as a flavouring is something that I find nauseating, even dried mint is a big no no for me but fresh mint used in food and drink is sublime. I know people love mint tea but they are vile in comparison to tea made with fresh mint. You can simply pour near boiling water over a cup packed with mint leaves or combine it with other garden herbs. Another way to drink mint tea is to do it the way I dd when I lived in Morocco, chamomile poured over fresh mint, I use far less sugar than traditional Moroccan tea.
Fresh mint in food is something that can be added to a multitude of salads, couscous, flavouring in cakes and biscuits, fritters it is actually incredibly versatile. Mint actually has an endless number of varieties. Believe me when I say you could have an entire balcony just filled with mint. Chocolate mint, pineapple mint, basil mint, black peppermint, grapefruit mint, ginger mint, silver mint, lime mint, apple mint, spearmint, Moroccan mint… I will stop there as I know I am labouring the point but I could go on the list is seemingly endless. Okay one more. There is even a variety that is not great for food but hold medicinal properties and growing it keeps the flies away, Eau de Cologne, I have that planted near the patio area where we eat to deter flies.
On the subject of medicinal properties mint is purported to help with nausea, digestion, headaches, sore throats and bites. I would suggest researching these areas and the application suggested.
Although this is a member of the mint family I have not found it to be as invasive. That being said if you have a small space I would suggest keeping it in a pot. This is, according to the RHS plant guide a tender perennial but I live in a cold West Yorkshire and have not had any issues growing this year on year it has flourished.
In the kitchen this herb is a real work horse of a herb, it goes in everything. I have used it in soups, sauces, salads, quiche, baking and dried as part of a bouquet garni. I even use it in fresh tea infusions. I feel that I will need to produce a post on tea as infusing herbs is a regular use here at chez Archie & The Rug. The flowers are edible so you can pretty up that salad or pop them into fresh pasta sheets, and bees love them!
- Can ease tonsilitus.
- Can help flatulence.
- Can ease stomach bloating.
- Can help sleep or calm children.
- Can ease anxiety.
- Homeopaths sometimes use to treat female sex disorders and painful menstruation.
- Good for bruises. Has good antiseptic properties.
- Used to make essential oils.
This is one of the most unsung herbs in my humble opinion. When I mention it I am mostly met with blank looks and I cannot understand why it is not more mainstream. Wow I have reached a point in my life when I am discussing how mainstream a garden herb is, allow me to take a moment to ponder that………And I’m back.
Lovage is described as an intense celery or parsley flavour but I have to say it is more unique than that but when something is not commonly used we have a real tendency to draw a comparison with something we know. I am vegetarian but I am almost certain that all of the things they say taste like chicken do not in fact taste like chicken. So I am going on the record as saying lovage tastes like lovage. It does have an intense flavour so you can use it sparingly. That being said I often go to town with it and my lovage, nettle and spinach balls are a firm favourite with the kids and grownups in this house. I keep meaning to share the recipe with you but they get gobbled up far too quickly.
Lovage is not suitable for a window box but you could grow it in a large container. It has a tall bushy habit and grows well in partial shade and sun. It is fully hardy. It dies back every year and comes back bigger, just cut it to the ground at the end of Autumn.
There are health benefits linked to tinctures and teas made with both the eaves and the seeds of lovage; menstrual pain, digestion issues, loosening of phlegm. I have not used it for any of these things so if you want to research further please do.
St. Johns Wort
This is such a beautiful statuesque herb/wildflower. It is incredibly easy to grow from seed. Fully hardy but may need support in windy spots. It will grow pretty much anywhere I have two clumps of it both under trees and it is doing just fine. It is quite tall so again no to the window box but you can certainly grow it in a container.
The flowers are edible and very pretty. The leaves and the flowers have a very subtle lemony flavour. I mostly use it to make tea for anxiety and insomnia. There has been a whole lot of mainstream research into the health benefits of St. John’s Wort, let me direct you to the NHS webpage on the matter. It does interact with medication so have a check on this one.
You can scatter a few of the leaves and flowers on salads also. Edible flowers are great at making pasta, salads and cakes pretty.
Thyme is one of my favourite plants to draw, not a reason in itself why it should appear in your garden but a fact I thought you might like. Thyme dries incredibly well. You can also use it to infuse oils. You can read more about preserving herbs here.
The leaves and the flowers are edible and window box gardeners can grow this one. You can use thyme in pretty much anything but here are a few ways that I use it that are not run of the mill uses; leaves sprinkled over strawberries with a balsamic reduction, infusing honey or making thyme and black pepper tea. Thyme and black pepper tea is such a comforting drink when you feel under the weather and great for a sore throat. You can brew it with water of a milk of you choosing.
You should also consider growing lemon thyme, I do. It adds the most wonderful flavour to creme patisserie, moussaka topping, tea, ice-cream, you name it.
This is part of the mint family and it also loves to self-seed so this is one for a container and don’t place it right next to a bed if you do not want it to spread. It actually likes some light shade. It is fully hardy, I recommend cutting it back after it has flowered.
I adore this herb despite the fact that it is the main ingredient in Chartreuse a drink made in France by monks. My husband brought me a bottle of Chartreuse back from his travels when he was away on a research project, (not researching booze, he is a physicist). He gave this to me and it tasted so much like dying that I thought it was his cruel and elaborate way of saying he did not love me anymore. Many people love the drink, I clearly do not but I do love lemon balm.
I mostly use the leaves to make tea it helps with anxiety and insomnia. It is also lovely to use in the kitchen sliced into cream sauces. It is a subtle flavour so nothing too overpowering, it is not here for your stew and dumpling. You can add it to jelly or summer pudding. Lemon balm goes very well with tarragon. That leads nicely onto the next on my list.
Why so specific I hear you ask, or not. I will say right here and now the time and money I have wasted trying to grow French Tarragon just makes me mad so I refuse to discuss it any further.
The flavour is not as pronounced as French tarragon but it is a perennial and my 3 year old plant has a more matured flavour. I would say give it two years if you buy a small plug plant before you start using it. It is much hardier which is always a bonus. This plant can get to around 3ft high but will become pot bound and you can manage the size to around a foot.
I tend to use this in sauces, it is great in Hollandaise, Tartar and Béarnaise. Chopped up in scones, used as a rub onto veg, (meat if you eat it), infused into oil or as a herby butter.
I actually grow three varieties of sage and lots of it; Common Sage (shown), Blackcurrant Sage and Golden Sage. I have 3 common sage plants, 2 golden sage and 1 Blackcurrant Sage, that one is new this year. I use them all. I use it so often I fear over harvesting so I have lots of plants. They are hardy and can be grown in pots. As they are evergreen you can enjoy this fresh from the garden all year.
My common uses; I love to make sage mushrooms on homemade sourdough, it is one of my treats. We make sage butter on pasta and gnocchi. I also use sage in soups, sauces and stews. We make all our own veggie products so it gets used in seitan, veggie sausages, burgers etc.. And of course sage and onion stuffing balls, they are for life guys not just Christmas. You can use sage to infuse oils and vinegar too.
My Blackcurrant Sage is new this year and is not evergreen and not fully hardy so I will pop it into a cold frame this winter and see how I go. I bought it and mention it as I love sage and wanted to use it in teas. I will have to update you on that one. Up to the minute life stuff it is best to follow me on instagram.
Sage also has healing benefits. Such as;
- Excellent for helping digest fatty foods.
- Disinfectant and antifungal properties.
- Contains oestrogen.
- Can help combat diarrhoea.
- Can be used as a teeth whitener. or as a mouthwash to help mouth ulcers, inflamed gums, laryngitis and tonsillitis.
- Suppresses sweating (so can be useful for hot flushes during menopause).
- Will help strengthen your nervous system.
- Can help soothe coughs, colds and rheumatism.
- Can be used to help insect bites and skin infections.
- Can improve your memory!
Again see the disclaimer at the top of the post and always be sensible when using alternative therapies.
Wow who knew you could write this much about herbs, well I did. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a herb garden but fear not we are on the home stretch, stay with me, drink some herbal tea!
Herb fennel, not to be confused with fennel bulb but yes they are related and yes the flavour is similar. This statuesque beauty rules out my window box crew and even the container gang, get this in a bed guys. It mostly grows up rather than out so you don’t need masses of space.
Herb fennel has the sweet anise scent and flavour. My children eat masses of it just as and when they are playing in the garden. The flavour lends itself to sweet and savoury food. I don’t eat fish but I am told it works well with fish. I particularly like with mixed with grain and pistachio or in biscuits.
This is the one herb in the list that is grown for its beauty as much as its use in the kitchen. Making tea from fennel seeds can help milk production for breastfeeding. Fennel is also linked to;
- Aid in treatment of dyspepsias such as mild, spastic gastrointestinal afflictions, fullness and flatulence;
- Fighting catarrh of the upper respiratory tract;
- Acts as an antispasmodic;
- Has been shown to possess diuretic, choleretic (bile-producing), pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and antimicrobial actions.
Let’s end our list on a classic. Chives! I cannot think of many dishes that cannot benefit from some fresh chives. They are hardy, easy to grow and evergreen. They will grow well in garden beds, window boxes and containers, chives are the triple threat.
The flowers are edible too and great to throw into a quiche or salad to make it both pretty and delicious.
Chives are high in vitamin c, iron. So tasty and healthy a great way to boost your egg wrap.
Most of these herbs are readily available as plug or potted plants so you won’t have to grow them from seed. You could have a thriving herb garden this year and as they are all perennial they will keep bringing you joy.