Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Any child of the seventies remembers those lyrics from Simon and Garfunkle. Until a few summers ago, they were just words in a song. Well, I knew parsley as a garnish used in restaurants.

And then I planted an herb garden and discovered the wonderful world of fresh herbs. Because of my leg being in a cast, I haven't been able to plant annual flowers like I normally do, so my gardening has been limited to the herbs. I sweltered in Sunday's sun and cleaned out the dead foliage to tidy up the place.

This first photo shows my lavender, sage and thyme. I've been harvesting the lavender blossoms, drying them and when I have enough I'll made a nice sachet for my undies drawer. I use the sage and thyme for cooking.

Here is rosemary and oregano. This rosemary plant started as a six-inch plant from Lowe's. At one point it had taken over the whole end of the bed and grown tall enough to reach the bottom of the window above it. Last year I pruned it way back and you can see I still have plenty of plant. It's an evergreen and can be used as an ornamental shrub. I've even seen it coaxed into shapes as a topiary.

All these herbs are perennial though only the rosemary and lavender keep their leaves through the winter.

This is a black swallowtail caterpillar and it's the reason I stopped growing parsley. A family of these infested my herb garden two summers ago and in one afternoon they stripped the plant of every leaf. I tried planting decoy parsley in another part of the yard, but I didn't fool them. He's pretty in an ugly sort of way, isn't he?

Newspaper and magazine articles have been publishing articles touting the qualities of superfoods like pomegranates, avocadoes, kiwi, broccoli, walnuts and sweet potatoes. But I recently came across an article that told me I had a regular little health clinic in my backyard. Here's what I've learned.

Rosemary, aside from smelling and tasting wonderful, has been used as a brain tonic in China for years. It also aids digestion and boosts the immune system. I like to cut a few long stalks and put them in a bud vase on my desk just for the smell. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can toss a sprig of rosemary into the fire to release the aromas into the room.

Oregano can be steeped in hot water and the vapors inhaled when you have a cold. These vapors have antibacterial, antiviral and decongestant qualities. I'm definitely going to try that next winter.

Sage can increase oxygen to the brain and improve concentration and is also a digestive aid.

Chives (growing a few feet away but not pictured) contain vitamin C and potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. Sprinkle them on a baked potato to not only add flavor but give you the benefits of these vitamins and minerals.

If you don't have a place outside to grow herbs, most can be grown in pots in a sunny window.

Got herbs? Use herbs? Tell me.

P.S. Keep sending in those questions to


Michelle Styles said...

Sage is also great for sore throats. Make into a tea (seep the leaves for five minutes in boiling water) add honey (preferably from the local area.) It works.
Oregano tea is good for chesty coughs.
Fresh Herbs are fantastic and a great way to add flavour to any meals. Of course in the UK the h in herb is not silent. For some reason in the US, it is pronounced erb.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I have a small herb garden -- parsley, oregano, chives, and pineapple sage (which smells wonderful!). They're planted in an old grill. I removed the lid, put some rocks in the bottom of the grill, and filled it with dirt -- and herbs. The best parts are the wheels on the grill -- I can move the planter around very easily -- and the fact that it's the perfect height for working. No bending to prune or pick. :-)

I need some rosemary, too, I think.


Smarty Pants said...

I killed all these and more. My coworker recently gave me some basil. Haven't killed it yet. :)

Anonymous said...

No garden for me. However, next year I should be in a better position to have one.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I love fresh herbs! I want an herb garden, but don't have one yet. I do have a basil plant on the patio. I'll probably kill it, knowing me. I love fresh basil with tomatoes and olive oil. Yum!

Playground Monitor said...

Great tips, Michelle. Anything that helps with a cold and doesn't make me loopy is appreciated.

Yes, LJ, you need rosemary. I love to cook with it and fresh beats dried any day.

My herb garden is planted where one of the sprinkler heads will water it. That probably accounts for a great deal of its success.

Lynn, add some mozarella to the basil, tomato and olive oil and you practically have a full meal.

Instigator said...

Zilla is the herb grower in my family. However, he doesn't actually use them. Shrugs. He's also the cook though so I can't complain. Honestly, I'm not even sure what we have anymore.

Instigator - taking her black thumb over to the corner so it doesn't infect anyone else. I'd hate to be responsible for the death of these lovely herb gardens!

Problem Child said...

~going to the corner with Instigator~

My mom has to come water my houseplants or else they'll die. Needless to say, I don't plant anything in my yard. That's just money wasted...

(I again put out my plea that anyone with green fingers is welcome to come do what they want in my yard...)

Sherry Werth said...

I love your herb garden PM! I have thyme, lavender and oregano growing in my kitchen windowsill and mint growing in the vegetable garden. The cilantro didn't make it. :(

Angel said...

I have a huge rosemary plant in the back yard. I don't cook with it, because my husband doesn't like it, but I love the smell. I also have a patch of lavender.

They must be pretty hardy. I haven't killed either one yet. :)


Kathy said...

"Sage can increase oxygen to the brain and improve concentration and is also a digestive aid."

This explains why Indians used them during rites like the sweat lodge while preparing for a vision quest. ;)

I don't grow herbs because I wouldn't use them enough. However, I love to smell them and some have the most beautiful blooms.

word verif: scapplop