(Guest Blog at Eleventh House March 20/12)

For years now, I have grown herbs. It started with little herbs in pots on window sills and funnily enough, I found out that when you grow herbs in little pots...you get little herbs, so I started growing them in bigger pots...and then very large pots! My training has all been trial and error over the years. SO LISTEN UP....then you’ll avoid years of mistakes! The larger the pot, the lusher the herbs grown is what I've found. I still like to grow most of my culinary herbs in pots rather than in the ground, only because they smell great when you walk past them, you can move them if you feel they're getting too much sun or shade and I actually do find that I tend to water them more frequently when they're in pots instead of relying only on the rain. A few I grow here in the veggie garden....
And, I do grow many herbs in my flower garden out front....
Flowering herbs such as echinacea, lavender, oregano, garlic chives are grown in my flower garden adding beauty as well as insect repellent capabilities when they are interspersed with flowers.
But, the culinary herbs are mostly grown in pots like this basil plant.
This pot is about 18" deep and as wide across.

Herbs are kind of a finicky breed that must be regularly trimmed for harvesting.  The more you trim, the more they grow lush! I regularly pinch off the flowers from the top to thicken the plant up on basil, as well as coriander and other flowering herbs. This particular basil plant would have been originally five plants purchased as barely sprouts and planted in a circle with one in the middle.
I keep it by my front door, rather than in the backyard because I own dogs. Dog hair is a wicked thing to herbs...it seems to actually stick to the plant and you have a heck of a time washing the dog hair off your herbs for use!

My advise to you is to start with one or two large pots....the plastic ones that look like ceramic or clay are great...just a little lighter to move around.
Who am I kidding...alot lighter! Plant some culinary herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, tarragon, dill and cilantro and just go for it! The rosemary you'll be able to bring in, in the fall. It's a tender perennial, but should last if used regularly and in a bright window, throughout the winter.
Each year, here in Southern Ontario, I have chives, cilantro and tarragon sprout backup out of the pots in the spring as they are perennials.
Lastly...my biggest tip for you....grow anything from the mint family in a large pot for sure! Otherwise it will be all over your garden in places you didn't even think a plant could grow!
Lemon Balm falls into this category too.
The most wonderful part of herb gardening is it's such a versatile art! You can cook with herbs, craft beautiful wreaths and arrangements out of them, produce healing balms & poultices, cosmetics or just simply have a cup of herbal tea. So soothing.
xo Wendy
 
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             Next to Lavender, basil is my absolute most favoured fragranced herb.  Whether I cut it from my crop or buy it in the grocery store, for the first 1/2 hr, I swear, all I do is try to take the very essence out of the leaves, holding them up to my nose and inhaling like a crazy beast!  I know...pretty visual huh?

          Each year, I plant about 5-6 small plants into a very deep planter like the one shown here.  It's important to have a deep planter for the roots.  I've found if I plant in a shallow planter, the plant is sparse and just doesn't have that volume one gets from a large planter.  Now, I've always pruned the flowers off when it starts to bloom, just by nipping them with your fingers at the base of the vertical flower and that seems to thicken it up.  But, recently, someone told me that they read you should lop off about 6" down the branch of leaves?  If anyone has any input about this, please comment or contact me.  Other than watering and getting rid of those hideous japanese beetles, basil is very easy to care for.

          The best thing to do with basil, in my world, is to make Pesto out of it!  Pesto is a wondrous food that I personally like to make a huge batch of every year and freeze.  The secret to freezing pesto is to not add the parmesan cheese into the recipe and after you load into small 4oz jars, put a layer of olive oil on top.  The olive oil helps the pesto to retain it's colour.  The drawback of basil is that it goes brown very quickly and the olive oil acts as a protective coating on it. 

          Basil is primarily a fabulous additive to food, however in Italy was used to symbolize courting.  A man would give a woman  he was interested in a sprig of basil to show his intentions.  We all know how much Italians use basil in their foods...I think they found the secret of cooking with this herb!

          You can also use basil leaves and rub them on insect bites to reduce inflammation and itchiness.  If you pour boiling water onto the leaves in a pot and inhale, it will help the common cold because basil fights infection and clears mucus.  It can aid digestion, help expel gas, prevent constipation and relieve stomach upset.  The only precaution given for basil is not to use if pregnant because it can stimulate menstrual flow and has actually been used to assist with expulsion of the placenta after birth, so definitely, don't use in tinctures, teas, etc if you are pregnant!

          If you do nothing else with it, just pick up a bunch at the beginning of your cruise around the grocery store next time and inhale as you push the buggy....I guarantee by the time you get to the checkout, you'll feel so rejuvenated....it actually will clear your head, make your concentration better and give you an all round sense of well-being.

 
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             I can't believe it's Thursday again (Herb day on my blog) so soon!  In our house, garlic is a staple used in so many recipes brought to our table.  How can you not love garlic?  My favourite way to have garlic is to just roast it in the oven with olive oil drizzled over it (tops cut off the whole head) in a small covered casserole dish.  If you serve up the roasted garlic to be smeared on french bread toasts with melted brie and a jam or jelly of your choice...you will think you're in heaven!   I first had this mouthwatering dish at the Rude Native when it was in Hamilton and Dan & I rushed home to recreate this for friends! 

            Garlic is an amazing medicinal food in that it acts as an antibiotic, reduces blood pressure, it's an anticoagulant, lowers cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels and also can be an antihistamine.  As a decongestant, garlic is extremely effective in treating bronchitis.  If you eat raw cloves daily it can assist with digestion disorders and infections, while still maintaining beneficial flora in the intestines.  Some pharmaceutical antibiotics used for stomach disorders can kill off the beneficial flora.   My Aunt Linda drinks tomato juice with minced fresh garlic in it daily!  I tried it and it's not for me....something about garlic in the morning just doesn't go over well with my senses...but perhaps I should start drinking it at dinnertime?!

            You can buy garlic in capsule form and by taking this daily, it's been proven to prevent further heart attacks in people who have already had a heart attack...as well as fight infections in the body.  Using garlic topically (directly rubbing on the skin)  on acne will help clear your complexion, but I'd suggest using the garlic "pearls" which can be broken up like Vitamin E and don't have the smell associated with garlic.   You could also use it mashed up on warts or corns.  Digesting it in it's raw form (as my Aunt does) is best, but you will notice that your breath may be horrid the next morning or you smell bad!  This is because it travels through your system so quickly.  If you rubbed garlic on your feet, you'd be able to taste it 10 minutes later!  To get rid of that sharp taste in your mouth the next morning, regardless of how you ingest it, you can eat some parsley which should nullify it.

             Planting garlic in your garden among your other plants, rather than just in a row, acts as a natural insecticide, much as the marigolds I spoke of last week in my blog.  And, there's nothing like pulling fresh garlic out of your garden just before a meal....talk about fresh!

            Don't forget about how great it is for warding off Vampires!  Enjoy your "bite" of garlic today!

 
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            Calendula, otherwise known as Marigolds, are an extremely versatile flower.  I actually think they should have been an herb because of it's many utilizations.  It is edible, can be used for medicine and beauty products and is a natural bug repellent in your vegetable garden.  How great is that?  Never mind the fact that it's gorgeous orange flowers can cheer you up and just looking at it can "clear" your head.  At the end of this blog reading, I hope you're going to want to rush out and get some marigolds to possibly experiment with in your cooking or beauty regiment!

            Let's start with usiing them as an edible plant.  The only thing you need to be careful about with buying or growing calendula is to ensure it is Calendula and not Tagetes, which is an African Marigold and often is mixed up by buyers and sellers.  Anything Calendula is okay unless it is even shown on the tag together with Tagetes, which is an oil with high levels of ketones.  Signet Marigold and Pot Marigold are best in flavour for recipes.  That said....because it would be bad if my blog hurt you!...you can use different parts of the flower for cooking.  If you use the flower, be sure to either pick it just before using or keep in a vase until ready to trim up and use because the petals don't last very well after being plucked, even in the fridge.  You can just pat any moisture out of the petals on paper towelling after rinsing.  Petals are great in salads for colour and you can use in cookies or stir fries as well.  Small leaves of the plant may be used like spinach and be boiled while fresh.  Check out "The Atlantic - What's for Dinner" and find a few interesting ideas for using marigolds at your table!

        As far as medicinal uses are concerned, marigolds have been used for centuries for skin problems like cracked skin and inflammations in the cream form.  It can be used in the form of a tea for gastric problems with just 1 cup of boiled water poured on 2tsp of flowers.  Infused oils can be used on broken capillaries or varicose veins. 

         To make an infused oil (which you would use to make a cream form as well) all you need to do is pick whole flower heads of Pot Marigolds and only use good parts...no eaten sections or brown bits.  You won't be washing them, because that could cause a mold to form.  Bruise the petals and break the flowers up lightly and then pack them tightly into a canning jar.  Top up the jar with a light oil, such as grapeseed or safflower, (cold pressed) to the brim and place the jar in a sunny window for approx. 10-12 days.  Strain this mixture through cheesecloth and save the oil.  Pack new flowers all over again into the jar with the oil in it and top it up to the brim with fresh oil.  Once again, strain after 10-12 days in the sunshine and pour into a coloured jar or bottle and label!

         Medicinal and Beauty issues are closely related with Marigolds as you just learned with the calming bath aspect.  The oil or cream, used daily, can also help to reduce scars.  Due to the wonderful skin healing character of marigolds, it makes it a crossover cream or oil for skincare in general.

        I just want to tell you how I use them in my garden.  If you plant them around the outer edges of your veggie garden, they repel aphids from your plants and cabbage butterflies as well.  This really does work! 

        If anyone has any other thoughts or ideas of uses for calendula please comment and let me know as well!

Start picking now!

 
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             Is there truly any scent more relaxing, more calming, more....feel like lying in a field of it, than lavender?  I'm not sure if it's just me, but as soon as I smell this divinity,  I feel all the stress being released from my body and soul.  Okay....maybe just most of it, but you understand what I'm saying?  Lavender is truly my favourite scented herb of all the herbs.  I've made lavender bath bombs, soap, bath bags, salts, linen sprays and I can't get enough of it!  You can ingest it internally in teas or food or externally with the oil, but whatever you do with it...it's going to help at the very least with your mindset. 

     Just the inhalation of lavender will help a headache related to stress especially.  It can induce you to a peaceful sleep by just having a sachet under your pillow or spraying your pillowcase with lavender linen spray.  Lavender oil can be used externally to soothe aches and pains by rubbing some oil on the area affected.

          Beauty wise, it can be used for acne flare ups and as a balm for sunburn just by mixing a few drops to a little water and then rubbing it on the affected area as well.   You can rub the oil undiluted onto insect bites and stings. Also...I know, but wait!  Lavender can help repair damaged hair too!

          If you want to dry lavender, collect it when the flowers start to fade...at the end stage of flowering and hang upside down in a cool place, in a paper bag.  This way when the flowers fall off, you can collect them!

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    Aunt Ethel's Gardening Hands. Isn't Life perfect?


    wendy...

            Years ago I took a distance learning course (in my not so free time) and received a certificate as a Natural Health Consultant.  I've always had a love of herbs, growing and using them and recently I've delved more into flower gardening.  If you have anything to add to my posts, please comment so others can gain your knowledge too!

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