Three herbs for health

Three herbs that can be kept in pots or the garden and are good for you.

Ours is a modern world. One in which the pharmacutical companies would tell us that they have a pill for everything. Dietary suppliments fill the shelves at pharmacies and supermarkets, each one telling us how good the product is. But each bottle contains maybe a few weeks supply and costs tens of dollars.

What if I was to tell you a way of getting an infinite supply of them for maybe five dollars! (yes, you read right $5 MAX!!!)

Not only that but these ingredients have been around for centuries and in their natural form are little plants called Herbs.

In this lens we’ll take a good look at three of the most common ones that can either live in pots or gardens depending on the space you have. No longer do you need a big garden to enjoy the taste of fresh herbs.

Nature's humble looking superfood
Nature’s humble looking superfood

Parsley

Nature’s first Superfood

At least it’s the first that we folks of European extraction found out about. This humble herb first started its existence in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean sea. It is an ancient herb and in many cultures it’s use has spiritual connections.

The Ancient Romans are the first to have used the herb for eating, they used it to garnish salads and it was said that a salad wasn’t a salad unless it was garnished with Parsley. The Ancient Greeks didn’t eat it but used it to make laurel wreaths for the victors of major sporting events. The Ancient Hebrews used Parsley in the passover ceremony as a symbol of rebirth.

It’s such a humble looking plant and is so easy to grow!

Parsley is actually a biannual plant and will last for at least two years when planted.

Growing Parsley

Parsley can be grown in both pots and veggie gardens, in fact it’s one of those plants that no matter what you plant it in it will be good for the garden. All it requres is full sun and moist soil. Placing the pots out on the landing of an apartment, or even the kitchen window will keep the plant with enough sun and heat to keep it going (it doesn’t really like the cold and should be kept indoors during winter in clmates where snow is on the ground! As for watering, the best was for a pot is to keep a saucer under the pot to catch the water runoff will stop it drying out.

In pots.

Make sure that you use a good quality seed raising mix (Potting mix is almost as good, but that’s for more mature plants. moisten the mix. Whatever pot you use, make sure it has a hole at the bottom for the water to drain out (you can drown a plant by giving it too much water, but with the drain hole that eliminates the possibility. Place a half a dozen seeds in the top of the pot and push down with your finger . You don’t want to put the seed much more than a 1/4 inch (5mm) into the soil and cover up. place the plant in full sun and water once a day. Make sure that you give it enough water that the pot stays moist all day, in about two weeks you’ll see small green shoots coming up, they are the Parsley!

Best time to plant is in spring. In winter, if your plant is in a pot you might think about moving the plant inside, especially if you live in an area the gets snow.

In raised beds

You can either plant directly into the raised bed using the same methods as above, or when the plant has grown to about six inches tall gently remove the whole plant from the pot (be careful not to disturb the roots. Dig a small hole slightly larger than the root system of the plant and place a small amount of fertilizer. gently ease the plant into the hole being careful not to disturb the roots, try not to touch them as this operation is a stress for the plant and you can kill them (it’s shame to do so much work and see it come to nothing!) The best way to make sure you get a good healthy plant at the end is to do two or three plants this way, you can always give them away if you don’t need them and your friends will be amazed at your “green fingers” especially when you tell them how to do it!

Health Benefits

Parsley is a natural Diuretic in that it absorbs water and can help people with water retention problems. It is also high in Iron (Good for Aenemia) magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Volatile oils (Not the explosive kind) Folic acid (one of the B vitamins) and flavoniods.

What does this all mean

Diuretic. It absorbs water, and it has been dhown to help people with water retention problems. Parsley used to be the way people were treated for this

Iron. The blood needs Iron to produce haemoglobin. People with low iron in the blood have problems with Aenemia and other blood related disorders. Not with Parsley!

Magnesium. Every cell in your body needs it. Yes we are talking about a food that benefits every cell in your body!

Vitamin K. Not just for the newborn but also good for the Heart.

Vitamin C. Along with all the other good stuff this humble herb has Vitamin C. Besides the benefit to the skin that we all know about Vitamin C has been bound to fight asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and a whole host of other things too numerous to mention. 2 tablespoons of parsley gives you 16% of your daliy need. Incidentally Vitamin C can’t be stored by the body and it’s vital that it gets a daily dose!

Volatile Oils. These are the amazing little things that help the body fight crazy free radicals. the things that cause cancer and heart problems. Parsley is loaded with these Oils that are known as Anti oxidants and prevent them attacking the body

This doesn’t mean that those things won’t happen to you, but it does mean that the cancer, or heart disease will have a much harder time getting established in your system!

Using Parsley

The traditional way is to use it as a garnish for a salad or a meal, but there are other ways it can be used.

Spice up your soup. Parsley does have a taste and it can easily be blended into a winter soup. It’s gentle fresh taste can enhance the flavour of most soups.

Parsley sauce just look them up on the net, you’ll find a plethora of them.

This may seem like a humble food, but remember, if Popeye eats spinach then Hercules ate Parsley!

Your favourite herbs – Choose your herb

Which are your favourite herbs

  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Others
Thyme on right and left. Parsely in centre. great for pots
Thyme on right and left. Parsely in centre. great for pots

Thyme, Natures cough medicine

God’s anti septic

Thyme is another amazingly versatile plant. It has some spectacular health benefits but also it can be used as an air freshener and even as a ground cover instead of grass.

Imagine people arriving at your door to me met with the most amazing citrus aroma and the prettiest little bushes by the door, it’s an aroma that starts to work on their blocked sinuses and they feel better even before they’ve come through the door, that would be the Thyme in the garden for you.

The first to discover the antiseptic properties of this wonderful herb were the ancient Sumerians at least five thousand years ago.

Toothpaste of the Ancients

Thyme also has a long and glorious history, but this one goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt and Persia. The Ancient Egyptians found the preservative properties it had and used it in embalming. The Greeks used it in worship in their Temples believing that it brought forward courage.

The Romans were the ones who brought Thyme to Europe, they would use the herb to freshen their air in their rooms, but the best use for it was discovered by the Ancient Persians who used it to flavour their meat dishes, especially Lamb and Tomatoes.

Growing Thyme

Cuttings

Roots should be divided in April using plants three or four years old. Dig up the plant, clear away as much soil as possible from the roots and gently tear the the plant into three or four pieces. The pieces (each should have a portion of root and foliage) can then simply be planted in the ground and left to grow. They should be ready for moderate harvesting in early July time. (This is if you are in the Northern hemisphere, if you’re in the southern hemisphere then look to do it in the early part of spring, around October-November time)

Seeds

You can grow it from seed, they should be planted in the spring. Use a good seed raising mix and just lightly cover the seeds with seed raising mix. Keep them well watered and in a warm area. Only when there’s no danger from frost should you move the plants outside. Only harvest lightly for the first year, but Thyme is a perennial and will keep growing as long as you want it to.

Dishes it can be used in

Thyme has a very strong flavor but it doesn’t overpower the food that it’s put into. As I said previously, the Ancient civilizations used it to flavour stews, broths and meat, especially Lamb. It can also be infused into tea and make a delightful tasting tea.

Interestingly in France there is a tradition of feeding animals for slaughter with Thyme (especially Rabbit) as it helps to flavor the meat.

All that and fresh breath!

Garden or Kitchen? – Which do you prefer?

Some love Thyme just as a plant where others had no idea of its versitality, what do you think? Can you have a great garden and great tasting dishes with the same plants?

Chives

The smallest onion

Chives are a member of the nion clan, Just like garlic and Leeks, it’s just that they are the smallest member, however don’t let size fool you. They pack a mighty punch!

They’re a perennial plant which will keep growing when the leaves are cut off and produce more, it’s the leaves that have all the flavor, unlike Onions and garlic that are harvested for the bulbs, with chives it pays to leave them to continue growing.

In the Garden

Chives are not only good for the health, they also look amazing when flowering. The stems grow to about 12 inches tall and produce the most amazing blue (darker than sky blue but not as dark as navy blue) flowers. mixing them with other flowers in the garden can give an amazing effect.

Chives have been known to be used in the Ancient world for around five thousand years. Although the plant is native to Europe and Siberia the earliest use for the herb was found by the Ancient Chinese about 5,000 years ago.

Chives have many of the same health benefits of their cousin garlic, but not at the strength that garlic has, also not at the strength of smell that garlic has. They are known for the antiseptic and anti fungal properties, they are regarded as being good for the heart and antibacterial properties. Chives aren’t as strong as garlic but they are also known to have benficial effect on the blood system (something that garlic doesn’t do).

Like the onion they can be chopped and put into the soup or mixed in with the main dish, various countries have different ways of using the herb in food.

Growing Chives

Being part of the onion family their seeds are like a bulb and can be grown that way. They too can be grown in both pots and straight into the soil, they make good companion plants to other herbs and even citrus trees (Mine are planted under a mandarin tree and both are thriving). The soil should either be good seed raising mix or slightly acidic (most seed raising mix is this way) with a ph of about 6. plant them with the roots pointing down and the tapered end to the top. try to put them so that the tapered end is either just at the surface or just below it. Keep them well watered and so that they get sun for part of the day. once they’ve established themselves then use them as much as you need to by cutting the stems about 1/3 the way up.

An interesting fact

In Every Roman soldier’s ‘kitbag’ you’d always find these herbs along with salt. This was because the Romans saw the medicinal value of these little ‘superfoods’ thousands of years before the latest ‘fads’  Just think what the Romans achieved, yes they were great generals, architechts but this is what they carried with them!

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