Planting, gathering and using herbs

Planting, gathering and using herbs

planting, gathering and using herbsIt is a wonderful experience, whether you have a spacious garden or just a sunny windowsill. There are so many varieties and they are useful in the kitchen, as supplements, and for beauty treatments. Here are some tips on successfully growing and using them. 

Growing herbs:
  1. Choose Your Herbs: Decide which herbs you’d like to grow. Some popular choices include basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Consider your preferences by what you’ll be using them for. 
  2. Select a Growing Location: Most herbs thrive in sunny locations, so choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you’re growing indoors, place your pots near a south-facing window where they can get plenty of sunlight.
  3. Choose Containers or Planting Beds: If you’re short on space, you can grow herbs in pots, containers, or even window boxes. Make sure the containers have good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. If you have space outdoors, you can also plant herbs directly into the ground.
  4. Use Quality Soil: Use a well-draining potting mix for container-grown herbs or prepare your garden soil by adding compost to improve its texture and fertility.  composting and soil tonics Check out our compost resources 
  5. Planting: Plant seeds or seedlings according to the instructions on the seed packet or plant tag. Be sure to space them appropriately to allow room for growth. Water the soil thoroughly after planting.
Keeping herbs growing: 
  1. Watering: Herbs generally prefer slightly moist soil. Water your herbs when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, but be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. If you’re growing herbs indoors, be mindful of the drying effects of indoor heating or air conditioning.  For best watering dates use Water and Earth days. Some really thirty herbs may need almost daily watering. 
  2. Fertilizing: Herbs don’t usually require a lot of fertilizer. You can apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season to promote healthy growth. (1 tablespoon of coffee grind in a liter of tap water is ideal). Top up with your home-made or shop-bought compost. (see above). 
  3. Pruning and Harvesting: Regularly prune your herbs to encourage bushy growth and prevent them from becoming leggy or woody. When harvesting, snip off the outer leaves or stems with sharp scissors or pruners. pruning flowers  Use the flowering shrub symbol for the best pruning dates.

  4. Harvesting: Use today’s symbol for the best harvesting times.
  5. Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for common pests like aphids, mites, and caterpillars. If you notice any signs of pests or diseases, take action promptly to prevent them from spreading. You can often control pests by handpicking (keep the infected leaves and soak them for a week in water). Then spray your herbs with either insecticidal soap, or using my favorite remedy: 1/3 liquid soap, 1/3 IPA 70%, and 1/3 water. Spray thoroughly and leave for a few days. That should get rid of all the current pests. With very heavy infestation you may repeat this process. After a few days spray a small amount with the water of the infused leaves (strained and discarded). This acts as a kind of inoculation. Your herbs should return very soon to good health.  In case a new infestation appears, just repeat this process. 
  6. Winter Care: Some herbs are perennials and will survive through the winter, while others are annuals and will die back at the end of the growing season. For perennial herbs, you may need to provide some protection during the winter months, especially if you live in a colder climate.
Here are some popular herbs and their uses: 
  1. Peppermint: Peppermint is often used to soothe digestive issues such as indigestion, gas, and bloating. It can also help relieve tension headaches and promote relaxation. Peppermint is a great deterrent for mice and other rodents. Just sprinkle them around or use distilled peppermint oil to spray on entrances or holes where mice/rats might live. They hate the smell. 
  2. Chamomile: Chamomile is known for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. It is often used to promote relaxation, relieve anxiety, aid in sleep, and soothe digestive discomfort. Good for all kinds of infection, from an eye infection to nail infection, etc soak a cotton pad in warm chamomile tea and apply to the infected area. 
  3. Parsley:  Adds Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and K to your diet. Help with blood clotting and infections and is a powerful antioxidant. Eat as parsley leaf salad, add parsley leaves to a salad, or drink as parsley tea. 
  4. Oregano: Reduces cholesterol, promotes healing, prevents bloating, and reduces inflammations. 
  5. Echinacea: Echinacea is commonly used to boost the immune system and help prevent or reduce the severity of colds and upper respiratory infections. It may also aid in wound healing and reduce inflammation.
  6. Lavender: Lavender is known for its calming and relaxing effects. It is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Lavender oil can also be applied topically to soothe minor burns, insect bites, and skin irritations. A few drops on your pillow will make you go to sleep and lavender oil poured on a small herb cushion and left in your wardrobe keep moths at bay. 
  7. Thyme: Similar to Verbena and sage,  helps you relax and go to sleep. It is good for your throat and lungs as regulates mucous. Thyme tea is beneficial for asthma sufferers. Contains antiseptic and antifungal properties. 
  8. Valerian Root: Valerian root is commonly used as a natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is believed to promote relaxation, improve sleep quality, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

This is a vast topic area and one we will revisit at a later stage. In the meantime please check out the LWTM Lifestyle Calendar for the best dates to plant, water, and use herbs. 

When you see this symbol it is a good time (depending on the season) to either plant herbs, gather them, dry them or use them.
Here is a series called Cooking With Herbs to get you started. Just enter this search term into the blog search engine to find related articles.

When you see this symbol it is a good time (depending on the season) to either plant herbs, gather them, dry them or use them.
Here is a series called Cooking With Herbs to get you started. Just enter this search term into the blog search engine to find related articles.

An Introduction to LWTM
Cooking with herbs- oregano

Cooking with herbs- oregano

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being.  To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

This popular kitchen herb grows in the Mediterranean region. It is practically synomonous with the Italian kitchen, a pizza or pasta sauce without oregano does not taste the same. But it is also common place in the Turkish, Lebanese and other Mediterranean cuisines and it apart from Pizza it is also found in meat dishes and salads.

It is part of the mint family and grows from 20 to 80cm tall, has purple flowers and olive-green leaves. In colder climates Oregano needs to be grown under glass, as it does not survive a harsh winter.

When you want to use oregano in the kitchen, you need to use it as a dried herb, because the dried oregano has an aromatic, herby and slightly tangy taste and is much more potent than used as a fresh herb.

History: As far back as 400 B.C. the Ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates already used oregano as an antiseptic and as cure for an upset stomach and problems with the respiratory system. Tests later revealed that oregano has antibacterial properties. It can also be used as a tea for nervous disorders and gastric problems.

But oregano is not only used as kitchen herb. Oregano oil has also health benefits, to find out more, please read this article from the Huffington Post. 

Here are a few recipes for cooking with oregano

Olive, onion and oregano bread:
Ingredients:
 1 large onion (finely chopped), 1 tbsp. olive oil, 2 cups of bread flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. salt, 1 cup of low-fat buttermilk,2 tbsp. melted butter, 2 egg whites, ¼ cup of chopped, pitted Kalamata olives (or  any other olives), 1 tsp. of dried oregano.

  1. Pre-heat oven to around 180 degrees C, then heat the some butter in a pan and add the chopped onions and cook them until brown.
  2. In a bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and oregano. Then make a dent in the middle. In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, butter, egg whites and oregano. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dent of the flour mixture and knead the mixture until you have a bread dough.
  3. Finally fold in the browned onions and chopped olives and fill the dough into a well-oiled bread tin.
  4. Bake for around 40minutes in the middle of the oven and leave to cool for another 10 minutes.
  5. Once cooled, release the bread. You can either eat it fresh or for more convenience, cut it into slices and keep them in the freezer.

Home-made pizza:

Ingredients for the dough: 250g of plain flour, ½ pack of dried yeast, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. of dried oregano, a small glass of lukewarm water.

  1. Add all the ingredients (except the water) into a large bowl and then add half of the water. Mix all the ingredients with your hands (please wash them before use!) to achieve a coherent dough. From time to time, add a bit more water until the mixture has become a gooey, solid dough. If you have added too much water, correct the consistency of the dough by adding more flour.
  2. Form a neat dough ball and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Leave the dough to rest and rise (at least 2 hours).
  3. Once the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
  4. Then take out 2 large cooking trays and add a few drops of oil that you can spread evenly all over the tray.
  5. Place the dough ball into the middle of the cooking tray and the slowly spread it outwards with your hands until you have an even thin dough base (there should be more dough on the outside to form a crust).
  6. Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato passata (pureed tomatoes) and garnish with your favorite ingredients. These can include ham, onions, tuna, prawns, pepperoni, artichokes and even Bolognaise sauce. Top with Morzarella strips and finally add another few pinches of oregano and olive oil.
  7. Bake in the oven for around 15 to 20 minutes and you have made your first home-made pizza!

I make this recipe regularly for my whole family and everybody has their own strip with their own favourite toppings. You can also make a few smaller, round pizzas and your children can then add their toppings of their own choice.

 

 

 

 

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