The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

Creating Local Food Security & Healthy, Vibrant, Regenerated Living Soil, & Nutrient Dense Food

HOW TO GROW HERBS A-E

 

CONTENTS:

 

1. ALFALFA                                       

2. ALOE  

3. ANGELICA 

4. ANISEED  

5. BASIL

6. BAY LAUREL 

7. BERGAMOT (Bee Balm)

8. BORAGE

9. BURDOCK 

10. CARAWAY

11. CHAMOMILE

12. CHERVIL

13. CHIVES  

14. CLOVER (Red)

15. COMFREY

16. CORIANDER

17. COUCH GRASS

18. DANDELION

19. DILL

20. ECHINACEA

21. ELDERFLOWER

22. ELECAMPANE

23. EPAZOTE

24. EVENING PRIMROSE

ALFALFA Lucerne (Medicago sativa)

This is the same family as clover with similar small grey-green leaves and purple flowers, but generally a taller plant and deeper, longer roots. 

Soil & Sight:

Alfalfa prefers deep topsoil with good organic content, so if necessary fork in compost at 1 bucket per square metre (square yard). Ideal pH as always - 6.4, some references say up to 7.5, but this just means they like lime. If the pH is already 6.4, then apply 2 handfuls of gypsum (Calcium sulphate) per square metre (square yard), which is pH neutral, but supplies both Calcium and Sulphur.

Sowing:

Sow directly outside in spring or autumn, very lightly sprinkling the small seed and mixing in with your fingers, or sprinkling on some fine top soil to just cover them. Thin later to about 7cm (3in) apart each way.

Growing:

Keep weeded in the seedling stage. Later the plants will cover the ground and smother out most weeds.

Harvesting:

When the plants are just starting to flower, cut the plants down to 2½cm (1in) above the crowns and place the stringy plants onto nylon covered wooden frames to dry in the shade in the warm at around 20-30C (68-86F).

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees love the flowers.

Culinary Uses:

Cut small and added to salads, or as a tea flavoured with orange peel, lemon peel, mint and honey and drunk cold.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Whole herb. A small handful once a day made into a standard brew.

Actions: alterative, diuretic, antipyretic, haemostatic

Uses:

• Alfalfa is a fine tonic, kidney cleanser and alkalizer of the whole system.

• It is detoxifying.

• It is also a mild blood purifier.

• It is rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and almost all known vitamins.

ALOE (Aloe vera)

This is a plant of hot, dry sandy and rocky regions and is not hardy in temperate regions. In semi-tropical, or Mediterranean climates with no frosts it can be grown outside. Here in Nelson we grow it very successfully as a houseplant in the kitchen-dining area, just as we did in the UK.

Soil & Sight:

Any well drained potting compost will do. You can make your own, by mixing well:

7 parts sieved topsoil, 3 parts well rotted garden compost, 2 parts sharp sand

 

Propagating:

Plant an offset obtained from a friend. They are very easy to grow.

Growing:

Grow in a 20cm (8in) pot indoors near a window, or in a frost-free conservatory.

Harvesting:

Drying aloe is not possible, and anyway it grows all the year round, so fresh leaves are always available. Cut the thickest leaves and squeeze out the gel, either into a container or straight onto the burn or wound. The gel will keep for a few days in the fridge, but it is better to use fresh.

Medical Uses:

Always keep a pot of Aloe Vera in or near the kitchen in case of mild burns – immediately run the burn under a cold tap first to cool it thoroughly, then break a leaf in half and gently apply the jelly-like juice onto the burn.

Aloe gel is a wonderful tonic for the liver and spleen, for the blood and the female reproductive system.

Part Used:

Gel from the leaves.

Actions:

Alterative, bitter tonic, rejuvenative, emmenagogue, purgative, vulnerary.

Uses:

• As a general tonic take 2 teaspoons 3 times a day with a pinch of turmeric, or mixed with water or apple juice.

• Constipation.

• The fresh juice can be applied externally for burns, sores, herpes, etc.

ANGELICA (Angelica archangelica)

 

Angelica is a tall lush majestic plant, up to 2m (6½ft) high with very large leaves, strong stems and large flower heads.

 

Soil & Sight

 

Angelica prefers a shady spot in a rich moist soil, but not too heavy, so fork in 1 bucket of compost per square metre (yard).

 

In a herb bed it should be planted at the back because of its height.

 

Sowing:

You can buy the plants or sow them. If you buy the seeds from a seed company then you will need to store the seeds in a fridge for 2-3 weeks before sowing to get reasonable germination. In early spring, sow 3 seeds, 2cm (¾in) deep, in a 5cm (2in) pot in a greenhouse or windowsill, thinning the seedlings to one. Then plant out after the last frosts.

 

It is a biennial, so you will need to sow the seeds for two years running so that you will always have one and two year old plants. In its second year it will flower and produce seeds which you can save or let fall to seed themselves. If you collect the seed in the autumn, sow immediately in pots as above, planting out in the spring.

 

Growing:

Weed and when the plants are 8cm (3in) or more mulch with leaves, shreddings, bark etc.

 

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves in summer for drying. Harvest the stalks for candying or using fresh in the late spring.

 

Culinary Uses:

The traditional use was for the leaf stalks to be candied and used for decorating cakes. Another use for the larger leaf stalks is to mix them with rhubarb when stewing them together. The angelica adds an extra pleasant taste to the rhubarb and removes the tartness.

 

Medicinal Uses:

 

Part Used: Angelica has valuable volatile oil in all parts of the plant, and in particular the roots. It is used for all digestive problems, including colic and heartburn, as well as promoting and regulating menstruation.

 

Actions:

diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue.

ANISEED Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

 

Aniseed has brilliant green feathery leaves and umbels of creamy flowers forming the yellow seeds.

 

The whole plant is highly aromatic and pleasant smelling. 

  This is not the same as Star Anise, which is a Chinese spice.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Well-drained soil in full sun is best.

 

Sowing:

Aniseed is an annual, so can only be grown from seed. Sow in a seed box in a greenhouse or windowsill. Sow as flat as possible and slightly pressed in. They need to be covered to keep the light out, because they will only germinate in the dark. They can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

 

They can also be sown outside after the last frosts when the soil has started to warm up. Sow in fine soil that ideally has had the top few centimetres (1½in) sieved. Cover the seeds lightly and gently water.

 

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary and when the plants are 6cm (2in) mulch around with 2-3cm (¾-1in) grass clippings.

 

Harvesting:

Cut off the seed-heads when dried, but before the seeds have shed. If they need more drying lay out in a glasshouse, then rub the seeds off the head and store in a paper bag in a dry cool place.

 

Companions:

Aniseed improves the vigour of any plants growing near it.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Aniseed is a good host for predatory wasps, which prey on aphids and it is also said to repel aphids. It deters pests from brassicas by camouflaging their odour.

 

Culinary Uses:

The seeds are used to flavour bread and cakes at a heaped teaspoon per ½kg (1 pound) flour.

 

Medicinal Uses:

 

Parts Used: Seeds

 

Actions: carminative, stimulant, galactagogue.

 

Uses:

 

• It is a more powerful tonic than Angelica. For digestive ailments chew one teaspoon of seeds before meals – 3 times a day.

• For baby’s colic, make a mild tea with 1 teaspoon of seeds to 1 cup of water. Give several teaspoons of cold tea before meals, or add to their bottle of milk.

BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

This has to be at the top of my herb list. It is an essential herb and one we grow a lot of each year.

There are numerous varieties, as well as the Bush Basil (Ocymum minumum) and Sacred Basil.

Soil & Sight:

As a fast growing annual it needs a rich, well fed soil, with added compost and blood and bone. If the soil is heavy clay, add some sharp sand as well as compost.

 

Sowing:

Basil seeds last 3 years.

For early crops, sow inside or in a glasshouse or conservatory. Basil does not transplant well, so sow two or three seeds in small pots then plant out carefully, without disturbing the roots. Sow several times throughout the growing season for a good succession.

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart, after the last frosts. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

Harvesting & Preserving:

You can dry basil, but it loses a lot of its aromatic smell and flavour in the process. We have found it is better to freeze small amounts of fresh leaves in small Ziplock sachets. When you want to use them, take them out of the freezer and crunch them up in the sachet while frozen, to save chopping before using.

Companions:

Basil is one of the most used herbs with tomatoes in cooking, but is also one of the best herbs to plant with tomatoes to improve their growth and flavour. Basil also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Do not plant near rue or sage.

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Basil can be helpful in repelling thrips.

Culinary Uses:

Endless in short! With any recipe that involves tomatoes. Used to make herb butter with parsley to melt on cooked fish or with shellfish. As the flavour increases with cooking, unlike most herbs, it is good in egg and cheese dishes, poultry and game, soups and stews.

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

Actions: diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, anti-spasmodic, antibacterial, antiseptic.

Uses:

• As it causes perspiration and reduces fever, it is good for colds, flu and bronchitis.

• It is a powerful tonic, stimulant and nerve remedy.

• It is also helpful in relieving nausea and severe vomiting.

• A remedy for indigestion.

• The fresh leaf juice is used externally for fungal infections of the skin.

BAY LAUREL (Laurus nobilis)

There are so many recipes that ask for the inclusion of a bay leaf, this tree is a must. Bay Laurels are evergreen and so the leaves can be harvested all year.

 

Soil & Sight:

This is a tree that can last many decades, so give its location some serious thought. Left alone they can grow to 10m (33ft) or more, but they are easily trained into bushes, or as a spherical head on a 1.5m (5ft) stem, and can also be grown in a tub or large pot.

 

They will grow quite happily in any soil of moderate quality in full sun, but they prefer a moisture retentive soil, so the addition of compost will help. They also enjoy protection from cold winds. In areas with very cold winters it is best to grow bay in a tub that can be brought into a glasshouse, or conservatory in the winter - (see picture right):

 

Propagating:

Personally I would buy a young tree from a nursery, but you can also propagate it from semi-hardwood stem cuttings.

 

You can also layer a low branch at the end of summer, by bending the branch down, bending it in a ‘U’ shape and burying the bottom of the ‘U’. Before burying it nick the bottom of the ‘U’ and apply rooting hormone.

Leave the end of the branch sticking out with its leaves on and a brick or stone to hold it down. Carefully check in the summer to see if it has rooted, if not wait till autumn or the following spring, then cut it off and plant where you want it.

 

 

Growing:

Because it likes its soil relatively moist and doesn't like to dry out, consider mulching, and don't forget to water it regularly while it's young.

 

 

Harvesting & Preserving:

Bay is an evergreen, so you can pick leaves at any time of the year, but you can also dry the leaves and store in a jar in the kitchen.

 

Culinary Uses:

Use fresh or freshly dried. If you grow your own you will never have to use old tired ones. It is always good to scrunch them up to release the volatile oils before adding to dishes.

 

Medical Uses:

 

Part Used: Leaves Actions: astringent, diuretic, bitter tonic.

 

Uses:

 

• It has appetite stimulant properties.

• Bay laurel infusions can also be used to soothe stomach ulcers.

• Relieves flatulence.

BERGAMOT Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)

 

Bergamot is a beautiful hardy perennial plant indigenous to North America. The flowers are a conspicuous beautiful purple with a spicy scent, in fact the whole plant is infused with scent.

 

Soil & Sight:

Where wild bergamot grows it is usually in rich soils in dry fields and clearings, usually on limy soil – so add some garden compost and some lime if necessary and plant in a sunny well-drained position. 

The plants can grow up to 1m (3ft) when flowering, so a position in the middle or back of the herb bed would be best. It is especially good to plant in and around your vegetables and fruit trees and bushes to attract bees and other beneficial insects.

 

Sowing:

Sow in seed boxes or pots in early spring and plant out in middle to late spring.

 

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary and mulch down with chipped bark, chippings or grass clippings.

 

Harvesting & Preserving:

The flowers and whole leaves need gentle drying in the dark to preserve their colour, at a temperature of between 20-30oC (68-86oF). Store in sealed jars.

 

Companions:

Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavour.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its other name is Bee Balm, so great for attracting bees and other beneficial insects.

 

Culinary Uses:

The flowers are edible with a mild sweet flavour. Great for adding interest and decoration in salads.

 

Medical Uses:

 

Part Used: Flower. Actions: carminative, antiseptic, and diaphoretic.

 

Uses:

 

• Bergamot flower tea, drunk hot, relaxes and induces sleep. To make, add 1 teaspoon of dried flowers or leaves per cup + 1 extra for the pot.

• Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. As a result a tea was made from the plant and used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis.

• It’s other use as an antiseptic is for use as poultices for skin infections and minor wounds.

• Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence.

• The herb is an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer) and therefore useful for fevers, colds and flue.

BORAGE (Borago officinalis)

 

Borage is an annual. We have always grown borage, although in truth it grows itself as it always sows its own seeds, so every year we have replacement seedlings to grow with our vegetables and in our herb and forest garden.

 

It has bright blue star-like flowers that bees are crazy about.

 

Soil & Sight:

It is so easy to grow, any reasonable soil will do.

 

Sowing:

Sow outside in spring and allow the flowers to produce seeds that will fall and sow themselves. In other words after the first year you will have them every year and all you need to do is to move the seedlings to where you want them.

 

Growing:

Weed and water as necessary.

 

Harvesting:

Borage is not easy to dry, because it contains a lot of sap and will turn black if dried too hot and quickly, or too slow and cool. Harvest when the plant is in flower, using only the young leaves. Dry in the dark in an airy place laid out on frames stretched with fine nylon netting, or cheesecloth at a temperature of around 20-300C (68-86oF). The flowers should be used fresh.

 

Companions:

Borage is a companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries, in fact most edible plants. Borage and strawberries help each other and strawberry farmers have been known to plant a few plants in their beds to enhance the strawberry’s flavour and yield. Plant near tomatoes to improve growth and disease resistance. 

 

Borage is said to benefit any plant it is growing next to by increasing its resistance to pests and disease.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees love the flowers, favouring them above most other flowers. Growing plenty of borage around a garden will guarantee plenty of honey and bumble bees in your garden. The flowers also attract beneficial predatory wasps. 

 

Culinary Uses: Its flowers are edible with a cucumber like taste, great for decorating salads and summer drinks.

 

Medical Uses:

 

Part Used: Leaves and flowers.

 

Actions: cardiotonic, antihypertensive, diuretic, demulcent, emollient.

 

Uses:

 

• Traditionally Borage was used in gastrointestinal disorders such as colic, cramps and diarrhoea.

• Respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis.

• A blood purifier.

• Used for urinary, kidney and bladder disorders.

• As a remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms such as hot flush.

BURDOCK (Arctium lappa)

 

Soil & Sight:

Plant in full sun in moist rich soil. Burdock can grow to more than 2m (6½ft) tall, in the second year producing purple flowers that ripen and become the familiar burrs. Lighter soils will make harvesting the roots much easier.

 

Sowing:

Burdock is a biennial, so it will grow its first year and flower and seed in the second season, then it dies. Burdock seeds don’t remain viable for more than a year or two at most, so sow fresh seed. Either sow in early spring in boxes or pots and transplant after the last frosts, or sow outside in late spring. Burdock is extremely hardy, and will self seed readily and spread, unless you cut the seed heads off before they shed their seeds.

Growing:

Mulch with 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) grass clippings added regularly.

 

Harvesting & Preserving:

Chop the top off the plant in late summer of the first year and dig out the roots. Wash, cut up into small bits and dry, or use fresh. The seeds (or fruits) are collected when ripe. Shake out of the head and dry by spreading them out on paper in the sun, or in a glasshouse.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love burdock flowers.

 

Culinary Uses:

There are many Japanese recipes using burdock root. Here is one called Kinpira Gobo:

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 burdock root

• ⅓ carrot

• 1 Tbsp. sesame oil

• 1 Tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds

• Chilli flakes Seasonings:

• ¾ cup kombu dashi

• 2 Tbsp. sake

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 Tbsp. mirin

• 1½ Tbsp. soy sauce

 

Method: 

 

1. Peel the root.

2. Slice thinly and diagonally into 5cm (2in) pieces.

3. Then slice the pieces finely into julienne (matchstick sized strips).

4. Soak the strips in water or vinegar water; changing the water a couple of times until the water is clean. Leave the strips in water until you are ready to stir fry.

5. Cut carrots into julienne strips.

6. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium high and stir-fry the burdock root first. Then add carrot and cook both for a few minutes.

7. Add Seasonings and cook until most of liquid evaporates.

8. When the liquid is almost gone, add sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds and chilli flakes.

 

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Roots and seeds.

 

Actions: alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, antipyretic

 

Roots: Make a decoction by simmering 1 teaspoon of the cut root (fresh or dried) per cup of water, for 30 minutes. Strain and drink 1 cup, three times daily with meals.

 

Uses:

 

• Burdock root is a very effective cleanser of the blood and lymphatics.

• Clears congestion, reduces swelling and dispels toxins.

• For inflammatory skin conditions and rashes.

• For kidney inflammation.

 

Seeds:

 

Boil 1 teaspoon of seeds in 1 cup water. Strain and drink 1 cup, three times daily with meals.

 

Uses:

 

• Used as a diuretic.

• They have a detoxifying action.

• Helps to relieve cough.

Caraway flowerhead

CARAWAY (Carum carvi)

 

The seeds are well known for both culinary and medicinal uses. Soil & Sight: Plant in a warm, sunny location with well-drained soil, rich in organic matter.

 

Sowing:  

Sow caraway in spring or autumn. Sow caraway in spring as early as the soil can be worked, about the date of the average last frost.

Caraway seeds

For an early start, sow caraway indoors in biodegradable peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before the average last frost for transplanting out both pot and plant later. Caraway can also be started from seed in fall for early spring plants. Caraway does not easily transplant because it forms a taproot. Caraway also can be started from cuttings of new growth taken in summer or fall. It easily reseeds itself.

 

Planting and spacing: 

Sow caraway seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful plants from 30 to 46cm (12 to 18in) apart. Space rows 46 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart. Caraway will reseed itself easily in most areas.

 

Growing:

Caraway requires regular, even watering until established. Do not allow seedlings to dry out. Once established caraway can dry out between watering. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Give caraway a side dressing of aged compost at midseason.

 

Harvesting:

When the seeds are nearly dry but have not yet shed, carefully cut off the seed heads and place in a tray in a glasshouse or somewhere warm to finish drying. Then rub off the seeds and store in a sealed jar.

 

Companions:

It grows well with most vegetables, especially brassicas. Good for loosening compacted soil with its deep roots so it's also compatible next to shallow rooted crops. Plant it with strawberries. Keep it away from dill and fennel.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers attract a number of beneficial insects especially the tiny parasitic wasps.

 

Culinary Uses:

The seeds are used in cakes and bread for an anise-like flavour and to aid the digestion.

 

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Seeds.

 

Actions: aromatic, stimulant and carminative

 

Uses:

 

• For all digestive ailments.

• Colic in infants.

• To increase appetite.

• To tone the liver and stimulate the flow of bile.

• To counteract nausea.

CHAMOMILE German (Matricaria chamomilla)

 

An annual that can reach 60 cm (24in). Soil & Sight: Chamomile will grow in well draining, poor to average soil with a pH range between 5.6 and 7.5 in full sun – ideally 6.4

 

Sowing:

The seeds need light to germinate, so lightly sprinkle the fine seeds onto seed compost in a seed box or pot and press gently in. You can also sprinkle a single layer of fine grit, or vermiculite, allowing the light to penetrate, but helping to retain moisture. Use a fine mist spray when watering.

Growing:

Remove all dead flowers regularly to keep new blossoms forming. Once planted, this plant will self-seed to produce new plants each year.

 

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest the flowers by cutting them off as they reach their peak bloom; use fresh in tea or dry for winter use. To dry, place flowers on a tray and allow to dry thoroughly in a cool, dark place. Store in an airtight container.

 

Companions:

Chamomile is a good companion plant for basil, cabbage and cucumbers and onion, improving their flavour, as well as increasing the essential oil production of many other herbs it is planted near. It accumulates calcium, potassium and sulphur, later returning them to the soil. Growing chamomile is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Host to hoverflies and predatory wasps.

 

Culinary Uses:

None that I know of.

 

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Flowers. An infusion of 14g of the dried flowers to ½ litre of boiling water

 

Actions: analgesic, antiantispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, emetic.

 

Uses:

 

• It acts as a nerve sedative.

• As a tonic upon the gastro-intestinal canal.

• Used in cases of earache.

• For neuralgic pain.

• For stomach disorders.

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)

 

Annual. The plant looks similar to parsley, but is more delicate and feathery.

 

Soil & Sight: 

 

Chervil prefers semi-shade and will quickly run to seed if grown in full sun and grown in hot dry weather. It will tolerate most soils, but does not thrive in heavy, badly drained soil.

 

Sowing:

Chervil does not like to be transplanted and does not like hot weather, so early summer sowing is not recommended. It prefers to be sown outside in the spring in a site in half shade. As it is reasonably hardy plant, it can also be sown in late summer in a protected site, or amongst the protection of taller herbs for winter and spring harvesting.

 

Growing:

It requires little care other than regular weeding and watering.

 

Harvesting & Preserving:

Apart from midsummer it can be picked fresh, by picking the outside leaves. It does not dry well, but it can be frozen by placing portions of picked leaves in small Zliplock bags and placed in the freezer.

 

Companions:

Companion to radishes, lettuce and broccoli for improved growth and flavour.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Keeps aphids off lettuce. Said to deter slugs.

 

Culinary Uses:

Chervil has a slightly sweetish taste, and a pleasant aromatic taste and smell. It can be used in any situation where you would use parsley. It can be used as an addition to salads, potato salad, or finely chopped in French dressing.

 

It can be used in Pancakes, used generously in omelettes, any egg dish, in cream cheese, in soups, with beef and lamb, as a herb butter on fish, in melted butter for poultry, sprinkled on peas, tomatoes, egg plant etc., and on boiled buttered potatoes.

 

Medical Uses:

Part Used: Leaves.

 

Actions: alterative, anti-inflammatory, aperient, diuretic, expectorant, rejunative.

 

Uses:

 

• It has expectorant properties that help remove mucous from the respiratory tract. Good for coughs and bronchitis.

• Chervil herb is also a diuretic, promoting frequent urination, thus helping the removal of toxins and waste materials from the body.

• A tonic for the body. It also tones the epithelial lining of the body, thereby soothing all the internal organs.

• It serves as a mild analgesic, relieving pain and inflammation caused by a variety of ailments.

• It helps relieve irritable bowel syndrome by regulating bowel movements.

• The treatment of a variety of skin conditions including eczema and acne.

• Blood purifier.

• Helps cure mouth ulcers

CHIVES (Alium schoenoprasum)

 

A perennial that grows in an ever-widening bunch. It has cylindrical almost grass-like leaves and beautiful globe-shaped multi-flowered flower heads, flowering in summer.

 

Soil & Sight:

It is said chives like any kind of soil and condition, but as a member of the very hungry onion family, they like a rich soil, so provide one bucket of well rotted garden compost to the place they are to grow, plus one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser all mixed in. They will cope with partial shade, but full sun is also good. It is also easy to grow through the winter in a 12cm (4¾in) pot, placed in a conservatory or glasshouse. This ensures an all round yearly supply.

Sowing:

Sow in the spring, either in boxes, to be transplanted when about 8cm (3in) high as a clump, or a few seeds sown together outside, which will grow into a clump.

 

Growing:

In the wild they grow in moist meadows, so need lots of humus and available water, especially in a dry summer. If the clump gets too crowded the bulbs will die out, so regular thinning of the bulbs and re-planting them in another position, is good practice. Also harvesting regularly by cutting back to the base, especially when in flower benefits the plant. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

Be sure to cut the leaves down to the base when harvesting – to within 2.5 to 5cm (1-2in) of the soil. Harvest 3 to 4 times during the first year.

 

Companions:

Improves growth and flavour of carrots and tomatoes. A friend to apples, carrots, tomatoes, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, mustard, etc.) and many others.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers are very attractive for beneficial insects.

 

Culinary Uses:

Although onions are usually used in cooking, chives, with their mild flavour are best used fresh to garnish dishes by cutting the leaves into small bits, or adding to salads. They can be chopped into melted butter to pour over mashed or boiled potatoes, or over cooked fish. They can be chopped into scrambled eggs and are good with cucumber or tomato salad. They can also be used as a garnish on a bowl of soup.

 

Medical Uses:

Actions: A general tonic and blood-cleanser. It also improves appetite.

 

Part Used: Leaves.

CLOVER – Red (Trifolium pratense)

 

Soil & Sight:

It likes a rich soil, high in organic matter and full sun.

 

Sowing:

It is very easy to grow outside from spring onwards, just sprinkle the seed lightly and rake in, and then water.

 

Growing:

Weed thoroughly before sowing and after until established.

 

Harvesting:

When the plants are just starting to flower, cut the plants down to 2½cm above the crowns and place the stringy plants onto nylon covered wooden frames to dry in the shade in the warm at 20-300C (68-860F).

 

Companions:

A partner for Aniseed.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Repels aphids, and spider mites. The flowers attract beneficial insects.

Culinary Uses:

The flowers can be added to salads.

 

Medical Uses:

 

Actions: Alterative, Sedative

 

Part Used: The flowers used fresh, or dried for use in the winter months. To make red clover tea, infuse a heaped dessertspoonful of the flowers in water just off the boil. Allow to steep well then sweeten with honey. Take a small cupful before meals.

 

Uses:

 

• Especially useful for cleansing the blood

• Sooths the nerves

• Promotes sleep

• Much prized for its alkaline property

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale) & RUSSIAN COMFREY (Symphytum × uplandicum) 

There are super-foods and then there are super-herbs. This perennial plant is one such herb. It also has many other uses – (see: the section ‘How to Build Fertility’ - GREEN MANURES).

 

Soil & Sight:

This is the plant to grow in a forest garden. Wherever you grow it, remember this will be its permanent home – and I mean permanent! It will grow in almost any soil, although adding garden compost at one bucket for each plant will give it a good start. 

Propagating:

It is easy to propagate by cutting off some crowns from the bunch, each with a growth bud dormant or growing leaves and a good section of root. These can be transplanted at anytime of the year. You can buy the crowns, or cadge some from a friend who has some plants.

Growing:

Plant out at 60cm apart if you want to grow more than one. Feed regularly with liquid manure, and apply a late winter dressing of two handfuls per square metre (yard) of Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

 

Harvesting:

You can dry the leaves, but they are like borage, difficult to dry without them going black – see: Borage. The roots are easy. Clean, scrub and wash the roots. Cut into manageable pieces, and either dry, or store fresh in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

 

Companions:

All fruit trees and shrubs. Grow it in the orchard, or next to your fruit trees, so that you can cut them to feed the trees.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Not as attractive to insects as borage, but if they are flowering; there will be some interest.

 

Medical Uses:

Actions:

A nutritive tonic, demulcent, expectorant, emollient, vulnerary, astringent and haemostatic.

 

Part Used: Roots mainly, but the leaves can also be used, which are more astringent and anti-inflammatory than the root. Comfrey ointment is made from the root.

 

Uses:

 

• One of its great value as a medicine is its ability to speed up the healing of broken bones, cuts and lacerations. The active ingredient is Allantoin, which stimulates cell regeneration. The powdered root taken internally speeds up the growth of new bone after a fracture, hence its old name of Knit bone. It also speeds up the healing of damaged or burnt skin.

• It also stops the flow of blood, especially useful type of astringent that stops internal bleeding or haemorrhaging.

• As a lung tonic it can be combined with Elecampane.

• A good way of using it for cuts is to use a mixture of comfrey juice squeezed from the leaf stem plus the juice squeezed from a garlic bulb. The combination of the astringent and healing effects of the comfrey juice and the strong antiseptic effect of the garlic juice works a treat.

CORIANDER (Coriandrum sativum)   

Coriander, also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used.

 

Soil & Sight:

Coriander needs growing fast in a rich water retentive soil high in organic matter and minerals, so add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

 

Sowing:

Sow in a lightly shaded spot if you can, directly outside.

 

Coriander is renowned for being difficult to grow, because it will easily run to flower and seed, which is not good if you want to grow it for its leaves. Many of the modern varieties are bred to be slow to bolt, but when it is very hot or cold or there are sudden changes in the weather, even these new varieties can run to seed. When they run to seed the leaves become tough and pretty tasteless. The way to counteract this is to sow the seed early in the spring and every few weeks throughout the season, so there will always be fresh green leaves for you. When they do run to flower and seed, save the seeds, which are a very valuable spice, ground up, for curries and other spicy recipes.

 

Growing:

Keep the plants growing strongly with liquid manure applications every one or two weeks. Don’t let the plants dry out at any stage, by regular watering; also mulch around the plants with 3cm (1in) of grass clippings after first watering well, to conserve moisture. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

 

1. Wash the coriander sprigs and place in a clean tea towel and swing outside to absorb and shake off the water.

2. Pick out the discoloured leaves and woody stems.

3. Preheat your oven to lowest temperature setting possible.

4. Chop or clip herbs into ½cm (¼in) pieces onto cooking parchment on a cooking sheet, and then spread the leaves out and place the sheet in the middle of the oven to dry.

5. Store in a sealed jar. They will only last a few months. You can also place whole washed fresh leaves in a Ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

 

For the seeds, cut off the seed heads when the seeds are dry, but not shed, and place the heads on a tray in a glasshouse, or somewhere warm and dry to finish drying before rubbing off the seeds to store in dry sealed jars.

 

Companions:

Coriander is a partner for anise.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Repels aphids, and spider mites.

 

Culinary Uses:

The ground seeds, used as a spice, are well known. The leaves are used as a more pungent alternative to parsley.

 

Medical Uses:

Actions: Alterative, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Carminative, Stimulant.

 

Part Used: Leaves and seeds.

 

Uses:

 

• The ground seeds are used to counteract hot foods and possible indigestion. A tea can be made of the seeds, taken with a little honey before meals.

• The seeds are a good household remedy for indigestion and diarrhoea. • An infusion of the ground seeds is used for cystitis and urinary tract infection.

• The fresh juice of the herb is effective internally for allergies, hay fever and skin rashes – one teaspoon 3 times a day, but it can also be used externally for itch and inflammation.

COUCH GRASS (Agropyron repens) 

Soil & Sight:

Couch grass is a perennial weed, which definitely does not need cultivating. Most gardens will have some somewhere around the property. 

Harvesting:

The rhizomes are best dug up in spring or early autumn, although they can be harvested anytime. Wash and dry the rhizomes, and store in a sealed jar, or wash and store in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

Couch grass leaves and flower heads

Couch grass rhizomes

Medical Uses:

Traditionally it was used as a spring tonic. It is useful as a nerve tonic; what I call ‘poor man’s ginseng’ – and it’s free. More often it has been recommended for urinary tract problems since the time of ancient Greece and Rome. In the sixteenth century, it was still considered good for the liver and the urinary tract. In France today this is still a very popular method for improving health and urinary function.

 

It is a good nerve tonic, especially for those recovering from flu, or those needing a boost. I have used it in the past to good effect. Also used in cases of cystitis. Boil up a good handful of washed chopped roots in ½ litre (1 pint) of water, and then allow to cool before straining. The infusion can be kept in the fridge for several days.

 

Actions: Diuretic, demulcent, tonic, soothing mild diuretic, antimicrobial, aperient, anticholesterolaemic

 

Part Used: Creeping root (rhizome).

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)

 

Dandelions are perennials, so if you want to cultivate them, they need to be in a permanent place.

 

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Usually one can find enough dandelions growing around a property for most uses, but if you are very keen, then add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) in a specially prepared bed.

Dandelion - root, flower & leaf

Sowing:

Only sow from seed if you want to cultivate specially selected varieties, like some seed companies sell. Otherwise dig up wild dandelions and plant them where you want to.

 

Growing:

Make sure the bed is thoroughly cleared of perennial weeds, before planting or sowing the plants, and keep the bed well weeded. Otherwise grow them in a wild area or forest garden among other plants.

 

Harvesting:

The roots are best dug up in spring or early autumn, although they can be harvested anytime. The roots should be washed and dried thoroughly and brittle, then stored in a sealed jar, or washed and stored fresh in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. The leaves can be picked and carefully dried to retain their green colour, and then rubbed and kept in an airtight container in the dark

 

Companions:

Their long deep taproots break up hard soil and bring nutrients up from deep down to benefit shallower rooted annuals without competing for surface nutrients with other plants.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Their bright yellow flowers attract bees to pollinate your flowers, and beneficial insects such as predators to keep down pests.

 

Culinary Uses:

See: the section ‘Weeds – Their Control & Uses’ under Dandelion, for cooking flowers, leaves in salads and how to make dandelion coffee with the roots.

 

Medical Uses:

Blood Cleanser, blood-tonic, blood sugar balancer, lymph cleansing and liver tonic. The white juice use for applications to warts, old sores and blisters.

 

Actions: Alterative, diuretic, lithotriptic, laxative, bitter tonic.

 

Part Used: Leaves, roots and the white juice.

DILL (Anethum graveolens)

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Dill needs a well-drained spot in a sunny position.

 

Sowing:

 

Sow from spring onwards outside, thinning to 20cm apart. I have grown it as a companion plant in the vegetable plots for many years and let some grow to seed, so every year I find seedlings to transplant or leave in situ.

 

Growing:

Although it is a great companion plant for several plants, don’t grow it too close to vegetables so as they compete. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill. 

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves before the plants flower and dry them, storing in sealed jars. The seed heads can be cut when the seeds are dry but haven’t shed; allow to dry in a glasshouse or warm dry area indoors. Then rub off the seed head and store in a dry jars.

Companions:

Best friend for lettuce. Improves growth and health of cabbage. Dill goes well with lettuce, onions, cabbage, sweet corn and cucumbers. I often plant with cabbages. Do not plant near carrots, caraway or tomatoes.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps. Repels aphids and spider mites to some degree.

 

Culinary Uses:

The leaf fronds are good with fish, roast chicken, vegetables and chopped up raw in salads and sauces.

 

Medical Uses:

Dill boosts the digestive system, helps to relieve insomnia. It provides a powerful boost to the immune system. It is also an anti-inflammatory, good for inflammation of the gut and provides protection against arthritis. Most famously, the seeds are used to make gripe water to cure a baby’s colic.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 tablespoon dill seeds

• 1cm (3/8in) piece fresh ginger root, sliced

• 1 teabag or teaspoon of chamomile tea

• ½ cup filtered water

 

Method:

 

Pour boiling water onto the ingredients and steep for 20-30 minutes. Store in the fridge.

 

Actions: Carminative, anti-inflammatory and prophylactic.

 

Part Used: Both leaves and seeds.

ECHINACEA (Echinacea angustifolia)

 

Echinacea are perennials, so grow in a herb or other permanent bed.

 

Soil & Sight:

They like a rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Mix in one bucket of garden compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard). Sow in early spring in seed compost, in a box or pot and transplant the seedling after the last frost, or sow outside in mid spring where they are to grow. Plant at 40cm (16in) apart.

 

Growing:

Keep weeded when young, until well established.

 

Harvest:

Dig up the roots in early winter – wash and cut them into manageable pieces and dry them, or place the fresh washed roots in a Ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

 

Companions:

As it attracts beneficial insects, it helps other plants and crops in its vicinity.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The large cone-shaped flowers are a great attraction for bees and other beneficial insects, like parasitic wasps.

 

Culinary Uses:

None that I know of.

 

Medical Uses:

Echinacea has been described as one of the best detoxifying herbs in western herbalism. It is a natural herbal antibiotic and also helps to counter the effects of most poisons in the body. It also has antiviral properties.

 

It is a great blood and lymph system cleanser, and encourages the action of white blood cells in counteracting disease.

 

I often use it in conjunction with ginger root if I feel the symptoms of a cold coming on. If caught in time it can usually be averted. Even when a cold or flue has been contracted, it helps to reduce the worst of the effects and shorten the illness and is very useful, along with other herbs like marsh mallow and elecampane, for lung problems like bronchitis.

 

Actions: Alterative, diaphoretic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, analgesic.

 

Part Used: Root.

ELDERFLOWER (Sambucus nigra)

Elderflower is a large bush, smothered with large umbels of sweet smelling white flowers in late spring, which are followed by a prodigious production of edible berries.

 

Soil & Sight:

Elderberries grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil with the usual recommendation of a pH of around 6.4, but will tolerate a wide range of soil texture, fertility, and acidity.

 

Sowing:

Sow the fresh seeds indoors in seed compost, and plant out when big enough to handle.

 

The flower heads

Growing:

Plant out 1 metre apart, if you want more than one. Spray with seaweed spray several times during the growing season.

 

Harvesting:

As with many flowers, drying is difficult. They can turn black easily. The flower heads should be cut and placed, not touching each other, upsidown on nylon mesh stretched on a wooden frame, in an airy place, in warm shade. The leaves can also be dried. The berries can be frozen in plastic packs, or made into jam with other berries. The juice made into syrup can also be used medicinally – see below.

 

Companions:

You can grow elderberries for fruit on the edge of your vegetable garden or in an area with other edible shrubs, such as currants and gooseberries. Also grow in wild areas or as part of a forest garden.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial especially love the flowers.

 

Culinary Uses:

One of our favourite ways of using elderflower flower heads is:

 

Elderflower Fritters

This may sound strange, but I assure you they are wonderful, especially drizzled in maple syrup and a dollop of whipped cream! The strong scented flavour of the flowers really comes through.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 12-16 elderflower heads

• 100g (3.5oz) of plain flour

• 2 tablespoons of oil

• 175ml (6floz) of sparkling mineral water

• 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

• 1 egg white, whipped

• A deep fryer pan of oil

 

Method:

 

1. Pick your elderflowers when the buds are freshly open, before the petals brown around the edges. That is when their flavour is at its best. Rinse away any tiny insects by dunking the whole flower heads into a bowl of cold water, and then shake them dry.

2. Sift 100g (3½oz) of plain flour into a basin then add 2 tablespoons of oil and 175ml (6floz) of sparkling mineral water.

3. Beat the batter to a thick paste, then stir in a tablespoon of caster sugar and set aside for 30 minutes. Don't be tempted to skip the resting time for the batter; this is essential for a light result.

4. Just before frying the elderflowers, beat the egg white and fold it into the batter.

5. Get a pan of oil hot then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Hold them under the oil by pushing down on the stem. 6. Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp then lift out.

7. Let the fritters rest for a second or two on kitchen paper.

8. Drizzle with maple syrup and a blob of whipped cream.

9. Eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp,

 

Elderflower Cordial

Makes about 2 litres

 

Ingredients:

 

• About 25 elderflower heads

• Finely grated zest of 3 un-waxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml (5floz) in total)

• 1kg (2 pounds) sugar

• 1 heaped teaspoon citric acid (optional)

 

Method:

 

1. Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.

2. Bring 1.5 litres (3 pints) water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

3. Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

4. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

5. Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw tops or sterilised corks.

 

Medical Uses:

Elderberries contain high levels of vitamins – A, B, and C, and also stimulates the immune system.

 

Actions: expectorant, diuretic and diaphoretic

 

Part Used:

The leaves, flowers and berries.

 

Ointment:

Elder leaves are used in an ointment as a remedy for bruises, sprains, and chilblains.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 2-3 cups coconut oil

• 230-280 (8-10oz) grams dried herbs

• ¼ cup melted beeswax

 

Method:

 

1. To infuse the coconut oil, melt in a double boiler and add the elderflower leaves.

2. Infuse the leaves for 4 hours until the oil has turned green, then reheat the oil in the double boiler and add the melted beeswax.

 

Flowers: Use either fresh or dried. To dry, dry the flower heads on trays in a glasshouse or conservatory, or in a dehydrator. When dry the flowers are easily rubbed off the stalks. Store in dry jars.

 

Used for bronchial and pulmonary affections and as a remedy for colds and throat trouble. Make a tea by taking a handful of each in a jug, pour over them 750ml (1½ pints) of boiling water, allow to steep, on the stove, for half an hour then strain and sweeten and drink in bed as hot as possible. Heavy perspiration and refreshing sleep will follow, and the patient will wake up well on the way to recovery. Yarrow may also be added.

 

Berries: An elderberry syrup recipe is also included here to help protect against flue and colds, and for use when you do get ill.

 

Elderberry Syrup

 

Ingredients:

 

• 2/3 cup elderberries

• 3½ cups of water

• 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

• ½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder

• 1 cup raw wild honey

 

Method:

 

1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)

2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

3. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.

4. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a 500ml glass bottle.

5. Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. 6. Standard dose is ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon for kids and ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.

ELECAMPANE (Inula helenium) 

This impressive plant can grow to well over 1m (3ft) in height, sporting large yellow daisy type flowers. For bronchitis I have used elecampane with ginger, marsh mallow and echinacea, to great effect.

 

Soil & Sight:

It likes partial shade in an odd corner, flower boarder, the back of a herb bed or in a forest garden. Plant out in a moist, well-drained soil, applying some garden compost beforehand. Remember that you will need access to the roots, because this is the part used.

 

Sowing:

Sow the seed in seed compost in a box or pot in early spring, planting out when 5cm (2in) high. If you have a friend that has a plant, you can propagate it by offsets, taken in the autumn, from the old root, as long as they each have a growth bud or eye on each.

 

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Keep weeded for the first year at least.

 

Harvesting:

When harvesting, the root is taken in the autumn after the stem has died back, then chopped into small pieces and dried slowly, but completely, at a low gentle heat of 20-300C (68-860F).

 

Companions:

This is a great plant as a companion for your vegetables and fruit, by growing it in a perennial bed near vegetables and fruit.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its large yellow flowers, attracts all manner of beneficial insects and bees.

 

Medical Uses:

Although it is a stimulating expectorant, it also contains a mucilage to soothe the airway passages when coughing. Elecampane is used for chronic bronchitis infections, and other lung infections, whooping cough, emphysema, urinary tract infections, cystitis, hay fever, irritant coughs, asthma, pleurisy, excess mucus, and laryngitis.

 

What I like about elecampane and marshmallow, is they are not just effective expectorants in cases like bronchitis, but they also have the ability to nurture, heal and repair the lung’s lining, something that conventional expectorants are incapable of.

 

In ointment form Elecampane has been used for muscular aches and pains. As an herbal bath it relieves skin inflammation. It can also be used as a lotion for scabies mites on both humans and animals.

 

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, immunostimulant, rejuvenative

 

Part Used: Root.

EPAZOTE (Dysphania ambrosioides)

 

Epazote is native to Central America, southern Mexico and South America. It is one of the easiest to grow of annual herbs.

 

It can grow over a metre (3ft) in height featuring small pointed leaves with serrated margins. The tiny yellow-green flowers produce numerous tiny black seeds for sowing next season.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

It prefers well-draining, sandy soil and full sunlight to flourish.

 

Sowing:

Sow it early spring in seed compost, planting out after the last frosts.

 

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart. Mulch down with 5cm (2in) of grass clippings, after watering first.

 

Harvesting:

Harvest the leaves before the plant flowers, and dry, then store in sealed jars.

 

Companions:

Epazote contains terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities. It delivers partial protection to nearby plants simply by masking their scent to some insects, making it a useful companion plant. However, it also contains a compound that inhibits other plants, so don’t plant it too close to other plants.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Its small flowers attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps.

 

Culinary Uses:

Another name for Epazote is the ‘Bean Plant’, because of its ability to counteract the gassy effects of beans. It has an earthy and spicy taste when cooked, which goes well with beans and hot Mexican food.

 

Mexican Black Beans with Epazote

 

Ingredients:

 

• 250g (9oz) dried black beans

• 1½ cups chicken stock

• 1½ cups water

• 1 large sprig fresh epazote (or 1 tablespoon dried)

• 115g (4oz) chopped fresh chorizo sausage, or other chilli sausage

• 1 small-medium onion, diced

• 1 diced carrot

• 1 diced celery stalk

• ½ tablespoon chopped garlic

• 1½ chilli powder, or to taste (Mexicans like it very hot, but its up to you) • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin

 

Method:

 

1. Soak black beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain and rinse.

2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (302°F) . Place the beans, chicken stock and water, and epazote in an enamelled casserole dish. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, skimming off the foam, then cover and bake for 1½ hours. 3. In a large, heavy frying pan, brown chorizo sausage. Remove the chorizo, leaving the fat in the pan. Add onion, carrots, celery stalks, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables become soft.

4. Remove the pot of beans from the oven and stir in the vegetables and chorizo, along with the chilli powder, ground cumin, and salt to taste.

5. Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until the beans are soft.

 

Medical Uses:

Cautionary note: like raspberry leaves, expectant mothers, should avoid Epazote since it can cause uterine cramps and possible risk of termination of pregnancy. Its leaves contain ascaridole, which is toxic to several intestinal worms like roundworm, hookworms, pinworm, etc. Native Mayans drank its infusion regularly to keep off from worm infestation. It is also a carminative for the digestive system, reducing gas.

 

Actions: anthelmintic, antibacterial, antiviral, carminative

 

Part Used: Leaves.

EVENING PRIMROSE (Oenothera biennis)

 

Evening primrose is a perennial plant growing over a metre (3ft), originating in Central America. Its great attraction is its electric, faintly phosphorescent lemon yellow flowers, which open at dusk. They are pollinated by moths at night and only live one day. As a child my father took me into the garden at dusk to see the flowers unfold in just a minute or two, which is very fast in flower time, an amazing experience for a young child! In an article that appeared in 'Horticulture' magazine, Carol Bishop Hipps describes the wonder of watching the flowers open:

 

“Watching an evening primrose bloom rekindles one’s sense of wonder. As fireflies drift aloft in the summer twilight, a tightly rolled up flower bud shaped like an okra pod begins to swell until it resembles a small yellow cigar. Suddenly the sepals flick back, the ghostly pale petals begin to spring apart, and the eight stamens and the cross-shaped stigma writhe into position. Bud after bud perceptively stirs, then flares open in a performance reminiscent of time-lapse photography. A rich fragrance fills the air, summoning night-flying moths, some of which hover like hummingbirds above the fragile, cup-shaped blossoms, probing for nectar.”

 

Soil & Sight:

Evening Primrose is a tough plant that prefers a poor soil provided it is well drained. It does best in sandy soil but will tolerate almost anything that is not too wet. They prefer disturbed ground, and not too much competition from other plants. Plant in full sun. It will not grow in shade.

 

Sowing:

Cold stratify the seeds to help them germinate. In mid-winter, put them in a plastic bag with slightly damp sand or peat and store in the fridge for 2 months to break the seed’s dormancy. Then sow in the spring. Alternatively, sow in situ outside in early winter in colder areas with regular frosts.

 

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart.

 

Harvesting:

The leaves can be dried, and the green bark from the flower stems can also be stripped off and dried.

 

Medical Uses:

Supports hormonal balance. Supports healthy menstrual cycle. It is also a rich natural source of the omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linoleic acid (LA). Helps maintain healthy skin. Usually it is the oil extracted from the seeds that are used nowadays.

 

Actions: Astringent and sedative

 

Part Used: Leaves and stem bark.