The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

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

GROWING HERBS M-Y

 

CONTENTS:

 

1. MARJORAM 

2. MARSHMALLOW

3. MINT

4. MULLEIN

5. NASTURTIUM

6. NETTLE

7. OREGANO

8. PARSLEY

9. ROSEMARY

10. SAGE

11. SALAD BURNET 

12. SAVORY 

13. SCULLCAP

14. SOLOMON’S SEAL 

15. SORREL

16. SOUTHERNWOOD

17. ST JOHN’S WORT 

18. SWEET CICELY

19. TARRAGON

20. THYME

21. TURMERIC

22. VALERIAN

23. VERVAIN

24. WORMWOOD

25. YARROW

 

MARJORAM (Origanum majorana)

 

Sweet Marjoram has been a favourite culinary herb used throughout history, originally coming from the eastern Mediterranean.

 

To be honest, I have never found the taste of Sweet Marjoram to be my favourite, so nowadays we only grow Oregano, which is closely related; however, don’t let me put you off, because many like it as a culinary herb and a pretty insect attracting garden plant.

 

Soil & Sight:

As with many Mediterranean plants, it likes a well-drained gritty soil in full sun – so if your soil is heavy, add some sharp sand and a little garden compost before planting.

 

Sowing:

The fine seeds are as slow to germinate as carrot seeds (10 to 14 days), so sow indoors, glasshouse or cold frame, on seed compost and sprinkle with a 1cm (⅛in) layer of fine grit, and then keep damp and warm until the seedlings are up. Plant out after the last frosts.

 

Growing:

As with other small bushy herbs, weed well, and then keep mulched with about 4cm (1½in) of grass clippings, or leaf mould. It is also a great plant to grow through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

Clip the stems, flowers and leaves 6cm (2in) above the ground in the flowering season, i.e. summer, best collected just as the flowers are starting to open. Harvest at around 10am when the volatile oils are highest, and dry on a drying frame, storing in a sealed jar.

 

Companions:

As a companion plant it improves the flavour of vegetables and herbs.

 

Culinary Uses:

There are so many uses for this herb:

 

• With tomato juice

• Mixed with cottage cheese

• With sea foods

• In omelettes, scrambled eggs and cheese sauce

• With a whole range of soups and stews

• Herb and fish sauce

• Added to sausages and a whole range of meat dishes before roasting

• Added to stuffing

• Added sparingly to vegetables, potatoes, and most lentil, beans and other pulse dishes

 

Medical Uses:

It is used as an external application for sprains, bruises, etc., and also as an emmenagogue to regulate menstruation. Increasing the efficiency of digestion by increasing digestive enzymes and saliva, improving appetite and eliminating flatulence, and as a concoction for curing intestinal infections painful stomach cramps or spasms.

 

Actions: antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, carminative, emmenagogue

 

Part Used: Leaves.

MARSHMALLOW (Althea officinalis)

Marshmallow is a wild plant growing from the southern English coast to southern Europe and is found growing in marshes near the sea – hence the name. It looks like a miniature hollyhock, with the flower spike growing up to a metre (3ft) high. This is one of the medicinal herbs that I value highly, largely because when I occasionally get a cold it can end up on my chest, or even become bronchitis. Marsh Mallow root along with Elecampane and Echinacea roots form a great medicinal concoction for counteracting bronchitis and healing the lungs.

Soil & Sight:

It will grow well in any soil or situation, but it prefers moist rather than dry land. Marsh Mallow prefers partial sun, but will also grow well in shade or full sun. If you have some damp land, or ditches or streams through the property, you might grow it there. If grown in ordinary soil, mix in two buckets of well-rotted garden compost, plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Sow in seed compost in the spring, planting out when the seedlings are around 5-6cm (2-2½in) high, 60cm (2ft) apart in their final positions.

 

Growing:

It dies down in the winter, but the long root and crown survive to ensure regrowth the following spring.

 

Harvesting: It will take a few years before the roots are big enough to harvest. Scrape some earth away from the roots and cut some off, or dig up the whole root ball when it has died down in the autumn, cut off some of the roots and replant what’s left to grow again. Wash, peal and cut up the roots into small pieces to use fresh or dry or store in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.

 

Companions:

This is an ideal plant to grow with other marsh loving plants like water iris and other marginal plants in a specially created area, like the edge of a pond, or boggy area.

 

Medical Uses:

The root boiled up produces a sticky substance that is very useful where the natural mucus has been abraded from the coats of the intestines, as in cases of irritable bowel syndrome and other bowel problems.

 

The root is also excellent at relieving diseases of the chest, such as dry coughs, bronchitis, whooping-cough, etc., generally in combination with other remedies as already mentioned above. The extra advantage of the root is that it is not only a good expectorant but it helps to heal the lining of the lung. Soak 30g (1oz) of marsh mallow roots in a little cold water for half an hour; then peel the skin off roots and cut up the roots into small pieces. Then pour boiling water onto the pieces and steep for a couple of hours.

 

30g (1oz) of the leaves can be boiled up in ½ litre (1 pint) of water and the liquid drunk for cases of mild cystitis, taken frequently in wineglassful doses. This infusion is also good for bathing inflamed eyes.

 

A concoction of the flowers has a significant anti-inflammatory effect and are said to decrease the growth of gastric ulcers.

 

Actions: Demulcent, expectorant, emollient, nutritive tonic, diuretic, vulnerary, laxative

 

Part Used: Mainly roots, but also leaves and flowers.

MINT Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Spearmint (Mentha spicata) & others

This is one of the great culinary delights of summer. There are many types of mint, but for medicinal use, Peppermint is the most effective, but for cooking, Spearmint is as useful.

Soil & Sight:

All the mints spread by means of runners and can soon swamp the area in which it is growing it therefore needs containing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like being contained, but if the container is large enough, and the plant is fed annually, it will thrive.

Our mint lives in a raised plastic lined square wooden box ½ metre x ½ metre and ½ metre deep (1½ x 1½ x 1½ft), with drainage holes in the bottom and filled with a rich, water retentive soil. The alternative is to grow it in an odd corner, or waste ground where it can run at will.

 

Sowing:

It’s so easy to take runners from a friend’s or neighbour’s plant, I wouldn’t bother growing it from seed.

 

Growing:

Weed regularly, and if grown in a container, add a little garden compost and a handful of organic fertiliser once a year in spring. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

The leaves and flowers are very easily bruised, so handle carefully. I suggest you dry the cut stems with the leaves and flowers attached, rubbing the leaves off when they have dried, because picking the leaves off fresh will damage them. Lay out in a single layer on drying frames, and place in the dark at a temperature of 30-370C (86-98½0F) with good ventilation. Drying at a lower temperature will result in a blackening of the leaves. Store in airtight containers in the dark.

 

Companions:

Because mint is so invasive, I would not recommend growing it near any vegetables, but you can put bunches of mint in a bucket and just cover with rain water for 48 hours, then sieve and spray the liquid onto these companion vegetables – beets, brassicas, chilli and bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, salad burnet, squash and peas.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.

 

Culinary Uses:

A fresh sprig in your summer drinks of course. I also like adding some to a summer green salad mix, with its fresh taste. Great added to cooking peas, chopped and added to a bowl of new potatoes along with a good knob of butter, added to fruit salad, scrambled eggs, chopped and mixed with cottage cheese, mint sauce for lamb, marinades for fish, rubbing on chicken before roasting and making mint jelly and so on and on.

 

Medical Uses:

It is well known for its properties of soothing and improving the digestion, also used for stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, flatulence, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and colic in children. Peppermint can also be used as an appetite stimulant.

 

Make an infusion, but do not boil.

 

Mint Infusion: pour 20 to 30g (¾ to 1oz) of fresh leaves in 1 litre (2 pints) of boiling water. Drinking 500-700ml (17-23½floz) per day in 2-3 divided doses, or use its mild analgesic properties by rubbing the liquid into sore muscles.

 

Actions: Stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

 

 

MUGWORT see: WORMWOOD 

MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein is a biennial, growing its rosette of furry grey leaves the first year and in the second year it sends up a flowering spike 1-1½m (3-5ft) high producing seeds.

 

Soil & Sight:

As it is a regular roadside plant in many countries, that grows by roadsides on poor and rough ground, it should be very easy to grow in any soil in sun.

 

Sowing:

Sow the fine seeds in a seed tray 3mm (⅛in) deep in spring and plant out the seedlings when they are around 5cm (2in) high.

Growing: Weed and mulch with 4cm (1½in) grass clippings when young, and spray-free straw or composted bark chippings when older.

 

Harvesting:

Pick leaves off the mullein plant in the afternoon on a warm dry day.

  Lay a single layer of leaves on a drying frame in a dry airy place. Allow them to dry for several days.

 

The leaves should easily crumble when dry. Store in sealed jars in the dark. See below for picking the flowers to make mullein oil.

Companions:

Best to plant with other tall herbs at the back of herb, or flowerbed.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

The flowers are a great attraction for bees and other beneficial insects.

 

Culinary Uses:

The flowers can be added to a salad mix.

 

Medical Uses:

The whole plant possesses slightly sedative and narcotic properties.

 

For bad coughs, use 28g (1oz) of dried, or the corresponding quantity of fresh leaves, boiled for 10 minutes in ½ litre (1 pint) of milk. When strained, give warm, three times a day, with or without sugar.

 

Due to the combination of its demulcent and astringent properties it is especially useful in cases of diarrhoea. A plain infusion of 28g (1oz) leaves to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water can also be used cooled and taken in wineglassful doses frequently.

 

For ear infections a warmed infused oil of Mullein flowers is dropped with a dropper into the affected ear.

 

To prepare the oil – pick the flowers and let them wilt for a few hours to reduce their moisture content. Then put them in a jar covering the flowers with organic extra virgin olive oil. Set the jar, tightly capped, in the sun for a month or two, and then strain the oil into clean bottles. Mullein flower oil can be infused with garlic as well, which is antibacterial and antiviral, to give it an extra punch for ear infections.

 

Actions: demulcent, astringent, emollient, sedative

 

Part Used: Leaves and flowers.

NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium is an annual that is native to South America, especially in Peru and Bolivia.

 

Soil & Sight:

Nasturtiums prefer poorer soils that are moist and well drained in full sun, and they do not need fertilizers (unless your soil is extremely poor). They can grow in partial shade, but they will not bloom as well.

 

Sowing:

Sow the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost, or outside in mid to late spring.

 

Growing:

Keep weeded and mulched with 3-4cm (1-1½in) grass clippings.

 

Harvesting:

It is best to use fresh leaves and flowers, as they do not dry well.

 

Companions:

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Plant near: beets, buckwheat, calendula, carrots, chamomile, dill, hyssop, marigolds, mints, nasturtiums, onions, rosemary, sage, thyme and wormwood.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts beneficial insects, especially bumblebees.

 

Culinary Uses:

The leaves have a peppery taste, and a good addition in salad mixes. The flowers have a milder peppery taste and are extremely decorative and tasty in salads, and the large seeds can be pickled when still green, like capers.

 

Medical Uses:

Nasturtium contains mustard oil. It’s one of the more powerful antibacterial plants available, but only if used fresh. Nasturtium acts as both a disinfectant and a healing agent, and all parts of the plant seem to have strong antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. It an amazing plant to help relieve infections, both internally as externally, as in disinfecting wounds and cuts.

 

Actions: antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, expectorant, depurative

 

Part Used: Fresh leaves and flowers.

NETTLE (Urtica dioica)

Native of Europe, temperate Asia and Northern Africa. This is definitely one of the most useful plants I know, for composting, liquid manure and the Biodynamic compost preparation 504, not forgetting its culinary and medicinal uses. I regularly drink nettle tea, from either fresh or dry leaves.

Soil & Sight:

It likes deep rich soils. You will often see nettles growing by old cottages, where the occupants, not having toilets in the old days, used to relieve themselves and emptied their chamber pots – yes it likes strong feeding! It spreads by runners fairly rigorously, so it should be grown in an odd corner, or the edge of a forest garden to do its thing. It will take over most other plants, so beware!

Sowing:

The easiest way to propagate nettles is to dig up some runners from a patch and plant where they are to grow.

 

Harvesting:

Pick the leaves and stems with rubber gloves on and dry in the oven, or dehydrator, set on low 50-700C (122-1580F) on a tray. The leaves should still be green when dry. Store in sealed jars in the dark.

 

Companions:

It is believed to make neighbouring plants more resistant to disease and attacks by insect pests, however, too close is too close, but having it somewhere in your garden is still very useful.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Some of the earliest aphids are found on nettles and this attracts ladybirds to lay their eggs early on them and ensure good ladybird numbers for your property.

 

Culinary Uses:

There are many ways to cook with nettle – here are two:

 

Stinging Nettle Soup

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 tablespoon extra virgin organic olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

• 1 onion, chopped

• 1 carrot, diced

• 1 large floury potato, thinly sliced

• 1 litre (2 pints) vegetable stock

• 400g (14oz) of young stinging nettles, washed, leaves picked

• 50g (1¾oz) butter, diced

• 50ml (1¾floz)double cream

 

Method:

 

1. Wear rubber gloves to pick the nettle leaves.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

3. Add the onion, carrot, leek and potato, and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

4. Add the stock and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the potato is soft.

5. Add the nettle leaves and simmer for 1 minute to wilt, and then blend the soup.

6. Season to taste, then stir in the butter and cream.

7. Serve the soup drizzled with extra oil.

 

Stinging Nettle and Basil Pesto

 

Ingredients:

 

• 3 cups nettle leaves, stems removed

• 1 cup basil leaves

• 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

• 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• ½ teaspoon chilli flakes

• Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Method:

 

1. Pick your nettle leaves wearing rubber gloves.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

3. Still wearing rubber gloves, remove all the nettle leaves from the stems, and place in a large bowl.

4. To neutralise the stings - pour on boiling water and cook for no more than about 30 seconds.

5. Strain in sink and transfer to a bowl of very cold water.

6. Squeeze nettles into a ball to drain.

7. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until well combined.

8. Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerator. Keeps for about 1 week.

 

Medical Uses:

Nettle has one of the highest iron contents of any green plant. Not only is it high in iron, but it also has high levels of vitamin C, which aids in the absorption of the iron. Stinging nettle also contains natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories (including quercetin), both of which are useful in reducing the symptoms of hay fever, and nose & sinus allergy symptoms.

 

An infusion made from the roots is used to extract diuretics that encourage the excretion of uric acid, which reduces the urge to pee in the night for those with benign prostate enlargement and weak and irritated bladder.

 

Frequent use of nettle leaf tea, a cup or more daily, rapidly relieves and helps prevent water retention.

 

Nettle is a superb nourisher of the kidneys and adrenals.

 

Stinging nettle was traditionally used in all types of cases of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. We now know it is because it contains anti-inflammatory substances combined with a rich concentration of the minerals boron, calcium and silicon, which ease the pain while helping to build strong bones. While anti-inflammatory medication is a necessary evil for most with arthritis, using nettle tea may help you to decrease the amount you need to take. One reason may be that nettles also contain large amounts of magnesium, which helps to moderate the pain response.

 

Stinging nettle has also been seen as one of the best all round women's tonics. Nettles are a good general tonic of the female reproductive system, excellent for young women just starting their monthly cycle, as well as women beginning menopause and those who are pregnant.

 

Actions: astringent, diuretic, tonic, rubefacient, styptic, anthelmintic, nutritive, alterative, anti-rheumatic, anti-allergenic, lithotriptic, haemostatic, stimulant, febrifuge, nephritic, galactagogue, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti-histamine.

 

Part Used: Leaves, stems, and to a lesser extent root.

OREGANO (Origanum vulgare)

 

Oregano is a perennial herb. It is native to the Mediterranean region. We only grow Oregano, because it has a better flavour than Marjoram. The flavour is stronger, so use it sparingly.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Like many Mediterranean herbs Oregano likes a well-drained soil, so if your soil is heavy, mix in some sharp sand. There is no need to add compost or other fertilisers.

Sowing:

Oregano can be easily propagated from cuttings, but you can sow seed indoors in seed compost in early spring, planting out the seedlings in early summer, 20cm (8in) apart. There is no need to cover the seeds with compost, just sow on the surface and sprinkle some fine chippings, or fine vermiculite on top.

 

Growing:

Plant out 25cm (10in) apart, and mulch with 4cm (1½in) fine bark or stone chips. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

Clip the stems, flowers and leaves 6cm (2½in) above the ground in the flowering season, i.e. January to March, best collected just as the flowers are starting to open. Harvest at around 10am when the volatile oils are highest and dry on a drying frame, storing in a sealed jar.

 

Companions:

Can be used with most crops but especially good for cabbage. Also benefits grapes.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Plant near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel cabbage butterfly.

 

Culinary Uses:

Oregano is typically used to flavour food, which already has strong flavours. Pizza, pasta and tomato sauces are probably the most famous recipes in which oregano plays an important role but it is widely used in many other Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes including chillies. It is also used as a traditional addition to stuffing.

 

Medical Uses:

Its carminative effect is useful in indigestion and gut cramps. Its stimulant and diaphoretic effects are helpful in cases of fever, by causing internal heat and increasing perspiration. It also helps to promote and regulate menstruation.

 

Actions: stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, mildly tonic, emmenagogue

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)

 

Parsley is biennial, growing leaves the first year, and running to seed the second year.

  It is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean regions – Turkey, Algeria and the Lebanon.

Curly Parsley

Flat Leaf Parsley

Soil & Sight:

Parsley likes a well-drained, moisture-retentive, nutrient-rich soil. Good drainage is important because water logged roots can result in crown rot, which can kill the plant. Apply a bucket of garden compost per square metre, or a generous double handful of compost per plant mixed in. Parsley can easily be grown in containers and brought inside to sit on the kitchen windowsill, or grown in a glasshouse in winter.

 

Sowing:

Sow in early spring indoors, or outside in late spring. Treat as an annual and sow every year, as it will run to seed in the second year.

 

Growing:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Can also be grown through winter in a pot in a glasshouse, conservatory or a kitchen windowsill.

 

Harvesting:

Personally, I think dried parsley is not necessary and not very nice, as one can grow it fresh all the year round outside and also inside in the winter.

 

Companions:

Asparagus, carrot, chives, onions, roses and tomato. Mint and parsley don’t go well together, keep them apart.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Let some go to flower to attract tiny parasitic wasps and hoverflies.

 

Culinary Uses:

This is probably the most widely used herb. Its uses in cooking are endless, sprinkled on fresh new potatoes, in a white sauce, and in a parsley version of pesto instead of basil. Parsley can be used in almost any savoury dish. It is especially good used in fresh salads, soups or sauces. Chop or shred it and mix with butter to melt over fish or to glaze vegetables. Use it in marinades, in stuffing, in omelettes – and on and on!

 

Medical Uses:

Parsley leaves and root are high in iron and rich in vitamins A, B, C and trace elements. Its high concentration of boron and fluoride might help against bone thinning and osteoporosis. An infusion can be used as a detox for the kidneys.

 

Actions: carminative, tonic, aperient, diuretic, anti-inflamatory.

 

Part Used: Leaves, seeds and roots.

 

 

PEPPERMINT – see: MINT

 

RED CLOVER – see CLOVER (RED)

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

 

Soil & Sight:

Whilst rosemary can tolerate partial shade, it prefers full sun and a light, well-drained soil. Mix in 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

 

Sowing:

It is easier to strike from cuttings. Take last year’s growth tips. 5-6cm (2-2⅓in) long, in the spring/early summer, and pull off two thirds of the bottom leaves, then place in sandy cutting compost. 

Rosemary can be difficult to grow from seed unless the seed is very fresh. Sow the seed and then just lightly cover with compost, and do not over water. The variety ‘Rosy’ is said to germinate better than other varieties.

 

Growing:

Mulch down with bark chips, or course leaf mould.

 

Harvesting:

Drying the stems and leaves of rosemary is easy, because the leaves are low in moisture even when fresh. Dry on drying frames, in a warm airy place. I usually dry ours in the glasshouse hung up in bunches, and then strip the leaves off the stems when dry and store in sealed jars.

 

Companions:

It’s a companion plant to cabbages, beans, carrots and sage.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Deters cabbage moths, and carrot flies. Use cuttings placed by the crowns of carrots to deter carrot root flies.

 

Culinary Uses:

Rosemary has a very strong taste and as such is used to flavour strong tasting meat, such as lamb, steaks, stuffings and stews.

 

Chicken breasts can be rubbed with rosemary and sprinkled with finely chopped rosemary, then sautéed and braised in a sauce of orange juice, orange zest, chopped rosemary, white wine and maple syrup.

 

Chopped rosemary is delicious when added to a vegetarian or meat burger mix.

 

Medical Uses:

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.

 

Traditionally rosemary was used to help treat indigestion.

 

Rosemary helps to improve cognitive performance, enhancing memory and concentration. The antioxidant effects of rosemary also helps to fight off free radical damage in the brain and may even help prevent brain aging.

 

Actions: tonic, astringent, disinfectant, diaphoretic, stimulant, stomachic, nervine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

 

Part Used: Leaves.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

 

Sage is a hardy perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, greyish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a native of Mediterranean countries.

 

Soil & Sight:

Sage will grow on a wide variety of soils, but a well-drained sandy soil in full sun, with a pH of 6.5 is ideal. Sage does not like very acid soils. Add ½ bucket of garden compost and one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), and some sharp sand if the soil is very heavy.

Sowing:

You can grow sage from seed sown indoors 4-5 weeks before the last frosts, and planted out when 5cm (2in) high, 30cm (1ft) apart. However, the best way to propagate sage is by taking cuttings from a good healthy specimen. In early summer, take 8cm long growing tips, or from heeled shoots pulled from the base of old plants, and strike in a sandy cutting compost, in the shade.

 

Growing:

Once weeded, mulch down with bark chips or 5cm (2in) of grass clippings, regularly topped up.

 

Harvesting:

The older the plants the richer in volatile oils, so only pick leaves from two year old plants or older. Spread out the leaves on drying racks and dry slowly at a low temperature, because if dried at too warm or hot temperature the leaves will discolour and lose much of the volatile oils. Companions: Do not plant near cucumbers, onions or rue.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

A companion plant to broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage, and carrots to deter cabbage moths, beetles, flea beetles and carrot root flies. Sage repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles. Even if you don’t grow it with these plants, you can cut the stems and lay them around the plants.

 

Culinary Uses:

Here’s some ideas:

 

• Traditionally, sage is used to make stuffing for poultry, and to flavour rich and fatty meat like pork and duck.

• Adding finely chopped sage to your mashed potatoes is yummy.

• In Italy it is commonly finely chopped, mixed with melted butter and served stirred into pasta or gnocchi.

• Deep-fry the leaves and serve as an appetizer, or use as a garnish for poultry, meat dishes, or pasta.

 

Medical Uses:

Use as a wash for the cure of affections of the mouth and as a gargle in inflamed sore throat, being excellent for relaxed throat and tonsils, and also for an ulcerated throat. The gargle is useful for bleeding gums and to prevent an excessive flow of saliva. A lotion made from sage is excellent for ulcers and to heal raw abrasions of the skin.

 

Sage can improve the memory of young healthy adults, as well as those with mild Alzheimer's disease.

 

Actions: stimulant, astringent, tonic, carminative, antifungal, antimicrobial

 

Part Used: Leaves and seeds.

SALAD BURNET (Sanguisorba minor)

 

This is not a very well known herb, but well worth growing. It has a unique fresh cucumber flavour. It is a straggly low growing delicate looking plant 20-30cm (8-12in) tall. We used to sow it in our herbal grass mix on our farm for the benefit of the animals. For its size it is a deep-rooting plant, bringing up minerals from the sub-soil.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Salad Burnet naturally grows on dry soils or banks, so a well-drained soil is preferable. Little or no feeding is necessary, unless the soil is very poor.

 

Sowing:

 

Sow indoors in early spring, or outside in early summer, planting out or thinning out to 15cm (6in) apart.

 

Growing:

 

Mulch with 3-4cm (1-1½in) of grass clipping is probably the best way to inhibit annual weeds and preserve moisture.

Harvesting:

Like parsley, dry salad burnet leaves lose most of their flavour. The fresh leaves can be harvested when the flowers are just blooming. Two or three cuts can be made in a year.

 

Companions:

Grow with other pasture plants, like clover. If you have a forest garden, plant on the woodland’s edge.

 

Culinary Uses: Use only the young leaves. Chopped leaves in cream cheese, adds a fresh flavour. You can also add to French dressings and mayonnaise. Add leaves to a salad mix. You can also add chopped leaves to many dishes you would normally add parsley to.

 

Medical Uses:

Because of its astringent properties it was used as a tea to relieve diarrhoea in the past.

 

Actions: astringent

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

SAVORY Summer (Satureja hortensis)

 

Summer Savory is a fast growing annual.

 

It grows upright to about 41-46cm (16-18in) tall as a loose bushy plant; the flowers are a light purple to pink.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Plant Summer Savory in full sun.

 It prefers a rich, well-drained organic soil, so mix in 2 double handfuls of garden compost per plant plus a handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

 

Sowing:

Sow fresh seed each year, as the seeds are not viable the following year. Sow in early spring indoors in seed compost, and plant out when the seedlings are 4-5cm (1½-2in) high.

 

Growing:

Plant out 15cm (6in) apart. Harvesting: The best time to harvest the young shoots, are just before the flowers open. The shoots should be spread out on a drying frame and dried slowly in the dark at around 30-350C (86-95F) and stored in sealed jars.

 

Companions:

Plant with beans and onions to improve growth and flavour.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Discourages cabbage moths and black aphids. However, honeybees love it! Culinary Uses: It is used to add to sauces, fish, eggs and meat dishes. Use sparingly because it has a strong taste.

 

Medical Uses:

Traditionally Summer Savory was used for coughs, sore throat, and intestinal disorders including gut cramps, indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, nausea, and loss of appetite.

 

Actions: aromatic, carminative, expectorant

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

SCULLCAP (Scutellaria lateriflora)

 

This is the American Scullcap, although Scutellaria galericulata and Scutellaria minor, can be used as substitutes, they are not quite as effective. It is a perennial, but it seldom continues more than two or three years.

 

Soil & Sight:

Scullcap is a wetland plant in the wild, but will grow in any ordinary garden soil, prefering a sunny site in moist soil, which is not too rich.

 

Sowing:

Sow indoors in seed compost early September and plant out after the last frosts. 

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 4cm (1½in) grass clippings.

 

Harvesting:

The whole herb is pulled up as it starts to flower, cleaned of soil, hung up in a warm place to dry, then ground down in a mortar and pestle.

 

Companions:

Grow with other woodland and woodland-edge plants.

 

Medical Uses:

Scullcap can be used as a treatment for a wide range of nervous conditions including insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delirium tremens, and the withdrawal symptoms from barbiturates and tranquilisers. Its use for insomnia is valuable, because there are no after effects. Skullcap has more recently been used as an alternative medicine to treat attention deficit disorder ADD.

 

Actions: strong tonic, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

 

Part Used: The whole herb, collected in June, dried and powdered.

SOLOMON’S SEAL (Polygonatum multiflorum)

 

This perennial creeping woodland plant has spear shaped leaves and grows to 1-1½m (3-5ft) high. It has drooping lily-like flowers.

 

Soil & Sight:

Solomon's Seal prefers light, slightly acidic soil and will grow better under shady or partially shady conditions. They should have enough space to spread.

 

Sowing:

Get a division from a friend. The best time to transplant or divide the roots is in autumn; alternatively, grow from seed. 

Solomon's Seal seed can be difficult to germinate, and may take one month or longer before it starts to grow. To enhance germination rates, stratifying the seeds in a fridge will help. Mix the seeds with a small amount of moistened vermiculite, or sand and place in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or more. Then sow the seeds in spring in seed compost indoors and keep warm. They may still take several months to come up. When they are well up, start hardening them off by placing the seed trays outside in the daytime, for one or two weeks, then plant out 30-40cm (12-16in) apart.

 

Growing:

As a woodland plant, a good mulch of leaf mould, or bark chips is ideal, or a top dressing of well rotted garden compost.

 

Harvesting:

Dig up the root in late autumn, wash and pat dry, then cut up into smaller pieces and dry fully until hard, then store in a sealed jar.

 

Companions:

Grow with other woodland plants, such as ferns.

 

Medical Uses:

It is a mucilaginous tonic, very healing and restorative, and is good for inflammations of the stomach and bowels, piles, and chronic diarrhoea. It is useful also for female complaints. An infusion of 28g (1oz) of the root to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water, drink a wineglassful at a time.

 

The powdered roots make an excellent poultice for bruises and piles.

 

Actions: astringent, demulcent, tonic, vulnerary

 

Part Used: Root.

SORREL (Rumex acetosa)

 

Sorrel is a perennial low growing leafy plant with arrow shaped leaves. The leaves have a fresh mild lemon taste. Our main use of sorrel leaves is a few in a mixed salad, to give the salad a lemony taste. The leaves, like rhubarb stems and spinach, contain oxalic acid – so don’t use it too regularly. However it is a valuable herb for its unique taste.

 

Soil & Sight:

It grows best in a light rich soil in half-shade, but full sun is acceptable. Mix in one bucket of garden compost per square metre.

Sowing:

Sow in early spring indoors in seed compost, and plant out 30cm (1ft) apart. Alternatively, dived a friend’s plant in early spring.

 

Growing:

Mulch down with 3cm (1in) grass cuttings. Regular cutting of the flower stalks in summer will keep the leaves growing.

 

Harvesting:

Cut or pull the leaves at any time during the growing season. They are mostly used fresh, but can be dried carefully in the dark on a drying frame until crisp, then stored in well-sealed jars in a dark cupboard.

 

Companions:

Strawberries like sorrel growing near.

 

Culinary Uses:

Combine with other greens, as sorrel on its own is too bitter. Some leaves added to a salad, gives the salad a nice lemony taste. Added to soups and spinach, livens up both.

 

Medical Uses:

Sorrel has blood cleansing and improving qualities, and is also used as a cooling drink to reduce a fever.

 

Actions: diuretic, refrigerant

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems. 

SOUTHERNWOOD (Artemisia abrotanum)

 

Southernwood is a native of southern Europe, indigenous to Spain and Italy. It has grey-green feathery leaves, and small yellow flowers and grows to 1 metre or more.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

It likes full to partial sun, a well-drained soil but moist soil, although they are tolerant of drought. Mix in 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

It can easily be propagated by cuttings, or by division of the roots.

 

Growing:

Weed and mulch with 6cm (2in) of spray-free straw.

 

Harvesting:

The whole herb can be pulled up in February when in flower, cleaned and hung up to dry in a warm dark place, like a airing cupboard, then stored in a well sealed container in a dark cupboard. The most potent part for dispelling worms are the flowers, which should be collected in February, spread out on a drying frame and dried in the dark.

 

Companions:

Plant cuttings with cabbage, and here and there in the garden. Roots easily from cuttings.

 

Medical Uses:

Southernwood’s main use has been to regulate menstruation, however it is also a good stimulant tonic and strengthens the nervous system. It is given as an infusion of 30g (1oz) of the herb to ½ litre (1 pint) of boiling water. The pan should have a lid on to prevent the loss of volatile oils, which would impair its value.

 

Its other use is as an anthelmintic, in dispelling roundworms in both children and animals. We used it as a drench for our stock on our farm.

 

Actions: tonic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, antiseptic and deobstruent.

 

Part Used: The whole herb, and the flowers.

ST JOHN’S WORT (Hypericum perforatum)

 

St John's Wort is an herbaceous perennial plant, which can grow to 1m (3ft) high. The flowers are bright yellow with black dots.

 

Soil & Sight:

Saint John’s Wort can easily become an invasive weed by spreading its creeping roots as well as spreading its seeds, so make sure you can contain it by regularly digging out the runners and collecting and disposing the seed heads. Alternately, grow in a woodland garden, or odd corner.

Sowing:

It can be propagated from root divisions, or sown indoors from seed in early spring and planted out when a few centimetres high.

 

Growing:

Mulch down with grass clippings, or spray-free straw. Every year dig out runners.

 

Harvesting:

Harvest the tops, just before it flowers and dry on a drying frame in a warm dry dark place. The flowers can be used to make the oil of St. John's Wort by infusing the flowers in organic virgin first pressed olive oil. Place the flowers in a container and just cover with the oil. After two weeks infusing, sieve the oil and bottle.

 

Medical Uses:

Externally used to treat haemorrhoids and inflammation, also to treat sores, cuts, minor burns, and abrasions, especially those involving nerve damage.

 

Oil of St John’s Wort can be made by infusing the flowers in olive oil. Drying the flowers loses their effectiveness.

 

Traditionally it has been used to treat lung complaints like chronic catarrh, bladder troubles, dysentery, worms, and diarrhoea. It has also been used to treat children troubled with bed-wetting at night, by giving an infusion given before going to bed, has been found to be found effectual.

 

In 1525, Paracelsus recommended it for treating depression, melancholy, and over excitation. More recently St John's Wort has been used as a treatment for mild to moderate depression, with fewer adverse side effects than with other antidepressants. However, it has been shown less effective for severe depression.

 

Actions: astringent, analgesic, antispasmodic, stimulates bile flow, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, sedative, aromatic, resolvent, expectorant, nervine, antidepressant, and a restorative tonic for the nervous system.

 

Part Used: Herb tops, and flowers.

SWEET CICELY (Myrrhis odorata)

 

Sweet Cicely is an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the celery family, with a thick root and very aromatic foliage. When in flower it can grow to ½m (1½ft) or more. The leaves are fern-like that smell strongly of aniseed when crushed. The flowers are creamy-white umbels.

 

Soil & Sight:

It prefers medium-rich well drained soil in full sun. Mix in 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard). Just remember, it does spread and has very long taproots, so digging up the excess growth can be difficult.

 

Sowing:

It grows readily from seed, and can also be increased by division in spring or autumn.

Growing:

Plant out at 30cm apart. It dies down in late autumn, coming up again at the end of August. Clip off the flowers regularly, to encourage the leaves.

 

Harvesting:

The large leaves droop as soon as they are picked, so pick and quickly spread out in a single layer on a drying frame, placed in a warm airy place, and store in the dark in sealed jars. The roots can be dug up in late autumn, cleaned, cut in smaller bits and dried. The fresh roots can also be boiled and eaten.

 

Companions:

It is a hedgerow and woodland edge and in woodland clearings – so a good companion for similar plants.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Attracts beneficial insects and bees.

 

Culinary Uses:

Sweet Cicely leaves can be used in both vegetable and fruit smoothies. Also chopped in salad dressings and in green salad mixes. Also used in soups and stews, to make herb butter. Can be sprinkled on root vegetables, and chopped and mixed in a fruit salad.

 

Medical Uses:

As an expectorant, an infusion of the leaves is useful for coughs and bronchitis; it is also good for flatulence, and as a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. The fresh or dried roots can be boiled to make an infusion. The roots are antiseptic and an ointment made from the fresh roots will help cure wounds, and ulcers.

 

Actions: aromatic, stomachic, carminative, expectorant

 

Part Used: The leaves, and root.

 

TARRAGON French (Artemisia dracunculus)

 

French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen, but is never grown from seed as the flowers are sterile; instead it is propagated by root division, so you will need to buy fresh plants, or find a friend or neighbour with one to propagate from.

 

If you see seeds for sale, they will be of Russian tarragon, which is inferior and not worth growing.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

French tarragon does not like wet feet, so the ideal conditions are a well-drained soil in full sun on a slope facing north, or course chippings and sharp sand dug into the spot before planting.

 

Sowing:

 

Propagate by root division or from cuttings, you can’t grow it from seed!

 

Growing:

 

Plant 60cm (2ft) apart, usually two plants will do for a family. Mulch with 5cm (2in) of grass clippings.

Harvesting:

French Tarragon can be eaten fresh throughout the growing season, but it is such a valuable culinary herb, it should also be dried for the winter months. Cut the shoots just before flowering, vary carefully, as bruising will lose valuable volatile oils. Lay them out on a drying frame and dry at a low temperature – no more than 350C (950F) in the dark.

 

Companions:

Recommended to enhance the growth and flavour of vegetables.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one.

 

Culinary Uses: Tarragon is one of the most useful herbs in the kitchen:

 

• Make tarragon butter to serve with shellfish, crab, crayfish, lobster and prawns.

• Add fresh sprigs to pickles, like gherkins.

• Especially good added to asparagus or bean salads.

• Added to omelettes and scrambled eggs.

• Added to mayonnaise.

• Famous added to steaks and veal.

• Cooked with poultry and game and in stuffings.

• Added when making sauerkraut.

 

To make Tarragon vinegar, fill a jar with the freshly gathered leaves, which have been partially dried. Cover the leaves with good quality white wine vinegar. Leave overnight, then strain through a jelly bag, or cheesecloth, and fill a bottle or bottles and seal.

 

Medical Uses:

Tarragon is used to treat digestion problems, poor appetite and to promote sleep. The roots were chewed to relieve toothache. This pain relieving effect is due to the high levels of eugenol found in the plant. This is the same pain-relieving compound contained in clove oil.

 

Actions: antioxidant, analgesic, aromatic

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

Thyme plant

THYME (Thymus vulgaris) & Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

 

Thyme is a native of Mediterranean countries. As a strongly aromatic herb, it is both useful for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Lemon Thyme

Soil & Sight:

Thyme likes a dry, well-drained fertile soil, in full sun.

 

Varieties:

French thyme is supposed to have the best flavour, but we have found the variety Pizza Thyme with its larger glossier leaves and good strong Italian flavour to be the best one we have grown over the years.

 

Sowing:

Sow inside in early spring in seed compost, potting on the tiny seedlings into potting compost until big enough to plant outside. However, the easiest way to propagate thyme is by division of an old plant, or cuttings taken in late spring.

 

Growing:

Mulch down with stone chippings or as we do, with regularly replaced grass clippings. Thyme can be grown indoors through the winter by clipping back an outside plant to about a third, then pot up in potting compost and move indoors.

 

Harvesting:

Clip the shoots by a third only, just as they are flowering, but never later than the end of January (southern hemisphere) July (northern hemisphere); this will give the plant time to recover before the winter. Do not clip back to the base, as this will seriously set back the plants. Spread out the cuttings in a single layer on a drying frame in the dark at a low temperature – no more than 350C (950F). When dry rub the leaves off the stems and store in a sealed jar.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Deters cabbage root fly.

 

Harvesting:

Drying thyme bunches is easy. Hang up bunches in the kitchen or glasshouse until dry, then rub the leaves gently from the stems and store in a jar.

 

Culinary Uses:

 

• Add to tomato sauces, or tomato juice.

• Add to scrambled eggs, and cheese sauces.

• Great, added to soups and stews.

• Rub on pork, beef or lamb roasts before cooking.

• Add to stuffings.

• Make thyme butter and melt to pour over vegetables before serving.

• Add lemon thyme when making custard.

 

Medical Uses:

Thyme tea will reduce gastric wind, gut gripes and colic. It is also useful in promoting perspiration at the commencement of a cold, and in fever generally. An infusion sweetened with sugar or honey is useful to relieve catarrh and sore throat, given in doses of 1 or more tablespoonsful, several times daily.

 

Actions: antiseptic, antispasmodic, tonic, carminative, and diaphoretic

 

Part Used: Leaves and stems.

TURMERIC (Curcuma longa)

 

Here in Nelson we can only grow our turmeric plant in our little lean-to glass house (see picture). In warmer sub tropical or Mediterranean climates, there should be no problem growing turmeric outside. It grows up to a metre (3ft) high with broad green tropical style leaves, and forms a large clump with underground rhizomes, similar to ginger roots to which it is related. The roots are the characteristic lemon yellow inside; from which powdered turmeric is made. The tops die off in late autumn and start growing again in spring.

Tumeric plant in our glass house

Tumeric Rhizome

Soil & Sight:

It is very important to have a well-drained soil, as the rhizomes rot easily if they are damp or wet for long periods. Turmeric is a tropical plant; so it likes full sun grown in rich compost, so add a bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard), or to a large plant container around 45 x 45cm (1½ x 1½ft) square, and 30cm (1ft) deep. The advantage of growing in a large container is that it can be brought indoors in the winter if you live in a colder area.

 

Growing:

Keep weeded and mulch with grass clippings or 5cm (2in) of spray free straw in hot dry weather.

 

Companions:

You can grow turmeric with ginger, as they like the same conditions.

 

Harvesting:

Just fossick around in the soil, exposing some of the rhizomes, and cut off what you need, making sure you leave plenty of rhizomes to keep growing.

 

Culinary Uses:

One of the traditional uses of turmeric in traditional Indian cooking; was to help to improve the digestion of protein rich foods, such as fish and dhal.

 

To use the fresh root, peel the root, and then ideally use a microplane to finally grate the root. You can store any root in a Ziplock bag in the fridge for 7-10 days.

 

To make powdered turmeric, boil the roots for 20 minutes, and then cut the roots into 1cm (⅜in) pieces and dry them in the oven set at 60C (140F) on fan. When dried hard, grind the small pieces through a grain grinder and store in a dry sealed jar.

 

Ways to use turmeric:

 

• Add a 2½cm (1in) piece of turmeric root to smoothies.

• Use the freshly grated root in making marinades for chicken, fish and beef – just add to any marinade recipe for extra flavour.

• Add freshly grated root to a salad dressing.

• Add 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated turmeric to your stir-fry.

• Add to a frittata or quiche recipe.

• To make a savoury yogurt to go with many dishes, mix into thick Greek yogurt 1 tablespoon of grated fresh turmeric, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of sea salt and a teaspoon of olive oil.

• Add freshly grated root to any dish, like a curry, that usually requires ground turmeric.

 

Medical Uses:

Turmeric has been used to treat a variety of internal disorders, such as indigestion, throat infections, common colds, or liver ailments, as well as topically to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores, like cold sores, by placing some dried ground turmeric powder on the sore. It has long been thought to help reduce the risk of bowel cancer if used regularly in ones diet. It is also added to some arthritic supplements along with ginger to reduce inflammation. It can also be useful in cases like inflammatory bowel disorder.

 

Actions: antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

 

Part Used: Rhizome.

Valerian flower

VALERIAN (Valeriana officinalis)

 

Valerian is a perennial herb, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Valerian will grow in any ordinary soil, but does best in a rich, heavy loam, with a good supply of organic matter. Add 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre.

Valerian plant

Sowing:

Sow seeds indoors in seed compost in spring, pressing them lightly into the compost, but do not cover, because they need light to germinate; and then plant out when large enough 45cm (18in) apart. Valerian can also be propagated by the division of an established clump in spring.

 

Growing:

The usual weeding followed by mulching.

 

Companions:

Can be grown with Calendula and Echinacea.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the pink flowers.

 

Harvesting:

Wait to the late autumn of the second year before digging up some of the roots. Comb out the fine rootlets and then scrub under a running tap to get the soil off, or use a hose to power-hose the dirt off. Cut up into smaller pieces to dry in the dark, before storing in sealed containers.

 

Medical Uses:

Valerian has always been known as a sedative. The drug reduces pain and promotes sleep. As a precaution, use ordinary doses to quieten and sooth the brain and nervous system – in large doses it has a tendency to produce headache, heaviness and stupor.

 

It is also useful for cleansing the colon, the blood, the joints and the nerves.

 

To make an infusion chop or grate the root finely, and then pour on 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried or fresh root and steep it for five to 10 minutes.

 

Actions: stimulant, powerful nervine, carminative, antispasmodic, anxiolytic

 

Part Used: Rhizome.

 

 

VERBASCUM see: MULLEIN

VERVAIN (Verbena officinalis)

 

The plant can grow 75cm (30in). It comes from Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It has dark green opposite leaves, cut into toothed lobes, with tiny lilac flowers growing up long flower stems.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

Vervain likes a well-drained soil in full sun, or partial shade. Sowing: You can sow in the autumn outside; the cold winter temperatures will help them germinate. If you want to sow in the early spring you will need to stratify the seeds in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks mixed with a little damp sand in a Ziplock bag. 

The small seeds need light to germinate, so sow onto the damp surface of the seed compost, lightly pressing them in, but do not cover. They will germinate in about 3-4 weeks. Transplant after the last frost and plants are showing their first (or second) set of true leaves.

 

Growing:

The usual weeding and mulching down with about 4cm (1½in) of grass clippings.

 

Harvesting:

Cut the leaves and the flower heads off the plant and spread them out on a drying frame. Dry in the warm – between 20-300C (68-860F).

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Bees and other beneficial insects love the flowers.

 

Medical Uses:

As a diuretic, Vervain helps to eliminate toxins from the system, especially from the liver and kidneys. It can also be used for bladder infections.

 

As an expectorant, it is useful in cases of bronchitis, coughs and sore throat.

 

Its nervine properties are useful in helping those who suffer from nervous disorders, anxiety, stress and sleeplessness.

 

To make an infusion, add 55g (2oz) of the dried leaves and flower heads to a litre of water, bring to a boil and simmer for twelve minutes.

 

Actions: astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, antispasmodic, febrifuge, galactagogue, sedative, nervine

 

Part Used: Leaves and flower heads.

WORMWOOD (Artemisia vulgaris)

 

Wormwood is a perennial herb, with finally cut grey-green foliage. When in flower it can be over a metre (3ft) high.

 

Soil & Sight:

Wormwood prefers a well-drained soil in a half shady position.

 

Sowing:

Sow the seeds on the surface of the seed compost in the spring. Do not cover the seed, as they need light to germinate.

Make sure the compost is kept moist by placing the seed tray in a polythene bag, or cover with a polythene bag, until the seeds have germinated – around 10 to 24 days. Transplant the seedlings when large enough to handle, into pots, and grow on. Plant them out 60cm (2ft) apart after the last frosts. Wormwood is also easily propagated by division of roots in the autumn, or by cuttings.

 

Growing:

Keep free from weeds and mulch.

 

Harvesting:

In the second and third year, harvest the upper portions of the stalks with the flower heads attached, picking off any damaged leaves. Hang up the bunches in an airy shaded spot, then store in sealed glass containers.

 

Companions:

The herb releases growth inhibiting toxins, which interfere and stunt the growth of plants growing near. So grow it away from other herbs and plants on the perifery of a garden bed. However, its repellent effect against insect larvae can be used by placing dried sprigs alongside carrots and onions against root fly. The dried herb will not inhibit the growth of other plants.

 

Medical Uses:

Wormwood is valued, especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system.

 

It increases stomach acid naturally, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also eases wind and bloating.

 

Wormwood, as the name implies, was used to expel intestinal worms.

 

Actions: anti-inflammatory, vermifuge, antipyretic, nervine, emmenagogue, diuretic, diaphoretic, slight tonic

 

Part Used: Leaves and flowers. 

YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

 

Yarrow is a herbaceous perennial plant, widespread from the temperate parts of Asia, Europe and North America. The flowers have a characteristic pungent smell, not unlike salami, to my mind, although not many people agree with me.

 

Soil & Sight:

 

In the wild, yarrow grows in pastures and open parts of forest, on a whole range of different soils. Grow in a sunny spot, in an odd corner, or wild part of the garden.

Yarrow spreads outwards by thick wiry roots, and therefore needs containing. There is no need to feed the plant, although a little garden compost would not go amiss.

 

Sowing:

I have always dug up some runners and transplanted them to where I want them. If you can get some seed, good luck.

 

Growing:

Leave them alone and they will look after themselves. Some weeding in the early days will help.

 

Harvesting:

Cut the stems when in flower. Pick the leaves off and dry on a drying frame. The flowers are more difficult, cut the flowers off the flower head spread out on another drying frame and dry at 500C (1220F) in a low oven or dehydrator.

 

Companions:

It may increase the essential oil content of herbs when planted amongst them.

 

Beneficial Insect Attractant:

Yarrow has insect repelling qualities. It also attracts predatory wasps and ladybirds.

 

Medical Uses:

Yarrow’s astringent and haemostatic actions are famous for stemming bleeding, and the story goes that Achilles, the great ancient Greek warrior, used it on the battlefield to stem the bleeding from his wounds. It stops bleeding, both externally and internally. The powdered leaves can be used to apply to wounds. It is used in cases of excessive menstrual bleeding and helps stops menstrual cramps. Externally, the juice from the plant or decoction can be used to wash wounds, to stop bleeding and reduce inflammation.

 

It is also good for colds, flu and infectious diseases, to reduce fevers and inflammation.

 

Actions: Diaphoretic, astringent, haemostatic, vulnerary, antispasmodic

 

Part Used: Leaves and flower heads.

 

 

YELLOW DOCK See: CURLED DOCK