As I mentioned in our most recent newsletter, herbs are not only tasty, aromatic and beautiful, but they’re magical. It’s true. Herbs are not only great at attracting beneficial insects and repelling pests in your garden, but many also have medicinal properties to help keep our bodies healthy.
When planted as companion plants to vegetables in your garden, herbs (and flowers) help attract bees which help cross-pollinate crops. They also attract beneficial insects that eat the nasty pests who could feast upon your precious fruits and vegetables. For more information on how to use herbs and flowers in companion planting, check out Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects and the Vegetable Companion Chart from our website. Also check out the resources at the bottom of this post.
Besides being great for the health of our garden, herbs are wonderful for cooking and most of them also have medicinal properties. Did you know that garlic has anti-fungal properties, and ginger helps your respiratory system? I didn’t until a few years ago when I took an herbalism class at the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, a live-in demonstration home for sustainable living at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA (where I went to college). That class is where I got a lot of my recipes.
Now that I know a little bit more about herbs, I wanted to share the magic! Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, but I have included what I’ve learned along with a list with a few local experts at the end of this post.
Below are a list of herbs with some of their medicinal properities, how to process them, some recipes, and some resources. Leave comments and let me know what you think! Or if you have some favorite herb recipes or advice, share by leaving a comment:)
posted by Krystal Rogers
WCG Youth and Community Educator
I. SOME OF MY FAVORITE HERBS & FLOWERS
As far as I know, most of these you can grow in your garden in Utah, with the exception of the spices in [parentheses].
*Attract beneficial insects, particularly while in bloom.
Leafy Culinary Herbs:
Cilantro*, chives, dill*, thyme (crimson variety)*
fennel* -the bulbs can also be cooked and eaten as a side dish. Use seeds in cooking; good for digestion
parsley*- high in vitamin C, treats bladder and urinary infections and stones. helps with congestion.
rosemary-circulation stimulant, aid in memory recall, inflammation.
sage– antibacterial. Helps sinus problems and helps treat fevers.
“spaghetti herbs” (i.e. parsley, basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, summer savory)- boost immune system and help to keep you well.
thyme- anti-bacterial, anti-fungal. Great lung medicine-makes great chest rub or tea for congestion. Helps with digestion and to deal with parasites.
[Michael Tierra’s The Way of Herbs, p. 79)
Fruity, Rooty Culinary Herbs and Spices:
[Black pepper]-disease prevention, helps treat congestion and colds
cayenne peppers-stopping bleeding, treating shock
garlic-anti-bacterial, anti-fungal; can treat ear aches, lung ailments, coughs
ginger-helps inflammation, circulation, reduces congestion, eases vomiting/ nausea
horseradish root-antibacterial, stimulates digestion, expels mucus from lungs and throat, mildly anti-biotic. (if growing this in the garden, plant it in a container like 1/2 wine barre, NOT in your garden; it will take over.)
rosehips-vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Cleansing herb, helps cold and flu.
[turmeric]– used in curries, can also make tea from root. wonderful anti-inflammatory. Can treat injuries and bruises. Believed to help prevent cancer, helps digestion, helps liver and regulates hormone function.
[Michael Tierra’s The Way of Herbs, p. 79]
[mustard seed]– blood purifier, increases circulation. Great for bruises, sprains, as a laxative (1 t).
[cinnamon]-aids in digestion, stimulates circulation. treats diarrhea, indigestion. Good for cramps and pain.
[Michael Tierra’s The Way of Herbs, p. 79]
Mild Flowers and Leaves for Tasty Herbal Teas :
borage- helps nervouse and inflammatory conditions, relieves anxiety, treats ulcers, alleviates depression.
catnip-reduces tension, nourishes nervous system
German or Roman chamomile (flowers)-reduces tension, nourishes nervous system. Gentle; helps upset stomach, helps relax before bed. good for kids.
lemon balm*-reduces tension, nourishes nervous system. increases energy.
peppermint-helps circulation, treats upset stomaches.
lemon verbena-antibiotic properties, stomach ease, helps colds, fevers, flatulence, asthma, spasms.
red clover flowers-good for women (not during pregnancy or breast feeding). Good for eczema, hot flashes, night sweats, PMS, menopause. (also good in the garden in cover crop mix for nitrogen fixation).
red raspberry leaf– high in vitatims and minerals like iron, calcium, and manganese, it is great for women during menstruation and pregnancy. A nourishing reproductive tonic, helps produce healthy tissues, increases energy/metabolism.
Medicinal herbs :
feverfew* (flowers), valerian (root)
Echinacea (root)-awesome immune booster, anti-microbial; helps fight off viruses.
Hops (flowers. also used in beer making)- reduces tension, nourishes nervous system. can also be used as a natural dye.
Lavender* (flowers)-reduces tension, nourishes nervous system
Pennyroyal*(leaves)-sedative, reducses nausea and nervous tension, anti-spasmadic. Don’t use if pregnant or more than 5 days in a row.
St. John’s wort(flowers)-sedative, reduces tension, nourishes nervous system. helps with depression.
Stinging nettles (leaves)- nettles are super nutritious, especially good for women b/c of calcium and iron. Use dried in teas or cooked in soups. (Be careful where you plant, they sting! Harvest with gloves.)
yarrow*(root)-used for cold, flu, fevers, painful menstration, reducing bleeding.
–>Check out resource list below and recipes for making your own medicines. Herbs are powerful, so make sure you do your research on which part of the plant to use and the properties of each!
Edible Flowers (petals, not middles):
Marigolds*, violas (also called johnny jump ups), wild bergamot*, basil flowers, bachelor’s button, lemon verbena flowers, burnet, chervil, young dandelions*, dill flowers*, fennel flowers*, holly hock*, honeysuckle, geranium.
calendula*– soothing herb as well, used in topical treatments. also can be used as a dye.
Click here for more edible flowers.
II. USING HERBS YOU GROW
Harvest herbs as needed, making sure not to cut off too much of the plant. Foliage and flowers can be harvested continually. Cut just above new growth from the outside or top of the plant. Harvesting herbs such as basil by removing the very top of the plant, sometimes called “pinching back,” will stimulate new, healthy growth.
Dry summer-grown herbs often have a better flavor than herbs grown in winter. Preserve some of your summer garden for winter use. Dry in a dark place with good ventilation and low humidity (in an open paper bag on top of the refrigerator works well.) You can also use drying screens on racks high on a wall (hot air rises). Bunches can also be created and dried by fastening rubber bands to wire hangers. Use directly from bunches as needed, but remember that dried herbs are not as good in the sun. Herbs can also be dried in the oven or microwave; see resources for more information.
Store in glass jars or canning jars that are as close to airtight as possible. Crush most herbs for culinary uses; leaves and blossoms for tea can be left for herbs. Remember to label your containers. You can also freeze herbs: dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, parsley, and tarragon freeze very well. You can also make frozen cups of herbs: puree fresh herbs with water or oil to add to recipes or make a quick winter pesto (this can be done with basil, parsley, arugula and many others).
Herbal Tea (non-caffeinated flower or leaf made into an infusion)
Herbs like mint and lemon balm grow great in containers (in the garden they tend to take over) and make yummy herbal tea. Peppermint helps upset tummies, lemon balm helps calm the nerves. Chamomile and lavender can be a nice combo if you have a headache.
Hot infusion- boil water and pour over dried or fresh leaves; let steep 3-5 minutes. [Use the ration of 1 T of dried herb mixture per 1 c. water; if using fresh herbs you need much more.] For iced tea, cool and add ice if desired.
Cold infusion- make a sun tea: put herbs in mason jar with warm water, leave covered in direct sun for 3-4 hour [indirect sun for 6 hours or overnight]. For sweeter tea, add a little bit of honey.
–>When making any tea combinations, make sure you know what all the properties are for the herb before making. Some herbs should not be taken while pregnant, some cause high blood pressure, etc. Check out resources below for more herbalism information.
Nutritious Salad Sprinkle
dried dulce flakes (dried seaweed)-iron
dried oregano (chopped)
dried nettles (chopped)-calcium, iron
dried rosemary (chopped small)
dried thyme (chopped)
dried basil (chopped)
toasted sesame seeds- calcium
Mix together, put in shaker, use on salads, entrees, etc. to add extra nutrition and flavor 🙂
Rose Hip Jam
chopped, dried rose hips
Fill jam-sized jar 1/2 way with dried rose hips and other herbs/spices to taste. Fill jar with apple juice. Let sit 15-20 min. Rose hips should expand to absorb juice and create a slightly runny jam-like consistency. Yum, tons of vitamin C! Try your own variations with different spices- dried orange peel adds a nice zest. Keep refrigerated. Lasts 2-3 weeks. To make your own dried rose hips, instructions are available here.
1 c. grated ginger
1 c. warmed honey
Pour honey over ginger and store in a jar for one week. Strain and use honey as delcious sweetener in tea, spread on toast, and eat the now candied ginger (great for tummy aches improving circulation)
Variations, you can also do this with garlic for a more savory flavor. It’s good! Be creative, experiment. Lavender honey is nice for a more flowery, sweet touch.
One of my favorites. Helps boost immune system. At the first tickle of a cold or flu, take a few tables spoons or droppers full (with a little water if you’d need to dilute the strength). Continue as needed. Also makes a tasty salad dressing mixed with olive oil. Can also use it as chest comprest or rub into soar muscles.
1/8 c. Garlic
1/2 c. Ginger
1/2 c. Onions
1/2 c. Horseradish root-
4-6 sprigs Parsley- high in vitamin C
1 – 2 t. cayenne powder
Sweet Variations to add:
1/2 c. chopped, dried rose hips- vitamin C (add fiery color)
1/2 c. fresh chopped beets (for fiery color)- help prevent cancer (particularly colon), high in B vitamin, folate, good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron…
Chop everything, put into a quart-sized canning jar (with lid). Add 1 qt. apple cider vinegar, let infuse for 2-6 weeks. Strain and store in a glass jar in a dark place.
Combine any combination of the following carminative herbs in a jar.
Eat a pinch before or after meals to improve digestion and help settle a rumbling belly. yum:)
2 parts dried orange peel
1 part anise seeds
1/2 part cardamom seeds
1/2 part cumin
2 parts fennel
2 parts candied ginger
1/2 part cinnamon
Local spots to buy herbs:
Wasatch Community Gardens Annual Plant Sale
We will have a wide selection of annual and perennial herbs at our Plant Sale on May 9! It will be from 8-1pm at Rowland Hall, 720 Guardsman Way in SLC. See you there!
645 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, UT
6930 Highland Dr, Salt Lake City, UT
1131 Wilmington Ave, Salt Lake City, UT
Western Garden Center
550 S 600 E, Salt Lake City, UT
4050 W 4100 S, West Valley, UT
9201 S 1300 E, Sandy, UT 84094
For local herbalism classes and tips:
Dave’s Health and Nutrition
1108 East 3300 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84106
1817 West 9000 South
West Jordan, Utah 84088
Herbs, The little Guides. Fog City Press, 2001
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte, Storey Publishing 1998
Roses Love Garlic: Companion Planting and Other Secrets of Flowers, by Louis Riotee, Storey Publishing 1998.
The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook: Your Everyday Reference to the Best Herbs for Healing by James A. Duke PhD St. Martin’s Paperbacks 2002
The Way of Herbs: Revised Edition by Michael Tierra. 1990