Friday, February 24, 2012

Herbs are great

Young Basil in the garden
Seed catalogs have been filing into my mailbox since the end of December and I’ve realized now it is time to start seriously thinking and planning next year’s garden.  I do wish they’d wait till the end of January to send these things.  When I’ve still got Christmas decorations out I’m just not in the mood.   By the time it is the right time I’ve usually misplaced their catalogs.  But I digress…

Recently I’ve been trying to learn about and use a lot more herbs both for culinary and medicinal purposes.  Trying to pinpoint exactly what caused this new fascination with herbs is a bit problematic but suffice it to say I was reading, seeing and hearing about it from several different sources at once and I’ve learned when that happens it’s usually not a coincidence.

For the record I think there are three reasons why herbs are great:

1.        1. They are easy to grow.
2.       2. They save you so much money (if you grow your own and make your own “recipes”.)
3.       3. They are good for you both nutritionally and medicinally.

Okay, and I’ll add a 4th, they can save you costly trips to the doctor and a lot of money on over the counter and prescription drugs.

If you’ve never looked into the uses for herbs before you might find that last statement to seem ridiculous but from firsthand experience it has proved true at our house.  I’ll share my experience with Yarrow that made me really excited about the medical benefits in my next blog.  

Young oregeno, later it got huge!
Even if you don’t start your own herbs from seed and buy the plants for $2-4 from a nursery you still save lots of money.  For instance one basil plant can easily give you 8 full cuttings over the summer and if you look in the store for fresh basil you’re looking at $2-4 per little package.   Each cutting would probably be about the same amount as those little packages.  The savings add up fast. 

Now, if you grow from seed you can reap an even bigger savings.  Many herbs will grow well from seed but there are some that you’ll need cuttings.   I found Basil, Sage, Chives, Wormwood, and Borage all started well from seed here last year.  My oregano, thyme, cilantro, savory and probably a few I’ve forgotten grew well too but I purchased my starter plants on those.

Mint is one that you will need a plant or cutting to start but once you do look out.  Last year I had three different kinds of mint growing well and expect them to come back this year.

Herbs are little powerhouses of vitamins and flavor and so easy to add.  Once you have your own “free” supply you’ll find you are much more “free” with them.  When they cost so much it’s hard to justify, but when they are yours for the cutting, well, that’s a different story.

So hopefully you’ll start thinking about herbs.  You can even just grow a few in containers and still reap many benefits.  If you are like me and have some room you can learn more and grow more each year.   If you want to learn more check out the DVD by Homestead ladies  I warn you however you will have garden envy.  Even though I already knew a lot of things I picked up some tips and ideas and enjoyed what they shared.  I highly recommend it.  It gives a nice overview more on the herbs themselves and the culinary features.  I’ll share some other resources on the medical side later.
Over the spring I plan to share what we’re growing this year and what we’re planning to do with the harvest along with the medicinal recipes (tinctures and such) as well as the culinary recipes for some yummy herb intensive dishes.
If you don’t already love herbs like I do I hope you’ll begin to experiment with some and find a few you will fall in love with!


  1. Gina,
    I have always devoted most of my garden space to vegetables (since my space has always been so small - at least for a family of ten!) But I have been branching out into herbs for the last two or three years.
    Do you have a good book you could recommend as a resource? I tend to pick my herbs as needed for recipes rather than "harvest" them to dry and store.
    Your basil harvest last year looked wonderful! I just need to know how much of the plant I can cut back and some of the basics.
    I have been clipping vertical garden spaces and posting on my pinterest boards and will probably adapt some of those for annual herbs.

  2. I have several books, not any one that I'd say is the best etc... I do REALLY like the DVD I mentioned above (I'd loan it to you if you were closer.) Most of the books I've got have more to do with the medicinal stuff which I needed to learn more about. I cut back pretty aggressively then let grow out week or two and cut again. It depends on weather but about every 2 weeks the basil seemed to go. The New Guide to Herbs by Andi Clevely is pretty good, it's got a bit of everything. Hope that helps, and I'll be blogging more on this subject...