Welcome to Part II of Grow your own herbs – today we discuss 5 more ever-popular herbs that you can grow in your garden or in a sunny spot in your home.
Chives is the common name for Allium Schoenoprasum. It is a perennial plant found widely in Eurpoe, Asia and North America. The English name Chives comes from the French “Cive” which in turn comes from the Latin word for onion “Cepa”. Chives are a very popular herb and can be found in grocery stores but is also often grown in peoples gardens. They are often used to ad flavour to fish, potatoes and soup. They also repel insects and control pests in your garden. In cooking it’s mostly the stems, also termed scapes that are used. They are used widely in traditionl French and Swedish cooking. In Poland and Germany chives are served with cheese.
The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic but not as strong. They are good for the circulatory system and also have stimulant, diuretic and antiseptic properties. They are also excellent sources of vitamins A and C and are also rich in calcium and iron.
Mint is also known as Mentha and belongs to the botanical family Lamiaceae. There are an estimated 18 species but the varieties are not clearly distinct and hybridization occurs in nature. Mint can be found in many parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. They are aromatic, perennial herbs. They grow best in wet environments and moist soils. They can grow up to 120 cm tall and will spread enthusiastically. Because of this properties mint is sometimes considered to be invasive. In the kitchen mint serves many functions. Mint jelly is a very popular traditional condiment to be served together with lamb. In Syria and Damascus mint lemonade, called Limonana, is also very popular. Mint is also used in tea, beverages, jellies, syrups, candy and ice cream. Mint is also a vital ingredient in many delicious alcoholic drinks such as mojito. It is alo the main ingredient in the mint-flavoured liquer Creme de Menthe. Mint essential oil and it’s derivative menthol are used in breath fresheners, mouth wash, toothpaste and chewing gum.
Mint is used in traditional herbal medicine to treat stomach ache, irritable bowel syndrome and chest pains. It is also an excellent environmentally friendly insecticide which will kill common pests such as wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.
The scientific name for oregano is Origanum Vulgare. It belongs to the mint family and is native to western and southwestern Eurasia as well as the Mediterranean. It is a perennial herb that grows up to 80 cm tall. It is best planted in early spring and should be spaced about 30 cm apart. It prefers fairly dry soil and grows best in a hot dry climate.
Oregano is an important and popular culinary herb. the flavour comes mostly from the leaves and is stronger when used dried. It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste. It has become a staple herb in Italian-American cuisine. It first became popular in America when soldiers coming back from World War II brought back a taste for the Italian “Pizza Herb”. Oregano had been used in southern Italy for centuries. In Italian cooking it is also frequently used with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, meat and fish. It is also very popular in the Mediterranean, the Philippines and Latin America. In Turkey it is used to flavour mutton and lamb dishes and also to flavour Kebabs.
Medicinally the essential oil from Oregano is used as an antiseptic as well as a treatment for stomach and respiratory ailments. It is still used today in Greece to help ease sore throats.
The botanical name for Tarrago is Artemisia Dracunculus. It is a perennial herb belonging to the sunflowet family. It is found in many parts of Eurasia and North America and is grown for medicinal and culinary purposes in many places. Tarragon grows up to 150cm tall and has slender branched stems. For cullinary use French tarragon is considered the best – care should be taken that this is in fact the species that you purchase to grow at home. It is a perennial plant that is dormant in winter. It likes a hot sunny spot and should not be watered too much. An even better substitute for French tarragon is Spanish tarragon ot Tagetes Lucida. This is also known as mint marigold, Mexican tarragon or Texas or winter tarragon.
When it comes to it’s culinary uses it is considered one of the essential herbs in French cooking. It goes very well with chicken, fish and egg dishes. It is the main flavouring in Bearnaise sauce. It is used in stews in Iran and also in cakes in Slovenia. In Hungary it is used in chicken soup.
In traditional herbal medicine it is used as an appetite stimulant. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C as well as other minerals such as calcium, manganese and iron. It grows best in a sunny spot and can tolerate full day sun as long as the general climate is not to hot. It should be kept well watered.
Basil, Thai basil or sweet basil or common names for Ocimum Basilicum which belongs to the Lamiacea or mint family. It is native to India where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is a semi-hardy annual plant which features prominently in Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Taiwanese cooking. It is also used a lot in Italian cooking. The leaves taste a bit like anise and it has a strong often sweet smell. The Italians typically use the sweet basil variety whereas the Asians use Thai, lemon or holy basil. The word Basil comes from the Greek word Basileus meaning king. It is still considered the “King of Herbs” by many authors of cookery books.
Basil is perhaps most famous in the Western world for being one of the main ingredients of Pesto sauce. Basil is most often used fresh in recipes and added at the last moment to prevent loosing its flavour. The Chinese use both fresh and dried basil in soups and other food and in Taiwan it is added to thick soup and to fried chicken.
In traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurveda. When used in it’s essential oil form studies have shown that basil has powerful antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It has even been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Traditional uses also include the treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes.