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Herbs are very misunderstood and therefore, underused in our society. This introduction should help teach you about what herbs actually are, and some of the different uses each one has. Furthermore, it should be noted that “herbs” are the leaves and sometimes other aromatic parts of a plant grown in a temperant zone. “Spices” are the seeds, stems, leaves, roots, flowers, buds or bark of aromatic plants grown in the tropics.
People use herbs for many things, most noteworthy, for making cosmetics, dying fabrics, making exotic flavors of honey and oils, even medicinal uses. In addition, there are people that even decorate with them.
Here are some general uses:
- medicinal: anise, horehound, hyssop, feverfew
- decorative: lovage, rose, rosemary, tansy
- scented: chamomile, lavender, marigold, rose. patchouli,
- pesticidal: pennyroyal, pyrethrum
- culinary: basil, bay leaf, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage
- strong seasoned: garlic, horseradish, mustard, nasturtium
- edible flowers: marigold, lemon mint, borage, rose
The herb garden
Unlike spices, herbs can be used fresh from the garden, can be planted in a border of an already established garden, in a bed on their own with others, or even in pots inside the home on sunny window sills. And because they are usually grown bunched up together in a bed, they take up considerably less space. Some can be grown as ground cover, some are grown for their visual appeal. Some are perennials and return year after year in the right climate.
Buying and using herbs
Master chefs and cooks make use of herbs in their culinary cuisine. More and more cosmetic companies are using them in their cosmetic lines, and in body and hair products rather than using animal-based products as before.
Probably, the most popular use recently has been by people at home using them to cure simple ailments and in treating wounds. Many people are replacing antibiotics and medicines with herbal remedies that are being made in their own homes, as a result, fewer people are relying on over the counter drugs. Consequently, caution must be taken when ingesting certain herbs and their parts as some parts are highly toxic and can be fatal. Research is important as is an understanding of each one before taking it upon yourself to try new things in the home.
Always gather herbs on dry days as early as possible after the morning dew has dried. Usually, the leaves of young plants before flowering, are the best. It is best to cut them with pruning shears or scissors. When harvesting, it is best to leave at least a 4-inch stem if it is an annual, and if a perennial, two-thirds. Always wash before use.
Herbs are a great addition to the garden as well as a sunny windowsill and have many uses. They will provide you with an abundance of harvest while requiring minimal work. Learn about preserving your harvest here. To get a free PDF of companion herbs, click here.
Do you grow herbs in your gardens or in the home? What types do you grow and how do you use them?