Growing Summer Herbs
Basil is an annual herb that grows easily from seeds sown in late spring. It grows to a fair height, likes its space and loves the sun. Pinching the stems can promote bushy growth, however be careful not to promote too much growth as this may reduce the intensities of its flavours. Generally, basil leaves can be picked about six weeks after planting and just before flowers start opening. Basil has a lovely spicy scented leaf and is very good to use to flavour tomato soups and pasta’s, stews, poultry and meat dishes. Basil also adds a lovely flavour to vinegars for dressings and can be used as a herbal tea. Believe it or not, basil is a member of the mint family and has much the same medicinal properties including digestive and anti-gas properties. It can also recommended for stomach cramps, vomiting, headaches, constipation and anxiety.
Chives are a perennial herb that grow from the seed or division. They need a fair bit of space and although they do love the sun they can put up with partial shade. Chives are fairly hardy even in cold conditions and demand little care other than dividing when they become overcrowded. Chive leaves can be cut as they grow and used for culinary purposes to add a delicious subtle, onion like flavour to food such as eggs, soups, salads, butter, cheese, dips and spreads. Being a member of the onion family, chives posses medicinal properties used for the control of high blood pressure (although fairly large quantities are required).
Coriander is an annual herb with a strong smell and very distinctive taste. Its seeds should be sown directly into the garden as they do not tend to transplant well. This herb grows to a fair height, needs it’s space and the sun. Pick leaves sparingly when the plant is still growing or wait until the plant is thick and bushy and leaves, seeds and stalks are at their best, as the entire plant is edible. Leaves can be used to flavour stews and sauces; stems flavour soups and beans; and seeds can be used in sauces, meat dishes and even sprinkled on salads for a flavour infusion. Medicinal properties of coriander include stomach soothing properties. Its is also commonly used as a flavouring agent in modern medicine.
Dill is a popular annual with finely divided plume like leaves. Sow the seed directly where you want it to grow as this herb is also difficult to transplant. This herb is not too fussed about space, grows to quite a height, and requires sunlight and partial shade. This herb self-sows readily. For best results pick leaves just as flowers open and when seeds are flat and brown and yield a fragrant oil. Dill can be used as a herbal tea, as seasoning for butter, cakes, bread, vinegars, soups, fish, pickles and salads. Dills plume like leaves and yellowish flowers can also be used for decorative purposes. Dill has some value in medicine, mostly as a stomach soother and anti-gas remedy.
Rosemary is a hardy ever green perennial shrub with narrow leathery like leaves and a spicy aroma. Rosemary can be grown from either seeds or stem cuttings, and grows best in well drained, sunny locations. This herb can grow fairly large, requires a reasonable amount of space for growth and lots of sunlight. Fresh leaves can be picked as needed, and the popular flavour is great for meats, stews, dressings, flavouring for vinegar, garnishes, stuffing, bread, butter and vegetables. Dried rosemary can make lovely decorations around the house and let off an unmistakable aroma. Rosemary can be used medicinally as a digestive aid, to treat depression, headaches and muscle spasms. Rosemary can be an irritant to the stomach, intestines and kidneys, therefore should be used sparingly.
Mint is a hardy perennial and very easy to grow. In fact it is one of the few herbs that will overtake your garden so planting it in a container or bucket with holes for drainage will keep it under control for several years. At its best in rich soil, this herb grows quite large, requires lots of sunlight and partial shade. Mint is commonly used in tea’s to treat aches and pains in the stomach and bowel, and supports functioning of the gall bladder. It is also adds great flavour to sauces, green salads, peas, jellies and vinegars to have with lamb. Mint leaves can also be used to add a refreshing touch to fruit salads, lemonade and fruit drinks.
Parsley is a hardy biennial – often treated as an annual – with curly leaves and a characteristic flavour and smell. This fairly small herb requires little space and lots of sun and its seeds should be sown in early spring. Leaves can be cut when the herb has grown to a suitable size and can be used fresh or dried. Parsley is a common garnish, but can also be used in salads, stews, soup, sauces and salad dressings. Being a vitamin and mineral powerhouse this herb is rich in medicinal values. Parsley is a natural breath sweetener, and is used to heel kidney stone and bladder infections. As a diuretic, it is also used to help treat high blood pressure. If taken in large quantities parsley can be an irritant to the kidneys.