Just a quick peek this morning. What I am not showing you is all the weeds I have to pull! Volunteers welcome!
This is the bones of the class I gave at Boulevard Flower Gardens on March 19, 2016. If you come to the classes, I flesh it out with stories and more detailed information. If you have any questions, you may e-mail me. Thanks! ~Alisa
“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” ~ Hippocrates
After all these years, I think we are finally coming to understand this seemingly forgotten piece of lore. Generations before ours cooked and included herbs in their daily lives without even thinking about it. The daily inclusion of medicinal herbs in small quantities kept people healthy, quietly acting on all the systems of the body. When an illness did happen, the quantity of the herbs was increased to a medicinal dose. Teas, tinctures and poultices were made using herbs right outside their doorsteps. Or they would simply add a few handfuls more herbs to their soups and stews for healthful results. Remember Grandma’s chicken soup? It was healing for a few reasons. First it was made and administered with love—which is important when making herbal remedies. Then, the steaming broth opened nasal passages and made the herbs she included easier to assimilate from inhalation as well as digestion. Grandma may not have known the words antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, or antiviral, but she instinctively knew, or remembered from oral tradition of spoken wisdom, which herbs were most helpful for a particular ailment.
Herb gardens of the past typically contained many more herbs than we consistently use today, but there are still many common herbs that can help us stay healthy and alleviate dis-ease. We can begin with a song. Who remembers Scarborough Fair? It is an ancient song, but I remember Simon and Garfunkle’s version:
“Are you going to Scarborough Fair
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine”
So parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme must have been held in high regard, and so they are today among chefs and herbalists alike. We will see what properties these herbs possess that keeps them in such high esteem but I can’t stop there, so I have included six more wonderful herbs most anyone can grow. It was hard to limit myself to just these, but today we will also explore peppermint, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, catnip and passionflower.
• High in B Vitamins, iron, beta-carotene, Vitamin C & chlorophyll
• Helps alleviate anemia and fatigue
• Diuretic useful in bladder and kidney problems
• Helps dry up mother’s milk when weaning
• Good poultice for mastitis
• Breath sweetener
• Aids digestion
• Helps lower cholesterol
• Astringent or drying action helps reduce sweating- good ingredient to include in deodorant
• Helps dry up mother’s milk when weaning
• Mild hormonal stimulant good for hot flashes and night sweats
• Antiseptic, warming and strengthening for fighting colds and flu
• Anti-inflammatory for throat and tonsils making it a good sore throat and laryngitis remedy
• Good ingredient to include in mouthwash, especially for mouth sores or canker sores
• Enhances memory
• Legendary brain tonic, enhances memory
• Mild stimulant
• Increases oxygen to the brain to ease headache and migraines
• Relieves mild to moderate depression
• Aids in poor circulation and low blood pressure, yet can lower high blood pressure by strengthening veins, arteries and capillaries.
• Mild analgesic
• Anti-inflammatory good for joint pain and arthritis
• Helps digest fats and starches
• Antiseptic makes it good for mouth sores
• Combats hair loss and greying.
• Antiseptic good for treating colds and sore throat
• Disinfectant for wounds and household surfaces
• Anti-spasmodic action for relieving asthma, stomach cramps and whooping cough
• Germicide used in mouthwash and gargles (key ingredient in old fashioned Lysterine)
• Expels mucus from the head making it good for bronchitis
• Helps almost all digestive issues, controls gas, nausea, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome
• Stimulant for restoring energy
• Freshens breath
• Gentle herb suitable for children
• Calms nervous stress
• Soothes colic and stomach aches
• Boosts immune system
• Beneficial for a good night’s sleep and remedy for nightmares, often can replace night time pain medication for headache or general aches and pains
• Induces sweating to reduce fever
• Relaxing and soothing in the bath and makes an excellent addition to massage oil
• CAUTION: May trigger an allergic reaction for those who are also allergic to ragweed.
• Mild antidepressant both calming and uplifting
• Relieves stress
• Relieves tension headaches and migraines when combined with feverfew
• Good for insomnia
• Used during childbirth as a gentle pain reliever and in the first bath of the newborn
• Antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic makes it useful in treating colds and flu, staph and strep
• Antiseptic good for treating wounds and burns
• Antispasmodic for calming stomach cramps and useful for treating irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease
• Pain reliever for insect bites and bee stings
• Calming nervine lifts the spirits
• Antispasmodic to digestive and nervous system
• Mild sedative for insomnia
• Alleviates heartache and grief
• Calms children with ADHD
• Antiviral good against herpes and shingles
• Delicious and refreshing
• Stress relief for adults and children
• Lowers fever
• Eases pain of teething
• Settles the stomach
• Eases diarrhea and other digestive issues
• Relieves colic
• Helps calm a fussy child
• Helps normalize blood pressure
• Decreases the desire for cigarettes
• Improves circulation
• Helps to reduce fatigue from muscle exhaustion
• Reduces swelling especially under the eyes
• Quiets the mind, especially repeating thought loops
• Used to treat epilepsy in its native South America
• Useful against anxiety and panic attacks
• Helps calm hyperactive children, helps focus
• Analgesic for toothache, headache and menstrual pain
• Antispasmodic for cramps and spastic muscles
• Sleep inducing
• Antibacterial against eye infections
CULTIVATION & PROPAGATION
Herbs are relatively easy to grow and propagate. Most like a sunny spot and do not require much in the way of added nutrients. They like to have well drained soil, not soggy or too much clay. Add compost if your soil is overly compacted.
Parsley is a biannual which means it produces leaves the first season and flowers the next, producing seeds when then drop and renew the cycle. It has a long tap root and does not transplant, nor divide well. The best way to propagate it is by seed, so let it flower. In a sheltered spot it will often reseed itself for a perpetual crop year after year.
Sage is a woody perennial that will grow into a bush of about two feet high if in a preferred spot. Sometimes they will get too woody and leggy and will benefit from pruning in the spring. It can be propagated by seed and by cuttings.
Rosemary is a tender perennial normally hardy in our zone 7 but the harsh periods of subfreezing weather the last few years have taken their toll even on well established bushes. Rosemary grows about three feet high with older stems turning quite woody. Protect it from prolonged periods of cold by wrapping in burlap. Cuttings are the preferred method of propagation.
Thyme is a quite hardy perennial in this zone 7. From year to year it can get straggly looking and so can benefit from pruning. It can be propagated from cuttings or by scattering several seeds to a pot.
Peppermint is a perennial which needs plenty of space to roam and indeed can find its way into your lawn or garden if not kept in check. I don’t worry about it going into the grassy area because I simply mow it. But if you have a more formal look, you can try growing it in a container which can be partially sunk into the ground. Mints produce spreading shallow root along which pop up new plants. It also runs above the ground, rooting wherever the leave nodules touch the ground. Propagation is done by root division and by cuttings.
Chamomile is a self-seeding annual, flowering in the first year and dropping thousands of seeds to come up again the following year. It creeps along and also raises its blooms about 8 inches above the ground. It can be propagated by digging up a clump or by seed.
Lavender is another tender perennial treated and propagated much the same as rosemary mentioned above.
Both Lemon Balm and catnip are vigorously growing perennials about 2 feet high. Cuttings and root divisions are the best ways to propagate.
Passionflower is a vine with beautiful flowers. Both the flowers and the leaves are used. It readily reseeds itself and can become quite unruly if it is in an ideal space.
A lovely tea to soothe the tummy and calm the nerves is 3 parts lemon balm, 2 parts chamomile and 1 part peppermint. Mix together and use one tsp of dried herb per cup of water just under the boil. Let steep up to 20 minutes.
For insomnia use 3 parts chamomile, 2 parts lemon balm, 1 part catnip and 1 part passionflower. This combination quiets the mind to promote restful sleep.
Lavender Limeade has been a real hit at every gathering. Make a simple syrup by cooking 1 cup of organic sugar in 1 cup of water. When the sugar has dissolved, add ¼ cup of lavender buds. Let steep until cool and strain. Add this to the juice of 6 limes and add ice and about a quart of water or to taste. Refreshing, delicious!
And of course add parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to soups, stews and most any poultry dish. Sing while you are making your love infused food or remedy!
Some of my favorite books for beginners:
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs A Beginners Guide
The Little Herb Encyclopedia by Jack Ritchason N.D.
Herbs for Healthy Aging by David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG
Herbal Teas 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality by Kathleen Brown and Jean Pollak
Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine http://chestnutherbs.com/blog/
Herbal Academy on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HerbalAcademyOfNewEngland/?fref=ts
And of course check out our own Willows Bend Farm page https://www.facebook.com/WillowsBendFarm/?fref=ts
Alisa is available by appointment for consultations on incorporating herbs and aromatherapy into healthy living. (804) 892-7588
Willows Bend Farm nursery will have a large selection of potted herbs this spring and you can purchase herbs from the Emporium year round. See our website www.willowsbendfarm.com for a list of the herbs and blends we carry, or give us a call or an e-mail. Willows Bend Farm has one of the largest inventories of medicinal herbs in the Richmond area. We also have culinary herbs, spices, teas and coffee—all organic and free trade whenever available.
Traditional herbal medicine has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA therefore all of this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Consult your healthcare professional if your are pregnant, nursing or being treated for any medical condition.
"Healthy eating is too expensive! I can't afford the gas to get to those fancy health stores, and even if I could, I can't pay the prices they want for that stuff. And I don't even know what stuff to buy anyway!"
This is often what I hear when I talk to folks about healthy eating. This idea that eating healthy is something reserved for the elite is a common misconception, but folks need to see for themselves that healthy eating is within their means.
Hopewell is a small city in Virginia trying to climb out of the economic and social depression that has been clouding its development for quite a few years. One of the initiatives the city has adopted is participation in the HEAL campaign. Willows Bend Farm was invited to be a vendor at Hopewell's HEAL Fest and I used that opportunity to talk with folks about incorporating herbs into healthy seasonal eating. I also kept in mind the protests previously mentioned about good food being too expensive, so I decided to illustrate seasonal eating using the humble frittata:
The Seasonal Frittata
One of the most versatile and economical dishes we love to prepare here at Willows Bend Farm is the Frittata. Prepared with our free ranging hens’ eggs with fresh, seasonal produce and herbs, the flavors really pop! By varying the add ins we can create so many different combinations that we rarely have the exact same frittata twice.
The first part of this recipe will be the frittata “template”. This is the egg part which binds all the other seasonal add-ins together. Then simply choose your add-ins according to seasonal availability. Of course not every ingredient, herb or spice has to be something you would find local or seasonal, but this template is a good way to showcase what steps you can take for preparing economical, healthful, and seasonal local food.
Ingredients: 6 eggs, ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp turmeric, ground black pepper, 3 T butter (or olive, or coconut oil), ½ medium onion (or scallions, or shallots), add-ins of your choice.
Directions: Choose and prepare your add-ins and spices. You will need about 2 cups of greens or vegetables and 1 tsp total dried herbs and spices. Ground spices tend to be strong, so use about ¼ to ½ tsp of each to taste. You want a tablespoon or more of fresh herbs. (I like to sprinkle in enough to cover the top of my frittata) Cut greens into thin strips. Cut other veggies into bite sized pieces. Parboil starchy vegetables like potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes.
Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, turmeric, and any dried herbs and spices you have chosen, set aside. Heat a 10” or 12” skillet with the oil over medium heat. (if you want to brown the top of your frittata, make sure you use an ovenproof skillet) Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add your chosen, prepared vegetables and sauté until greens are wilted and vegetables are crisp-tender, add a few drops of water if the greens are sticking to the pan. Add more butter or oil if needed, and pour the beaten eggs onto the vegetables, tipping to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs of your choice. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet. Cook until eggs are set (may take up to 15 minutes). Add cheese and either pop under the broiler until cheese browns, or simply replace the cover and let the cheese melt off heat. (That’s what I do because my broiler on my gas range is under the oven and I don’t care for getting down on my hands and knees to cook) If you want to get fancy, invert the frittata onto a plate and then again onto a serving plate to get the cheese on top, but I just serve mine right from the pan.
Spring: Spring is the time when shoots are coming out of the ground, springing forth with new energy. Eating these brings back our vitality that may have become sluggish over the winter months. Don’t overlook the “weeds” that come up at this time of year. Chickweed, dandelion, violets are just a few of the healthful herbs that pop up everywhere in the Spring. Just be sure that your wild foraged greens are positively identified and that they are growing in a clean area, not along the side of the road absorbing toxins.
Add-ins: spinach, chickweed, Swiss chard, nettle, wild lambs quarter, beet tops, baby lettuce, turnip greens, dandelion leaves, fiddlehead fern, sprouts of all sorts (alfalfa, broccoli, radish, pea shoots, etc), asparagus, peas, radishes, scallions and mushrooms. Rosemary stays green all year so there should be some fresh available. Violet flowers, and dandelion petals make a pretty presentation on a bed of baby greens. Serve with fresh strawberries.
Early Summer: The ground is warmed up and our vegetable flowers begin to bear fruit. This is the time to add in squash blossoms, zucchini, broccoli, new potatoes (slice into half moons and parboil first), green beans, cauliflower, kohlrabi, baby beets with their greens, and kale. All the perennial herbs should be available now, try thyme, mint, sage, chives, marjoram, oregano, fennel or tarragon. Calendula petals, borage flowers, rose petals, red clover blossoms, chamomile flowers and even a few lavender buds make a beautiful addition to a mixed lettuce salad. Serve with blackberries and blueberries with lemon balm.
Full Summer: The heat of the summer is upon us and we are seeking vegetables full of the sun. We would still include the early summer vegetables, but now we can add tomatoes, bell and hot peppers, corn, eggplant, and okra. Fresh basil now takes the stage. We also look for something to hydrate and cool us. Cucumbers with chive blossoms and dill make a delicious cool salad. Serve with minted melon with nasturtium blossoms.
Autumn: Fall is a time for gathering. We are turning our minds towards vegetables that have been gathering energy all summer like winter squash, pumpkins, celery, kale, cabbage, collards, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Sunchokes, shell beans, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, nuts, seeds like amaranth, millet, and grains. Mushrooms make another appearance as the weather cools. Rosemary, horseradish, and yarrow (used sparingly as they are strong flavors) go well with roasted root vegetables. A cabbage and apple salad with nuts would be delicious. Serve with apples.
Winter: Winter is a time to rest, get grounded and return to our roots after our busy summer and fall. We rely on our reserves of produce that has been canned, frozen, dried, preserved, or long storing root vegetables. But we can still grow sprouts on the countertop, and baby lettuce greens can be grown in a cold frame. We can dust the snow off the kale and still harvest. Our add-ins would include dried beans (already cooked), potatoes, beets, leeks or onions. We are looking for warming herbs and spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, curry. We might have cooked greens instead of a salad. Dried fruit compote, or a blackberry cobbler made from preserved fruit may be served.
All of the herbs and spices listed can grow here in Virginia, with the exception of perhaps the black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. Cayenne pepper or summer savory can be substituted for pepper. Did you know that you can re-grow celery from a head that you buy? Simply cut all the way across all the stalks about two inches from the bottom. Set that bottom in a pot of soil or even in water. It will begin to grow and while it may not grow into fat juicy stalks, at least, you can use the leaves. The tops of beets and turnips will also sprout back up and can be used for greens. Ginger and turmeric can be grown in the ground in the summer, but need to be dug and brought in for the winter. So have fun mixing and matching for your seasonal frittata and enjoy trying new herbs, spices and flowers for fun and for health.
~ Alisa Strunk
Properties of the herbs included in this template: For educational purposes only. None of these statements have been evaluated or approved by the FDA and are in no way meant to diagnose or treat any illness. Do diligent research and consult your healthcare professional if being treated for any medical condition.
Basil- Cleanses the digestive system, reduces nausea and alleviates headaches.
Borage- Cooling properties, mental boost, reduce fevers and systemic cleanser.
Celery- Rich in vitamins and minerals, promotes restful sleep.
Calendula- Promotes cell repair and growth, anti-inflammatory, thrush remedy, nourishes and cleanses the lymphatic system
Chamomile- Cleanses the digestive system, promotes feelings of calm, anti-inflammatory, reduces pain and promotes restful sleep.
Chickweed- High nutritional value, good for liver and kidneys, mild diuretic, stimulates metabolism.
Chives- Stimulates appetite, strengthens digestive system, improves kidney function, lowers blood pressure, restorative after illness.
Dandelion- High vitamin and mineral content, cleanses liver and kidneys, relieves gallstones, helps break down cholesterol and fats, mild diuretic with high potassium content.
Dill- Aids digestion, relieves stomach ache, reduces flatulence, promotes sleep, stimulates the appetite, freshens bad breath.
Fennel- Aids whole digestive system, eliminates feeling bloated, relieves flatulence, calms hiccups, reduces nausea, reduces appetite and promotes weight loss.
Garlic- Cleanses the blood, stimulates immune system, cures sore throats, alleviate asthma, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
Ginger- Indigestion, reduce flatulence and diarrhea, stimulates appetite, soothes stomach, tonic, aphrodisiac, reduces fever, motion sickness, relieves pain, lowers cholesterol, blood purifier, reduces blood sugar.
Horseradish- Strong digestive stimulant, antibacterial properties, used to treat bronchitis and expel worms.
Hyssop- Cleansing properties, helps reduce fat in meat and increases tenderness, relieves asthma and rheumatism.
Lavender- Calms and soothes digestive tract, helpful in quieting spasms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease, cleanses blood, improves memory, mild anti-depressant, alleviates headaches, promotes restful sleep.
Lemon Balm- Calming, anti-spasmodic, relieves Morning Sickness, increases mental powers and aids concentration, helps ADHD, mild sedative helpful in treating grief and insomnia, effective in treating SAD (seasonal affective disorder), reduces nightmares, antiviral properties make it good for treating herpes and shingles.
Marjoram (and Oregano)- Improves circulation, boosts production of white blood cells to fight infection.
Mint- Aids and soothes digestion, relieves stomach ache, stimulates the mind, freshens breath, antispasmodic, relieves head aches.
Nasturtium- High Vitamin C content, antibiotic properties help ward off sore throats.
Nettle- Rich in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and iron, useful for growing pains, tonic for the whole system, treats PMS, joint pain, allergies and hay fever, fertility issues, menopause, goat, and exhaustion.
Parsley- Rich in vitamins, freshens breath, diuretic, removes excess water and bloating of PMS, aids digestions and flatulence, anti-inflammatory, hay fever, fever reducer.
Red Clover- Rich in nutrients, blood and lymphatic cleanser, menopausal symptoms of night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, helps maintain bone density, tumor preventative.
Rose Hips- High vitamin content, especially Vitamin C, diuretic to aid in kidney function.
Rosemary- Stimulates circulation, increases mental alertness, aids digestion, relieves headaches, reduces symptoms of a cold, boosts energy and mood.
Sage- Tonic, strengthens memory, alleviates cold symptoms, improves kidney and liver function, eases joint pain.
Summer Savory- Useful in treating congestion, coughs, colds, makes beans easier to digest, boosts energy.
Thyme- Antiseptic properties, alleviates toothache, enhances sleep.
Turmeric- anti-inflammatory, treats hepatitis, IBS and ulcers, antiseptic, yeast flush, expels worms.
Yarrow- Alleviates cold symptoms, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, helpful in menstrual cramps, reduces fever, stimulates liver function and digestive enzymes.