Know Your Herbs
Herbs can be very striking visually, but they also possess many other characteristics that may remain hidden unless you get to know your plants' secret talents.
- Excerpted from Simple Steps: Herbs
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To unlock the hidden talents of your herbs, it is important to think before you plant. A plant growing in the wrong place, or under duress, will never perform well, so get to know herbs and the soil and site you have to offer, before you buy. A little bit of groundwork before you plant can pay huge dividends later, both in the looks of envy from neighbors and friends, as well as in the simple pleasure you will get from having herbs flourishing in your garden.
Flowers with scent are a great attraction to bees and butterflies, but leaves can also be used, fresh or dried, as a pleasant perfume. The essential oils that produce these aromas are at their most concentrated when the herbs are grown in a hot sunny location and it is worth planting a few favorites in a raised bed or basket so they can be stroked or gathered in passing. Not all herbs are sweet smelling and some can even be used as an insect or cat repellent.
Chamaemelum nobile 'Treneague'
Herbs are generally best used freshly gathered. Intensity varies considerably, so only use a little at a time to begin with. Leaves are not the only parts that can be eaten whole or added to dishes as a seasoning. Many flowers have a unique and subtle piquancy while roots and stems are prepared in many inventive ways. Try nasturtium petals in a salad or horseradish sauce, but always remember to only eat herbs that you can positively identify as an edible variety.
Medicinal remedies have been gleaned from herbs for centuries and many pharmaceutical medicines are made from plant sources. Mints, chamomile, and even Adiantum (the maidenhair fern) make very pleasant teas from freshly gathered leaves or flowers and can be safely self-administered in moderation. However, many tinctures, infusions, and tisanes of proven benefit in homeopathy and aromatherapy should only be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist or doctor.
? Viola tricolor
Excerpted from Simple Steps: Herbs
©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
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