Winter Hardy Herbs

winter hardy herbsMany herbs are surprisingly tough. After all, many are weeds that have found a way to be useful to human beings. As such some of them can withstand and even thrive through very cold winters. Here are a few of them:

Mint is not only winter hardy but can become invasive if it’s not controlled. It’s sometimes best to grow members of the mint family, which includes spearmint, peppermint, catmint and other species, in pots or in plots surrounded by a barrier where it can’t escape. They prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil and can grow in partial shade and direct sunlight. Mints are diaphoretic, which means that they increase perspiration by causing the capillaries just under the skin to expand. They’re also carminative, which means they help expel gas from the lower GI track. They’re also excellent stimulants. Peppermint stimulates the circulation and eases indigestion a bit better than spearmint.

There are two varieties of tarragon: French and Russian. French is the much preferred variety and is used in both cooking and medicine. It has long roots and runners and likes somewhat dry soil. In places where winters are fairly severe it will survive if the gardener mulches around it. If the winters are extreme, the gardener want to dig it up, pot it and bring it inside. Other than that, tarragon is fairly winter hardy from Zones 5 southward. Tarragon, besides being used in cooking, also has digestive enzymes and is a mild diuretic that flushes toxins from the body.

Rosemary is a perennial and can grow to five feet tall,which means it’s not only used for cooking and medicine but can be planted as a shrub. The plants leaves and flowers are used for healing purposes from the second year onward and no more than a third of the plants should be harvested in a season. Rosemary is used as an antiseptic, an antidepressive and an astringent, and is used like mint to expel gas from the intestines and help with digestion.

Chives are also perennial and fairly winter hardy. They can be grown on the kitchen windowsill in a pot and they have no diseases or pests. After a few years of growth they can be divided and replanted, or placed in pots for continuous use. They can grow in full sun to light shade.

Though dill is considered an annual, because the plant dies after a year, it’s often grown as s a perennial because it self seeds abundantly. It needs full sun and needs to be sheltered from the wind. It has a very long and hollow root that makes it difficult to dig up and be transplanted, so the gardener should be careful where they put the plant. Dill is used not only in cooking and pickling, but also stimulates the appetite and aids in digestion.

The echinacea, or purple coneflower is a plant that’s native to America and is very tough. It can grow just about anywhere and can grow to five feet in height. It’s easy to start from seed and likes alkaline soil, full sun and only needs moderate watering. It’s considered an excellent purifier for the blood and lymph systems and is famous for stimulating the immune system.

Dandelion is also considered a weed, but its medicinal and culinary benefits are exceptional. Its botanical name, taraxacum officinale actually means the “official remedy for disorders.” Every part of the plant is useful and the fresh leaves are rich in Vitamin A, B1, vitamin C, sodium, calcium, potassium and trace elements. The greens can also be used in salads when they’re still young, before the flowerheads mature. As they mature the greens get a little too bitter to eat. The root has been a long standing remedy for liver disease and aids in digestion.

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