Herbs have many uses. They add flavor to dishes, heal many illnesses and can be used as air fresheners. One of the best things about herbs is they can grow almost anywhere. Even if you just have a few sqare feet to work with, you can grow enough herbs to add flavor to your food and healing to your medicine cabinet.
Herbs have been in use since before man invented writing. The Lascaux cave paintings in France depicting herbs have been dated between the 13,000 and 25,000 B.C. We are not certain what the herbs were used for in those prehistoric times, but they were important enough for these ancient peoples to draw them on the walls of their cave. Maybe they were an early cook book or medical journal.
Ancient civilizations have used herbs for a variety of reasons. The Chinese, Indian, Greek, Roman and Native American people have a long history of using herbs. Hippocrates the 5th century Greek physician listed over 400 healing herbs he used in his practice. In 65 B.C. Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physican attached to the Roman army, wrote ‘De Materia Medica’. This book of herbal remedies is still in use today. Ayuvedic (India), Chinese, Mayan, Aztec and Egyptian physicians all employed the use of herbs for healing and maintaining good health.
Herbs are not just for the medicine cabinet. They have a major role in the kitchen as well. Native American not only cooked with herbs, they also used them to tan and dye leather. Culinary herbs also have a long history. Culinary herbs are plants whose green parts, seeds and roots have strong flavor and are used to add a unique taste to soups, stews, dressings, salads, and sauces. They include parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, cummin, basil, celery, pepper, oregano and mint. There are many other herbs experienced chefs use to flavor their dishes. These herbs can be used fresh or dried and if properly stored they can stay in the kitchen cupboard for a very long time and still retain their distinct flavor.
Finding herbs is easy. Most supermarkets or farmer’s markets offer a dizzying array of herbs at reasonable prices. But the best way to guarantee a stable supply of herbs is to grow them yourself.
Growing herbs is simple. First you should consider how much space you have for a garden or if you are going to grow them in pots or window boxes. Next decide if you are going to grow them for food, medicine, their fragrance or all three. Select the herbs you want to use and get ready to play in the dirt.
If you are using plant pots or window boxes, find a sunny place, buy the pots, potting soil and plants. Place the soil and plants in the pots and you have an instant herb garden. Creating an in-ground garden requires a few more steps. Again, choose as sunny an area as possible. Clear the area of debris and weeds. Prepare the soil by digging it up and adding fertilizer, potting soil and/or top soil. Dig a hole about six to eight inches deep for each plant. Make sure the holes are a few feet apart if possible to allow the herbs space to grow. Place the roots of the plant into the hole, cover them with dirt and press the soil firmly but gently over the roots. Water regularly. Within a week the herbs will begin to grow. Congratulations! You are now the owner of a herb garden from which you can pick herbs for your kitchen and your medicine cabinet!