In Part One, Planning your herb garden, I dealt with all aspects involved in getting started. I this follow-up article I have chosen only a few basic herbs as to not rob you of the pleasure of searching for your own. As you go through this list, make notes of the herbs that speak to you, whether it’s for its culinary, medicinal or cosmetic properties and then make a shortlist.
Herbs: Culinary uses and more
Basil is one of the most versatile herbs with sweet basil being the most commonly grown. It needs average soil, sun and semi-shade and is frost sensitive.
Culinary uses: Pasta sauces, stews, soups, salads, pizzas or blend basil with pine nuts to make pesto. It goes very well with tomatoes.
Medicinal uses: It is quite useful for exhaustion and digestive upsets such as stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. Drink basil tea to relieve tension and migraines or rub the fresh leaves on your temples for headaches. Crushed basil leaves can be used to take the sting out of insect bites.
Cosmetic uses: Crushed basil leaves will stimulate hair growth. Use in bath oils.
Other uses: Bunches of fresh basil hung in the kitchen will keep flies away. Dried basil stalks burnt on a fire can keep the mozzies away.
Lemon grass can grow in any soil and doesn’t need a lot of water. It is inactive during the winter months and sensitive to frost. Parts used: The stems, leaves and essential oils.
Culinary uses: Soups, marinades, stir-fries, curries, salads, coconut milk, rice and as an alternative for lemon rind and to flavour tea’s and drinks. The stems can be kept in the fridge for 2 – 3 weeks if wrapped in a paper bag or wax wrapped.
Medicinal uses: Used in a tea it has a calming effect and can soothe the digestive system and relieve stress.
Cosmetic uses: Makes a good facial steam for teenage skin. Great for treating an oily skin or oily hair: one cup of fresh lemon grass and two cups of boiling water.
Other uses: Insect repellent.
Rosemary will grow in most types of soil but prefers light, sandy soil with good drainage and a sunny spot. It can tolerate cold temperatures. Rosemary has more fragrance if you pick it and leave it for a few days. Rosemary and sage are good friends and will grow well together.
Culinary uses: Meat (especially lamb), bean and tomato dishes (use sparingly as it’s a strong herb). Use the twigs for kebab skewers.
Medicinal uses: Drink as a tea for migraines and cramps. Also treats blood pressure problems, jaundice, vertigo, gout, aching joints, obesity and toothache. Use the oil externally as an antiseptic for sores and wounds.
Cosmetic uses: Good rinse for dark hair, can reduce falling hair and treat eczema on the scalp. Use as a mouthwash and facial steam. Known to remove freckles and wrinkles: Boil 50g flowering rosemary tips in 500ml white wine for 2 minutes. Leave to stand for 1 hour, strain and apply to your face with cotton wool twice a day.
Other uses: Fish moth repellent in cupboards/drawers. The stems will keep your linen smelling fresh or keep mozzies away when tossed in a fire.
Chillies are easy to grow and varies from very hot to mild. It requires full sun and rich well drained soil. Water frequently, especially when in flower. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a week; sensitive to frost. Parts used: Fruit.
Culinary uses: Add to chutneys, pickles, Indian, Mexican and Thai dishes and of course on pizzas!
Medicinal uses: eases digestive problems, chronic pain and cluster headaches.
A herb you either love or hate. It likes loose, rich, composted, well-drained soil. Water it well in dry weather, although the roots must not be saturated. Withstands frost, summer storms and cold winds. Parts used: Leaves, seedpods and flowers. Can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Culinary uses: Soups and stews, salads, sandwiches, sauces, marinades, garnish. Particularly good with tomatoes.
Medicinal uses: It’s a great tonic, can be used as a cough remedy when boiled in honey, prevents colds and treats fluid retention, anaemia, digestive upsets and bladder ailments.
Other uses: Treat skin blemishes and makes a refreshing foot bath. Can be used as plant food. Add to compost heap or plant around your compost heap.
Don’t let it loose in your herb garden, it takes over, rather plant it in a pot, not too small. It should be repotted yearly, preferably in spring and watered daily. It needs sun / partial shade, moderate temperatures and rich, well drained alkaline soil. Keep different types of mint apart; prevent interbreeding by keeping the flowering heads cut. Peppermint and spearmint are the two most widely used mints.
Culinary uses: Sauces, jellies, vinegar, green peas, potatoes, garnish or use as a refreshing tea (avoid jewel mint or pennyroyal as they are bitter). Goes well with lamb dishes.
Medicinal uses: Pennyroyal should not be used by anyone suffering from kidney problems or by pregnant women, use other mints instead. Colds and congestion: Pour a litre of boiling water over a cup of fresh mint springs, cover your head and the bowl with a towel and inhale. Make a peppermint tea to help digestion, colds and influenza. Crush the leaves in oil and massage the affected areas for migraines, rheumatism and muscular aches. Use peppermint oil on bruises and scratches.
Cosmetic uses: As a hair conditioner for oily hair, and it can heal rough/dry hands and feet. Add to bathwater to easy tiredness and aches and pains.
Other: Pennyroyal in cupboards and beds as an insect repellent for ants and fleas. Bunches of mint in your kitchen will keep flies away. Peppermint can be rubbed into the skin to keep mozzies away (test on the wrist first).
Parsley needs a sunny spot and rich, moist soil. Parts used: leaves and stalks. Don’t grow parsley close to tomatoes or roses to keep them free of insects.
Culinary uses: Soups, stews, sauces, garnishing.
Medicinal uses: Parsley tea treats kidney and bladder infections and can be used as a slimming aid. Don’t take more than one cup a day and don’t use for more than 5 days. Parsley juice can have a soothing effect on eye inflammation and conjunctivitis. It has oestrogenic factors: control menstruation and help menopause. Crushed, warmed leaves will treat insect bites.
Other uses: Breath freshener after eating onions or garlic.
Herbs: Medicinal uses and more
Sunny spot with poor, well drained soil. Grows best in frost free areas. Aloe can be grown in a pot and only the herbs older than 2 years should be used for its properties.
Medicinal uses: Healing of wounds: burns, blisters, sunburn, heat rash. Aloe is known to stimulate the immune system, treats constipation, indigestion, eczema and fungal infections like ringworm and thrush. It should not be used by anyone suffering from piles.
Cosmetic uses: Can be used in a moisturising cream, shampoos (for dry and itchy scalp) and in suntan lotion.
These pretty flowers makes for powerful medicine. Camomile is easy to grow and likes partial shade and light as well as well drained soil. Pick the flowers often to lengthen its spring life. A great companion for most plants.
Culinary uses: Add chamomile tea to granadilla juice for a relaxing drink, can be served as an after-dinner drink to ease indigestion.
Medicinal uses: Relieves stress, anxiety and digestive problems, improves immunity, treat inflammations of the skin and other skin disorders (surgical wounds), diarrhoea, insomnia, headaches and in babies: colic, vomiting, teething problems, restlessness.
Cosmetic uses: Can makes hair lighter and promotes hair growth. Use in a facial steam or a soak to soften hands. Add to your bath for a relaxing treat or to soothe sunburn.
Needs filtered shade and rich, moist soil. Dies down in winter and needs to be cut back hard to encourage new spring growth.
Culinary uses: Teas, soup, milk, custard, sauces, fruit salads, refreshing drinks, puddings, poultry, fish and cheese dishes. It compliments cucumber, celery and asparagus. Freeze in ice cubes to decorate drinks.
Medicinal uses: Treats insomnia, herpes and digestive problems, cold sores, eczema, depression, anxiety, fear and improves concentration. Soothes insect bites.
Cosmetic uses: Use in a facial steam (it apparently slows down the aging process!) and improves oily hair. Mix with aqueous cream to soothe aching feet.
Other uses: Bunches of lemon balm will deter moths. Use green leaves to polish wooden furniture.
This herb needs full sun and grow in any soil although it prefers it dry. Parts to use: leaves and sprigs. If planted near fruit trees it will repel fruit flies and fruit moths.
Medicinal uses: It treats menstrual disorders and has antiseptic properties (rashes, scratches and grazes). Use as a bitter tonic: coughs, bronchitis, mucus, congestion. Eases pain and swelling.
Cosmetic: Use as a rinse for greasy hair, when combed through hair it can stimulate hair growth.
Other: Potent flea and moth repellent. Very effective in potpourris. Sprinkle dried, powdered Southernwood around ant holes to combat ants.
Easy to grow and needs full sun. Parts to use: Whole plant and leaves.
Medicinal uses: A powerful migraine preventive, treats digestive problems, relaxes spasms, reduces fever, has laxative effects, deals with menstrual problems and relieves period pain. Take Southernwood after childbirth to encourage the cleansing of the uterus.
Other uses: Mouth rinse, household disinfectant, moth / insect repellent.
Plant lavender in containers (small batches) as it has the tendency of taking over. It likes a sunny spot and dry, well drained soil. Can be badly affected by frost; cover the lavender with grass.
Culinary uses: Flavour jams and vinegar. Great addition to marinades for game. Use crystallised flowers for garnish.
Medicinal uses: In oil as antiseptic for insect bites and stings. A lavender-stuffed pillow aids sleep and will calm a restless child. Lavender tea will treat headaches and relieve anxiety. Lavender water makes a great mouthwash.
Cosmetic: Treats acne. Use oil for massaging muscular aches and cellulite.
Other: Insect repellent: it will repel fish moths and draw butterflies. The leaves and flowers can be used in little netting sachets to keep your linen smelling fresh. Dried lavender leaves and flowers can be used for potpourri. Place on fires in winter for a lovely scent. Spread your washing over your lavender bushes for a lasting fresh smell.
There are many herbs to choose from and this is where the fun comes in: Choosing your favourites. When choosing herbs note down the herbs that are big fighters (ones you won’t mess up that easily) and as you get more confident slowly start adding to your herb garden. Research each herb before you get into it so that you have the necessary knowledge to make it work for you. Now that you have planned your herb garden and chosen your favourite herbs, it’s time for implementation.
Follow-up article: Your herb garden: Implementation