Country Traditions

March 15, 2011

Flower power: Herbalist Christopher Robbins gathers together an essential flora medicine chest – Gardening, House & Home – The Independent

Filed under: herbs, home remedies — Tags: , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:29 am
Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica

Image by brewbooks via Flickr

Flower power: Herbalist Christopher Robbins gathers together an essential flora medicine chest – Gardening, House & Home – The Independent.

Dandelion The French name (pis-en-lit) is the best clue to its usefulness in the home-grown medicine chest: the leaves are a strong, safe and very effective diuretic, for anyone suffering from water retention. The bitterness aids digestion and acts also as a liver tonic. In some country areas, the milky sap that oozes out when you pick a leaf is still used to banish warts. The easiest way to use dandelion leaf is raw, in a salad. The common weedy ones are fine to eat, now, while they are young. But if you are in the extraordinary position of having no dandelions pushing up in your flower beds, you can grow the fancy French variety ‘Pissenlit a Coeur plein’ (Suffolk Herbs £1).

Nettle Stinging nettle is packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, and has almost twice as much iron in it as spinach, so it’s not surprising that it makes a brilliant spring tonic. We perhaps are not so keen now on flailing around in nettle beds to ease rheumatism. The sting inflames and warms and that process eases the ache in rheumaticky joints.

The simplest way to prepare nettle is in a soup and now is a great time to make it, before the leaves get dark and tough. The recipe I use is from Cooking Weeds by Vivien Weise. You need 500g potatoes peeled and cubed, 2 chopped onions, some butter, 1 litre good stock, 100g stinging nettle leaves stripped from the stems, 2tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, 200ml double cream, 50g roasted, flaked almonds, 1 grated carrot. Fry the potatoes and onions until translucent. Add the stock and simmer for 10 mins. Add the nettle leaves and simmer for another 10 mins. Liquidise and add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and stir in half the cream. Serve with the rest of the cream, the almonds and the carrot ready to garnish the soup.

Chickweed This is a very common annual weed, sprouting now on disturbed ground with pale green leaves. The starry white flowers come later. It’s the best of all plants, says Robbins, for treating itchy or inflamed skin. The simplest way to use it is as a poultice. You can pick a bunch of the stuff, wring it slightly to release the sap, then bind the poultice to whatever part of the skin needs it. If you suffer from mild eczema or dermatitis, try it. It won’t be hard to find, as each plant carries about 15,000 seeds and they germinate in almost every month of the year.

 

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September 12, 2010

Herbs

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , , , , — dmacc502 @ 9:18 pm

#mce_temp_url#If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden . An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. Herbs can be added to any garden, and perennial herbs provide years of fresh herbs.

By planting herbs that are most often used in cooking, you can pick what you need all summer:
Basil (‘Purple Ruffles’ is a good selection if you want purple foliage with lots of texture; ‘Dani’, if you want lemon-scented basil.)
Sage (‘Tricolor’ has variegated foliage.)
Oregano
Common thyme
Sweet marjoram
Lavender
Rosemary
Parsley
Chives
Cilantro

To prepare your area for planting, loosen the soil. If the soil is compacted or consists of heavy clay, improve drainage by adding some compost, peat moss or coarse sand. Work the material into the top foot of soil before you plant.

Follow these planting guidelines for a successful herb garden:

– Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent the transplants from wilting in the midday sun.
– Dig each planting hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant .
– Space herbs about 18 inches apart to give them room to spread out and grow.
– Place taller herbs, like sage, rosemary and marjoram, towards the back of the garden. Parsley and cilantro are good for the front.
– For accents of color in your herb garden, add flowering plants like zinnias and salvia.
– Plant perennials on one side and annuals on the other for easier replanting next year.
– Give the new transplants plenty of water. Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.
– Begin harvesting from the herbs as soon as they are mature, but take only a little bit each time you harvest. If you remove more than a third of the plant at one time , it takes longer to recover and produce new foliage.
– To promote branching, keep the tops of the plants pinched back in early summer. With judicious picking, most herbs can be harvested for several months.

Fresh herbs taste best when harvested in the morning. Also, herbs are most flavorful if harvested before they bloom.

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