A Love of Herbs

A Love of Herbs

My love for herbs began many years ago when I became interested in natural remedies and decided to do a correspondence course in herbal studies. The course involved the study of a wide range of herbs, their healing properties, and how to make herbal medicines and treatments. While studying the course, I got a job at Weleda NZ Ltd., a manufacturer of natural and herbal medicines and body care products. I worked in the despatch department, picking and packing orders and invoicing, and occasionally helped out in other departments, including a brief stint in the manufacturing department where I had hands-on experience in the making of the herbal medicines. It was a lovely place to work, surrounded by biodynamic gardens of healing herbs.

Weleda homestead

Weleda homestead

After working at Weleda for six years, I left to pursue my dream of a writing career, but my love of herbs continued in my garden at home. I grow herbs to use in cooking, herbs for healing, and some just for their beauty, and for the folklore and magic associated with them.

Whenever I feel a sore throat coming on, I make an infusion of sage and thyme and gargle with it several times a day.

Thyme

Thyme

The sage is lovely in stuffing balls at Christmas time.

Sage

Sage

To help relieve congested sinuses from a cold, I put a few sprigs of rosemary in a bowl of boiled water, cover my head with a towel, then lean over the bowl and breathe in the aromatic steam. I use rosemary a lot in cooking – rosemary shortbread, rosemary focaccia bread, rosemary roast potatoes, or a few sprigs thrown on the barbecue.

Rosemary

Rosemary

I add a few fresh leaves of stevia, the sugar herb, to fruit when stewing, to replace sugar. This year I’m going to dry the leaves and grind them into a powder to use in baking.

Stevia

Stevia

Borage is a good companion plant for my strawberries, and it helps to attract the bees.

Borage

Borage

Lavender is also a great bee plant. I use it in herbal crafts, and often pick a few sprigs to keep in a vase on the kitchen bench.

Lavender

Lavender

I keep a pot of Aloe Vera on hand in case of burns.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Foxgloves just because they are one of my favourite flowers, and I love the folklore that surrounds them.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

The leaves of lemon balm have the most beautiful lemony scent and possess many healing properties.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

I use garlic chives a lot in cooking, and their flowers are so pretty.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

I use basil, parsley and mint a lot in cooking, too. The smell of minted potatoes always reminds me of holidays with my grandparents. It’s nice to be able to go outside and pick herbs fresh from the garden whenever you want to add them to a dish.

Mint

Mint

Anise Hyssop is another great bee plant. It is also very pretty and I love the aniseed fragrance of the leaves.

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

Feverfew and calendulas self-seed throughout our garden.

Feverfew

Feverfew

Calendula

Calendula

I used to love the mass plantings of echinaceas in the summers when I worked at Weleda. They are used in their medicines to support the immune system and to treat infections.
This year I grew my own echinaceas.

Echinacea

Echinacea

Echinaceas

Echinaceas

I am also growing bay, arnica, angelica, and comfrey, but they are only small at the moment.

Garden Journal – October

Despite October being very windy, it was a pretty month in the garden with lots of plants coming into flower. The air was filled with the sweet scent of orange blossom, the lavender was abuzz with bees, and the maple tree was stunning with sunlight shining through its dark red leaves. Lemons are abundant in my garden at the moment, and I have included a recipe for my favourite lemon curd cake. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd Cake

Lemon Curd (makes 3 cups)

4 lemons
100g butter
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, beaten

Place grated zest and juice of lemons, butter cut into small pieces, sugar, and eggs in a saucepan. Cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Cool, stirring occasionally until thick and glossy. Mixture will thicken further when placed in fridge for a few hours.

Cake

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
100g butter, chopped into small pieces
3 eggs
1 cup of lemon curd
Icing sugar for dusting

Rub together self-raising flour, sugar and butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add eggs and mix to combine. Grease and line a spring-form tin with baking paper. Press three-quarters of the mixture into the base of the tin. Spread over 1 cup of the cooled lemon curd, then spread over the remaining cake mixture. It can be a little sticky, so dust your hands with flour, then press out small pieces at a time and place on top of lemon curd.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes at 180ºC. Cool in tin before removing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with an extra spoon of lemon curd drizzled over the top. Delicious!