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 – February

February garden

February has been a hot, dry month. While there is still lots of colour in the garden, all of my pot plants are looking a little tired, and the trees could definitely do with a good drink. The air has been filled with the cheerful chirruping of cicadas, day and night, a sound I always associate with summer.

The heat-loving tomatoes have been doing well. I’ve made two lots of relish, pasta sauce for the freezer and we have been eating them in salads and sandwiches every day.

Tomato Relish

We’re still picking runner beans, but the zucchinis have almost come to an end. We have been picking blueberries all month, with enough to freeze for future use. Yummy with breakfast cereal or oatmeal, and in pancakes, smoothies, crumbles, or muffins.

Our thyme is in full bloom at the moment. I love its distinctive aroma. The small pink flowers are so pretty and attract the bees to the garden. It’s lovely to be able to go out the back door and pick a few sprigs to use in cooking. The sprigs look pretty in a vase as well.

Although it is sad that another summer is almost over, I am definitely looking forward to some cooler weather and the changing colours of autumn.

February garden journal

Thyme

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw sugar
100 ml oil
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 200º C.
Sift flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in sugar and blueberries. In another bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add oil and mix. Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and mix to combine. Grease muffin pans and place spoonfuls of mixture into each one. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 2-3 minutes before removing from pans. Makes 12 muffins.

Blueberry Muffins