I love growing herbs in my garden and on my allotment. Each year I add another variety, the more unusual the better. I am fairly confident in my choice and use of herbs for culinary purposes and as companion plants in the vegetable garden. I grow everything from mint (strawberry mint is my favourite especially when floating in a mojito ) to sweet cicely. I grow them for several reasons: because they are pretty, because they smell amazing when you brush by them or crush them in your hands, because they are edible and can be used for culinary purposes and because they attract or detract beneficial insects to other plants, especially vegetable on my allotment, or in my garden. Perhaps best of all, I grow them because my chickens love them too and I know how to use them to keep them healthy. Herbs can can also be used medicinally for humans, around the house in cleaning products, in cosmetics and as insecticides. As yet I do not grow herbs for these purposes as I don’t really know how to process or prepare them for such uses.
Every year, not surprisingly, it seems my garden grows more herbs than I can use fresh myself, or that my chickens can consume. Each year I promise myself that I will find out about different ways to preserve my abundance of herbage to make the best use of them throughout the seasons from one growing year to the next. Each year I don’t seem to get around to it. So this summer I have set myself the challenge to do just this.
This time last year I dabbled with using herbs a little more creatively. I have always gathered and dried sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme and lavender to name a few to use in my cooking. I have used Sweet Cicely as a sugar substitute in my Rhubarb and Apple Jam and added herbs as flavourings to my jams and chutneys such as rosemary to my fruit curds, rose petals and geranium leaf to to my jellies, but I am sure I could be doing so much more with them.
Unbelievably , when listing my current herbs I counted nearly 30 different varieties and I’m sure I’ll have missed some. I haven’t even counted my fruit bushes such as the blackcurrant and raspberry or the numerous weeds growing around my plot such as cleavers and chickweed! No wonder I don’t know where to begin in my quest for the successful processing and preservation and use of them all. Below are images of those that I have chosen to focus on already growing on my allotment, in my garden, in pots, on window sills……some are perennial , some herbaceous and others annuals. Some are listed as culinary, others medicinal, edible, spiritual and even magical.
With such an abundance of herbs already established I am even more committed to finding ways to use them. In my search for herbal enlightenment I have decided the best way forward is to look at how they can be beneficially used within the following areas:
Medicinal, Cosmetic, Cleaning , Chickens, Culinary ,Companion Planting
Of course there are probably more uses for herbs than these, but for now I will be happy if I can use the herbs I am growing more effectively in these ways.. My go to explanation of how to grow herbs and what to use them for is an easy and comprehensive A-Z list of common herbs giving basic but clear information. I want to find out whether the herbs I grow can be used for multiple purposes. The more I read though, the more I can see that this might be a lifetimes work in itself without even reaching the stage of preparation and processing of the actual herbs. It may be more manageable and achievable if I limit my research to one use at a time! My journey as a budding Herbalist has begun!
Look out for my next blog where I begin to build my own little apothecary..