Gardening Vivian | 02 Dec 2010 06:13 pm

For the Love of Herbs

Is it the influence of the “Green Movement?” Or is it the growing concern over the economy? Or perhaps it’s just the love of herbs that has finally gotten hold of enough people to create the interest in herb gardening we see today.

Whatever reason brings you to desire, or even consider, growing your own herbs . . . your health . . . your culinary tastes . . . or just plain beauty. .. Congratulations!

You’re about to enter a wonderfully enchanting view of life, where everyday when you wake up and walk on your deck, terrace or backyard, you’ll be touched by visual beauty and fragrant vitality.

You’ll now have the opportunity to create culinary masterpieces, improve your health and that of your family, or just enrich your life.

The good news is that herbs are easy to grow. If you provide them with the conditions they like, most of them actually take the least amount of care in your garden.

And if you’re a beginning gardener then herbs are must-grow items because of that fact alone. Including herbs will give you the confidence you need to go on to more difficult plants.

If, on the other hand, you’re an experienced gardener, then no doubt you’ll appreciate these amazing plants for that very same reason. Once you have established your garden, it takes little effort on your part to get it to look absolutely spectacular and keep it that way (But of course, I encourage you to take all the credit your guests would like to toss your way!)

Of course, it goes without saying that you can just add dabs of colors and textures to an otherwise dreary patch in your flower garden. Many gardeners use herbs to separate flowers whose colors may clash or place them where no flower would succeed in growing.

If you’ve got a damp, shady spot in your garden where nothing else grows, try an herb. As you delve deeper into this hobby, you’ll learn how easy . . . and common this can be.

Or perhaps you’re just interested in planting a few herbs in a couple of containers to start. You may want to keep several herbs potted on your back porch. Or you may want to grow only a very few of these culinary plants.

Culinary Herbs.

For many people, this class of herb is the most recognizable and the most useful. Even those who have never used an herbal supplement in their life, know what some fresh basil can do to a meal . . . the difference some oregano can make in spaghetti sauce . . . or how some fresh chives can make a baked potato come to life.

But, then when asked to define a culinary herb, many of us are at quite a loss. “Why of course, you know what an herb is,” you say, “trying to back out of reciting a strict definition. Here, let me help you out.

Culinary herbs — sometimes referred to as sweet herbs – are those plants, whether they are annual, biennial or perennial, that have tender roots or ripe seeds. They also possess an aromatic flavor (yes, they smell darned good!) and they have a great flavor.

If you think that you’re among the first generation to discover some of these herbs — I hate to disappoint you. As long as mankind has been eating, womankind (not to be sexist now though) has been literally spicing up cooking with herbs. Paleontologists have discovered the ancient Egyptians used herbs even before the pharaohs ordered the building of the pyramids.

Similarly, the ancient Chinese naturally turned to the plants in their gardens in order to enhance the flavor and appearance of the meals.

And of course, you need look no further than the Bible to see how herbs were not only used, but actually prized by many. Read through the gospels of Matthew and Luke. You’ll find references to tithes paid in herbs like mint, cumin, and other herbs deemed valuable.

Now take a quick look at the Old Testament. More than 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah talks about sowing and threshing cumin. And since it’s used in the same reference — and grown in the same fields as — barley and wheat, you just take for granted that its used for culinary purposes.

Unfortunately, the use of these specialty herbs has lost the general appeal. And that’s a shame.

Tea Time!

If you’re a lover of a nice, quality cup of tea, then you’ve no doubt dreamed of growing your own plants to steep and enjoy in the mid-afternoon, or a relaxing cup before bedtime.

If you decide to plant herbs to enjoy a “tea garden” you can rest assured that you are continuing a treasured, historic pastime. The tradition dates back not just centuries, but literally thousands of years. The Chinese and Japanese cultures have been doing this for as long as anyone can remember.

There’s just something about the composition of the Orient that tea is a part and parcel of the meditative process. Not only did they drink tea, but these cultures created niches to enjoy this beverage undisturbed.

But that doesn’t mean the Europeans didn’t have their share of tea gardens. The most well known of the tea drinkers, the English, have created formal and cottage gardens exclusively for the growing of various teas.

But if you love tea, then without a doubt, you’ve wanted to experience what it would be like if, for once, your tea leaves didn’t come packaged in a box, surrounded by a bag.

Now that you have a better idea of why you’d like to start an herb garden you can then continue your thoughts with what herbs you’d like to grow. It seems like a logical transition.

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