June 3, 2009

Herbs 101

I came home from my sister's wedding with a myriad of herbs, so I added them to my fire escape herb garden. We have a shared backyard, but the closer I keep them, the better care they get and the more frequently I end up using them in my cooking. So the fire escape it is!

I use herbs in every way. For their culinary purposes, medicinally and as aromatherapy. Here is my first little Herb 101 class.

Thyme, (above and below) is one of the healthiest herbs and serves many homeopathic purposes. A simple tea mixture aids gastrointestinal problems, gives a boost to the immune system, and helps kick coughs and congestion. For culinary use, thyme enriches dishes like fish, cake, cookies, soups and deviled eggs.

I will use the fresh mint below to make water, mojitos or lemonade even more thirst-quenching. Eating a sprig of mint aids with digestion and helps with chest pains. Find more recipes with mint from foody blog Epicurious. Mint is invasive in the garden so be sure to give your plant plenty of room for fast-growing roots.

Sage is used to shift energy in new homes or spaces and can be done by having a dried bunch and burning the ends. Sage has many medicinal purposes as listed here. Try sage in fish, on a crostini or any of these recipes.

Basil is perfect for summer caprese salads, panini sandwiches and mixed greens. There are countless recipes, so get started at the Joy of Cooking's list. As part of the mint family, basil is used to help with coughs, indigestion and has a sedative effect, so can help relieve stress and insomnia.

Rosemary is delicious in potatoes, breads or meat and adds an enticing aroma wherever it is. Rosemary's medicinal purposes include improving memory, relieving muscle pain, and stimulating the circulatory and nervous systems.

Oregano oil is an amazing immune booster. Add 2-3 drops to a shot of water to fight off colds or the flue. This is truly the most effective way I have found to give my body a natural kick when it feels run down. Oregano adds wonderful flavor to pastas, sauces or meat. Here is a recipe list with oregano as an ingredient from Every Day Food.

What herbs do YOU have and how do you use them? Do you have any killer Summer recipes that require herbs? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!


Semiprofessional said...

I LOVE this Barefoot Contessa recipe for a lighter herbed up potato salad. Basil, parsley, and dill, oh my. And no mayo. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/french-potato-salad-recipe/index.html

BusStopGirl said...

This is a great post for me right now, as I'd really love to set up an herb garden. I think I'll follow your lead and set up a bunch of different sized pots on the porch -- do you find that they need much sun?

Nest said...

BusStopGirl, herbs like as much sun as they can get, but I have had successful herb gardens with a variety of exposure. The porch should be just fine, especially if you take them out for a full sun bath every once in awhile for assurance. Good luck with your herb garden!

Jennifer Perkins - Naughty Secretary Club said...

I get on these kicks where I start to collect obscure types of mint. I love going to herb society sales here in Austin. The smell of pineapple mint is heavenly, plus rumor has it mint helps keep mosquitoes at bay.

Nest said...

Jennifer, I am obsessed with mint of all kinds! I had a pineapple mint plant years ago and you now remind me to find another. I went to an herb fair in Richmond, Virginia and learned so much.
Basil definitely helps repel mosquitos too. Simply rub a leaf on your wrists and the scent should help send bugs on their way.

aymelovestrees said...

Try your rosemary with sea salt on roasted butternut squash in the fall. And don't forget the pesto! On everything! We especially like ours spread on crusty bread with a slice of dill havarti on top, toasted under the broiler. Great looking garden you have there!

Jen said...

My herbs in NC are just starting to really take off this year -- I have rosemary, lavender, dill, and sage. I also have a little mint which is struggling -- as opposed to the years when it would grow to mutant heights outside my patio door in Indiana! Oddly enough (to this transplanted Yankee), they often have little Rosemary trees in the nursery's here at Christmastime! I use it all the time whenever I bake red or russet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper -- just throw a sprig of rosemary in with them and they are YUMMY!
I really want my mint to take off because it will prevent ants around the house. No idea why --there are a million and one ant remedies -- but mint is also good for that wonderful sweet tea we have here in the south. It's even good in your Diet Coke!


Stephanie said...

I have St. John's wart and lemonbalm. Both are large plants, so probably would not do well on fire escape. I make a tincture from the aerial parts (flower tips of stalks) of the St. John's wart and the leaves of the lemonbalm. I bring the tincture to work and add some to my tea if I'm having a stressful day. It makes me feel better for what its worth.