Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Herbs for health

“God surrounded us with everything we need, we just don’t know how to use it.”

When Glenda McQueery said that at the Nature’s Thyme Herb Club meeting on Saturday, I knew I was in the right place. I had been trying to get to one of the group’s meetings for months and this was the first time it worked out. It was exactly the right time for me as it was their annual tea and I’ve been a tea lover for years. Glenda spoke about growing a tea garden.

I began growing herbs about three years ago. Every year I try to add another herb or two to my collection. I’ve bought some of those herbs from Glenda, who operates Flatwoods Farm in Garrard County, Kentucky and has always been great about telling me about uses for and care of the herbs I’ve bought from her.

For years, I hesitated to plant herbs because I didn’t really know how to use them. Then I started seeing recipes that called for fresh herbs. They became such a staple for me (especially parsley, which is my favorite) that I try at some point every winter to grow them inside. Thanks to Glenda’s presentation, I’m now thinking about which herbs to plant so I can make my own tea.

Herbs aren’t only pretty and aromatic; Glenda told us they are an easy way to get nature’s healing forces into our bodies. “Fresh plants help strengthen the immune system,” she wrote in her handout. “They are loaded with vitamins, fiber, minerals (including calcium), enzymes, chlorophyll and many other compounds to boost our health.” For example, parsley contains volatile oil components and flavonoids that have unique health benefits. Parsley is also filled with Vitamin K and provides significant amounts of Vitamins C and A, folate and iron.

Besides the health benefits of the herbs, they can also attract and or repel pests in the garden. Last year I interspersed basil and cilantro throughout my vegetables to get those benefits. Like everything else I do in the garden, I’m never sure if it “works” the way it appears or if it’s dumb luck on my part, but I had few bugs and plenty of vegetables. I hope this year I’ll also have plenty of herbs to dry for a winter morning’s tea.

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