Gardening for Health

Cilantro can be used in many dishes.

Choosing an Herb Garden Theme 

Last week, I presented the basics for preparing the soil for an herb garden. This week, I’d like to focus on what to plant. Choose the herbs you want to grow by what you want to use them for, cooking, or aroma. For culinary uses, consider what cuisines you favor in your meals. 

If you love heart healthy Mediterranean cooking, then plant rosemary, French or English thyme, sage and parsley. For rosemary to survive the winter, look for the two hardiest varieties: Arp and Gorizia. Find a southern exposure that drains well, close to your home’s foundation and amended with a few handfuls of dolomitic lime stone. Except in a very severe winter, you would probably be able to pick these herbs all winter. 

If you like Mexican cuisine, try growing a variety of chili peppers such as Anaheim, poblano, jalapeno and serrano. Cilantro is the most used herb in Mexican cuisine and as it matures the seeds are what we know as coriander. Mediterranean oregano is recommended as the native Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens)  is a tender perennial that will not survive our winters. In some parts of Mexico, the leaves of Mexican oregano are toasted before using. Cilantro does best in the cooler parts of the year but if allowed to reseed itself over winter, it will come up very early next spring. Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is another Mexican herb used to control flatulence from eating beans. It grows wild in many temperate areas of the United States. Harvest both the leaves and shoots for seasoning. 

If you like natural fragrances, growing a potpourri garden might be fun. Plant old-fashioned roses for their lovely scent. Most rugosa roses are very fragrant and easy to grow. Hansa is a rose that is sweetly fragrant of cloves with magenta flowers. Plant a variety of English lavenders around it. Lemon verbena and rose geranium can be planted in pots as they are tender plants. Harvest your rose petals and lavender in their peak and dry them in a basket. Dry small bunches of lemon verbena and rose geranium, also.  

Mix all your dried petals and leaves together, then add a little orris root with drops of rose and lavender essential oils. You can enjoy your garden potpourri during the cold winter months.