A Salad with Women’s Herbs from Herbalist Rita Heikenfeld
HEALTH FROM THE GOOD BOOK: THE BEST BIBLE HERBS FOR WOMEN AND HOW TO GROW AND USE THEM
Today we’re going to talk about some of the easy to grow culinary herbs that are good women’s’ herbs and that grow easily in the ground or in containers. They all have ancient histories, either grown during Bible times or actually mentioned in the Bible.
Growing: Basil is an annual herb and member of the mint family. Make sure the air and soil is at least 50 degrees before planting this sun loving herb. Try Genovese, sweet or Italian large leaf for in ground plantings. Green bouquet with its tiny leaves mounds up prettily in containers.
To harvest basil, pluck the largest leaves on the plant at first, and then start pinching off flower heads as they form (yes, they’re edible) for a longer harvest.
Health benefits: Basil contains iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and is anti-bacterial. It is helpful against staph and other infections.
Cooking: Add basil the last 5 minutes of cooking time for an explosion of flavor.
Growing: Chives are a member of the onion family, and are hardy perennials. Their flavor is reminiscent of onion and garlic but not as pungent because they contain less sulfur. They are easy to grow in full sun but will tolerate some shade. In a well-drained location, chives can grow up to two feet, and make pretty border plants. Onion chives have straw, tube-like leaves with pink flowers; garlic (sometimes called Chinese) chives have flat, ribbon-like leaves with white flowers.
To harvest chives, cut back as close to the ground as possible for more cuttings, and to keep them looking neat.
Health benefits: Allicin, a chemical found in chives, has been connected to helping reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and certain kinds of cancers.
Cooking: Chives are best added to cooked dishes at the last minute to preserve their delicate flavor. Sprinkle the flower petals on fresh salads for a mild onion flavor and as a beautiful garnish. Both leaves and flowers are delicious in stir-fries, omelets and soups. Chives make nice vinegars, salad and potato toppings, and a good garnish for cottage cheese
Growing: Cilantro does best in cooler, sunny weather, and the funny thing about cilantro is that it can’t be pinched back a lot like, say, basil, as it doesn’t recover. Plant it in now in early spring and then make successive plantings every few weeks for a continual harvest. The leaves start out nice and large, like flat leaf parsley, but lacier, then they get smaller and smaller and wind up almost fern like as the plant begins to flower and then goes to seed.
You can also plant the seeds in the fall – just sprinkle them with soil and let them sleep all winter long. They’ll be among the first herbs to sprout in the spring.
Health benefits: Cilantro contains calcium and will help remove heavy metals, like lead, from the body. It also is a deterrent against salmonella and if you eat some cilantro every day, it can help prevent skin cancer.
Growing: Dill is a member of the parsley/carrot family and is an annual that self seeds readily. The flavor is distinctive – think dill pickles. Dill is easy to grow from seeds but doesn’t like to be moved around a lot once it’s established. Dill likes full sun. Try Mammoth/Long Island dill for a beautiful background border plant, since it can reach 5 feet. For containers, Fernleaf and Dukat are good, since they reach a height of between 18” and 24” high. These two varieties are slower to bolt.
To harvest dill, pick leaves before flowers open. Pick close to the stem to encourage side growth. Seeds are ready to be harvested when they turn light brown.
Health benefits: Dill contains calcium, manganese and iron. It also contains carvone, which has a soothing effect on the tummy. Dill helps relieve gas and flatulence.Dill is said to promote lactation in nursing mothers and has been used as a weak tea for babies with colic – dill contains calcium, which is calming.
Cooking: Fresh or dried leaves are good in breads, cheese, herb blends and pickles. Try it with fish and root vegetables.
Growing: Be forewarned about mint’s invasive habits. It makes a good container herb, since anywhere in the soil the stem touches, it will root. Mint grows well in sun or shade. Once it’s established, Mother Nature takes care of watering. No need to fertilize once the plant is up and growing.
Spearmint and peppermint are the most common, but we have many kinds of mint, including Thai, pineapple, chocolate, apple and Mojito mints.
Health benefits: Mint invigorates the senses, and both peppermint and spearmint aid digestion and reduce nausea. Peppermint is especially helpful after a high fat meal. Spearmint contains more minerals and vitamins than basil, rosemary, dill and cilantro. It has folate, a B vitamin good for women of childbearing age. It’s one herb that I recommend growing in containers, since it is very invasive. Mint tea is a popular and refreshing drink.
Cooking: Chop mint into your dishes right before you serve it. That way, you’ll get flavor, aroma and the most nutrition. Mint contains vitamin C, destroyed by high heat, so remember when making drinks with mint (steep in water that’s about 140 degrees – warm enough to infuse gently).
Growing: Rosemary can take outdoor temperatures down to about 15 degrees and there’s a creeping variety great for containers. She doesn’t like wet feet so keep rosemary on the dry side. Delicious in marinades, meats, vegetables and breads
Growing: Oregano is a reliable perennial, and is easily grown. Give it plenty of sun, good drainage, and water until well established, then let Mother Nature take care of it. We have several varieties to choose from. Greek oregano is the gold standard with its dark green leaves and white flowers. Italian oregano has smaller, lighter colored leaves. For containers, try Turkish oregano or Hot & Spicy, both lower growers.
Health benefits: Oregano (and its cousin Marjoram) contains powerful anti-oxidants. Oil of oregano is taken for fungal and yeast infections. Oregano helps soothe sore joints.
Cooking: Oregano, with its strong flavor, takes kindly to long cooking times. Using oregano will help cut down the need for salt. Add a few leaves to pasta and pizza sauces. Dry oregano for winter use. In fact, some folks prefer the taste of dried oregano over fresh.
Growing: If there’s one herb that carries a string of nicknames, it’s thyme. Common thyme (also called English, summer, winter, French or garden thyme) is a Mediterranean perennial herb. Seeds germinate quickly and a well drained soil and sunny or partially sunny location will keep it growing happily. It should be watered moderately and develops volatile oils when kept on the dry side. Bees love thyme!
Health benefits: Ancient Greek used thyme in their baths and burned it as incense in their temples. It’s like a medicine chest in a plant, containing thymol, which has both antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. When you smell thyme, you’ll remember the aroma of mouth washes and healing balms.
Cooking: Thyme has a peppery flavor with a hint of clove. It’s often the secret herb that makes a dish zing! Add thyme at the beginning of cooking and it will release its flavor during the cooking process
TIPS FROM RITA’S KITCHEN
Augment favorite bottled salad dressing with a bit of minced fresh herbs.
Make themed baskets with herbs.
Italian: Parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil
Seafood: Dill, lemon grass, parsley, fennel, thyme
Spa herbs: Mint, lavender, lemon verbena, lemon balm, rose petals
A SALAD WITH WOMEN'S HERBS
2/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon fresh minced basil or 1 teaspoon each dried
Minced garlic chives or minced garlic to taste
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
Squirt of Dijon mustard
Mixed greens and choice of veggies & cheese
Herbs to sprinkle on top of salad: Chopped thyme, chives, oregano, dill, mint, basil.
Before drizzling dressing on, add some crumbled Feta, olives, whatever!
to you by Amy Tobin
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