Gardeners have been growing german chamomile for centuries. There are many uses of garden plants like chamomile, which include: medicinal, culinary, beauty care and so much more. Some people prefer to grow it indoors because they want to enjoy its benefits while keeping their home environment clean and green. However there are other reasons why some people choose to grow chamomile outdoors. One of them is to make sure that they don’t get sick from eating contaminated food or water. Another reason is to protect themselves against the cold weather.
The plant’s leaves contain a substance called chrysin, which helps prevent various types of infections such as colds, flu and bronchitis. Chamomile flowers are used in folk medicine all over the world for treating coughs, sore throats and stomach aches.
Chamomile is a member of the mint family. It belongs to the genus Rubiaceae. Its scientific name is Rhus species.
The plant grows naturally in temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America. The flower buds are produced from spring until autumn in most areas. The flowers are white with pink centers and they have five petals each. They grow up to three inches long and one inch wide when fully open (they close back after flowering).
Before sowing your chamomile seeds, make sure that the soil is soft and not compacted. The soil should have good drainage whether in a container or not. You can add some potting mix to regular garden soil so that water doesn’t get trapped and allow the seeds to rot.
Also remember that chamomile plants are very small, so you might want to sow ten to twelve seeds per spot in order to get a couple of plants for harvesting.
After sowing the chamomile seeds, make shallow indentations using a pencil or something similar. The seeds need light in order to sprout, so don’t cover them with soil. Keep the packets or envelopes with seeds indoors in a cool, dry place.
If your envelopes don’t have a clear window, punch some small holes in them so that they remain airtight yet let in some air. Keep the seeds indoors (at a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F) until all danger of frost has passed. This may be anywhere from mid-March to mid-May depending on where you live.
Once you can work the soil, plant the seeds at a depth of just 1/4 inch. Rake some sand or light soil over them to cover them up and keep them from washing away. Keep the soil moist but not soaked.
You can also place some mulch around the base of the plants to help conserve moisture and keep the weeds down.
Your chamomile plants should begin to sprout within ten days. They should be ready for harvesting about three months after that. When the flowers are just starting to open, they are at their best for drying and have a sweet apple-like smell.
Harvest the flowers just as they start to open by clipping them off with pruning shears. The chamomile tea you make will depend on when you harvest them. If you wait until they are in full bloom, the tea will be more sedative and mellow.
If you harvest before the flowers are completely open, the tea will be more alerting and have a stronger taste (like fresh herbs).
You can also dry the flowers by hanging them up in a dry, dark and airy location. When they are dried, store them in a sealed bag or container away from heat or sunlight.
Chamomile tea is well known for being relaxing and calming to the stomach. It is derived from the flowers and there are two ways to prepare it: infusion and decoction.
Infused chamomile has a very light flavor and is made by pouring boiling water over the flowers and letting it steep for about five minutes. Decocted chamomile has a stronger flavor and is made by both boiling the flowers and water together for about ten minutes before straining out the flowers (or not, depending on how strong you want it).
You can also purchase chamomile flowers and make your own herbal tea.
Dried chamomile flowers can be found at most health food stores or online.
If you want to use the chamomile flowers for anything other than brewing into tea, they need to be dried first. You can dry them in a dehydrator, in the sun or even in your oven on the lowest temperature.
Mint is a woody perennial herb which grows commonly in the wild, but it also does well in pots and containers. Be sure you are planting Mentha piperita and not another mint variety such as Mentha arvensis, as these have different properties.
To grow in your garden, plant mint seeds in early spring in a well-draining potting soil. Place the pot in a sunny location and water it regularly. You can also plant mint in the ground, but it will become invasive if you don’t contain it.
Pinch out the tops of the plants when they are about a foot high to encourage branching. Mint generally grows very quickly. You can harvest it as soon as it is big enough to suit your needs.
It regrows very quickly so you can keep harvesting more as you need it.
Harvest the leaves as you need them by cutting off the leafy branches with scissors or pruners.
If you want to dry mint for later use, lay the stems out in a single layer and leave them in a dry, well-ventilated spot for two to three days. Then, store it in an airtight container out of sunlight.
You can also store fresh mint in your refrigerator in a sealed plastic container or bag. It will keep well for up to a week this way.
If you love iced tea, you can add some fresh mint right into the pitcher before you fill it up with water and tea bags. This will give your tea a more minty flavor than it would have had you just added it to your glass.
You can enjoy the scent of mint by crushing a few leaves and putting them in a bowl. Rub your hands over the top of the leaves to release the oils. Then, run your hands over your face, wrists and décolletage.
If you have hiccups, try chewing on a fresh leaf. It is also good for an upset stomach and can help settle an upset tummy that’s also causing gas or nausea. It can also help alleviate headaches, including menstrual ones.
Peppermint is a hybrid cross between water mint and spearmint. As such, it has a stronger flavor than either of its parent plants.
Peppermint leaves can be used in many of the same ways as other mints, even though it is quite a bit stronger. It can be brewed into tea or dried and crushed for use in cooking.
You can use fresh leaves or dried ones. Start with dried ones and crush them a bit before adding to food if you want a more subtle flavor.
Peppermint can also be used as an infusion by steeping one ounce of the dried leaves in one gallon of boiling water. This can be drunk as is, added to other drinks, like tea, or used in cooking and baking.
Peppermint is good for soothing stomach ailments such as nausea, indigestion and even hiccups. It also helps to settle the stomach after a big meal. It can also be used to freshen your breath after eating garlic, onions or other pungent foods.
Peppermint can also be rubbed directly on your skin to help relieve itching, pain or inflammation. You can mix it with other oils for this, such as coconut oil or almond oil.
Peppermint leaves can be rolled and made into a sort of pillow filled with dried grass or moss to make a handy neck pillow for a long trip or backpacking trek. They can also just be wrapped in a cloth.
Peppermint is good for banishing bad breath after eating onions, garlic or other pungent foods. It can also settle an upset stomach. It is sometimes used to freshen the breath after eating these types of food.
Peppermint grows best in moist, rich soil and partial shade. It can be invasive, so it is best grown in a container that can be moved around.
Peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint. It has a strong flavor and fragrance that is quite different from plain mint.
The small, pinecone-shaped blue flowers on these plants indicate that they are a type of mint and can be used much like other mints in cooking or infusions.
Rosemary can be used in a number of ways both in cooking and for other purposes. You can harvest it several different ways, from cutting off sprigs as you need them to snipping off the tops of larger bunches.
Rosemary can be dried or frozen in ice cube trays. It can then be stored in airtight containers until you are ready to use it.
Rosemary has a woody texture and is not usually eaten raw. It is often used to add flavor when cooking meats. It can also be used in teas, especially for colds and respiratory issues.
Rosemary grows best in sandy, dry soil and prefers full sun. It is a low-maintenance plant and is not prone to many pests or diseases.
Rosemary is a woody, pine-scented herb that is related to mint. It has small blue flowers and scaly leaves.
Sage has a somewhat bitter flavor that is improved by cooking it or drying it. It can also be used as a flavoring in other dishes.
Sage leaves can be dried and stored for later use. Be sure to keep them in a tightly sealed container somewhere cool or dry.
Long before we knew what vitamins and minerals were, people used sage to help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
Sage grows best in dry, rocky soil and can withstand all the environmental extremes from full sun to hot and cold temperatures. It is not picky about water or fertilizer either.
Sage leaves can be used much like rosemary. You can chop off sprigs as needed or you can dry the leaves for later use.
Thyme grows best in well-drained soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. It can grow quite well in hard clay soil as long as there is some sand mixed in.
Thyme is most often used as a flavoring in meat dishes. It can also be used in many different types of soups, stews, teas and other dishes.
Thyme grows best in dry conditions and infrequent watering. It is fairly drought tolerant and doesn’t need much in the way of fertilizer either.
Thyme is a small, woody-stemmed plant with tiny blue flowers. It has a delicate fragrance when it is crushed.
If you want to dry these leaves, you can snip them off with scissors and lay them out in a single layer to dry. You can then store them in an airtight container somewhere cool or dry.
You can use thyme much like rosemary when cooking anything from meats to soups and stews.
You can grow thyme from seed, but it grows slowly. It can take up to 2 years for the plants to fully mature and start producing usable leaves.
Thyme is a small bushy plant with tiny purple flowers and woody stems. The leaves are dark green and have a strong, fragrant smell.
Using Herbs in Everyday Life
When cooking any of these herbs with foods, be careful not to add too much of the flavor. Especially with basil, it is easy to go from subtle flavor to overpowering in just a few chops. A good rule of thumb is to add a tiny bit at a time and keep testing the food until it is seasoned to your liking.
Many people dry their herbs after washing and drying them. To do this, you can simply lay the stems on a towel in a single layer or you can put them in a paper bag and close it tightly. After a few days, they will be completely dry and easily crumbled between your fingers.
If you want to store the herbs for later, you can put them in an old coffee can or any other airtight container. Just remember to keep it in a cool, dark place like a cupboard.
As you get more familiar with cooking with these herbs, you can start combining them with each other and using other herbs from your garden or you can explore grocery store options as well.
For instance, rosemary is commonly paired with garlic and olive oil to make a simple but tasty rub for chicken, lamb, pork or beef. Sage pairs well with butter and lemon to bring out the flavor of fish. Basil also goes well with fish, but it also pairs well with many types of tomatoes for a simple but tasty pasta sauce.
The sky is the limit when it comes to herb combinations for food. Try a few different ones and see which you prefer. You may be surprised at the combinations that you come up with on your own.
Sources & references used in this article:
Three Previously Unrecorded Viral Diseases of Astilbe, Fuschia, and Thermopsis Species in Minnesota by BEL Lockhart – Plant disease, 2005 – Am Phytopath Society
Characterization of nutrient disorders of Fuchsia× hybrid’Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ by J Barnes, B Whipker, I McCall, J Frantz – International Conference and …, 2010 – actahort.org
Barriers to gene flow in interspecific hybridization in Fuchsia L. (Onagraceae) by RS Talluri – Journal of genetics, 2012 – Springer