Mike has 13 years experience of managing biological/organic farms and teaches farmers about holistic/biological farming. Last year he attended a two day “ Serious Backyard Veggies” course with Costa Georgiadas, host of ABC’s popular Gardening Australia program. He lives in Dubbo and regards himself as a serious backyard veggie gardener.
There is often a keen sense of satisfaction when you can handpick freshly grown seasonal herbs to add flavour to a delicious meal. While they are tasty and nourishing in our food, herbs may also serve other health purposes.
Herbs stem from our past
Herbs have been used for thousands of years by our ancestors as both culinary flavourings and medicinal treatments. With many used in remedies that have been passed down through generations, herbs have also been considered beneficial for some additional reasons, including:
-Protection against germs
-Currency, instead of money
Tips for growing your herb garden
-Choose where you would like to grow your herbs – in pots, a raised bed or in the ground.
-Many herbs we use today originated from the Mediterranean region so prefer a sunny position with well-drained soil.
-For a good foundation, it is best to have a biologically active soil or good quality compost. To gain the most benefit from any plant we need to establish the symbiotic relationship between plants and good microbiological organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. This ensures the plant gets a balance of minerals and nutrients, and so will you.
-Decide what herbs you would like to grow.
Common culinary herbs and their health properties
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe. While it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, parsley was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food.
-Often used as a flavouring in cooking.
-Contains a lot of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, iodine and magnesium.
-Good source of folic acid.
-May be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis and promoting heart health.
Native to India, Asia and Africa, the name “basil” is derived from the Greek word basileios (meaning royal, kingly) reflecting the ancient culture’s attitude towards a herb they considered both noble and sacred.
-Commonly used fresh, it is ideally added at the last moment to cooking so the basil does not lose its flavour.
-Contains vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin K, iron and magnesium.
-Antiviral, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
The Greeks and Romans were said to have highly prized the many healing properties of sage. The Romans treated it as sacred and created a special ceremony for gathering sage.
-Used for cooking and medicinal purposes.
-Contains vitamin K.
-Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.
Coriander is also known as cilantro. Its use can be traced back to 5,000 BC making it one of the world’s oldest spices. Native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, it has also been used in Asian countries for thousands of years.
-Contains vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.
-Antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
-Considered a beneficial chelating agent for heavy metals, like mercury and lead.
Used since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties. The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve their deceased pharaohs. Ancient Greeks would burn it as incense in sacred temples.
-Contains vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, manganese and calcium.
Oregano is considered a great source of the powerful phenol component, thymol. Thymol is helpful for improving digestive function as well as destroying harmful microbes.
-Used for the flavour of its leaves which can often be more potent when dried than fresh.
-Rich in antioxidant phytochemical flavonoids and phenolic acids.
-May be helpful for stomach and respiratory ailments.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used rosemary as a culinary and medicinal herb. Hellenistic and Roman gardens almost always contained rosemary bushes.
-Rich in vitamin B complex groups such as folic acid.
-Contains good amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C.
-A rich source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper and magnesium.
-May be helpful for improving memory.