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July 10, 2023
Your own summer garden can be a treasure trove of herbs, flowers and more to enhance your culinary adventures, beauty rituals, and overall well-being. Welcome to the power of plants! By growing a selection of versatile herbs, such as basil, lavender, mint, and yarrow, you can unleash the full potential of your garden. Don’t worry if you lack a spacious backyard; we've got you covered with various options for growing these plants, including balcony gardens, community gardens, vertical plant gardens, indoor gardens, and hanging plants. Let's explore the endless possibilities!
What do I do if I don’t have a vegetable garden? Options for Growing Plants
You don’t have to have a vegetable garden to make plants work for you. Here are a few options for alternate ways of growing your favourite plants.
What plants can I easily grow for my own personal use?
When I was planning this blog, I had to stop myself at a certain number of plants, because there are so many to choose from. It’s remarkable what we can do in our own space. I’ve chosen ten easy to grow and useful to have plants that can create a number of recipe options down the line. Once you try a few options you will be empowered to try different plants and create any number of exciting things that come directly from your own efforts. Without further ado, here are my ten suggestions for an aromatic garden that will provide you with encouragement, versatility, and most importantly, fun!
Basil: The Latin name for basil, “basilicum” comes from the Greek root meaning “royal herb”. Traditionally, herb gardens including basil were created for use by kings. Basil is a digestive herb, with benefits to help gas and stomach cramps.
There are a number of different varieties of basil that are easy to grow at home. Some of them are sweeter, and some of them have a bit of heat. Either way, this aromatic herb adds a burst of flavor to any dish. From homemade pesto to infused butter, basil brings its unique taste and fragrance to your culinary creations. Be sure to pinch any flowers that you see off the plant while it’s growing to create a large, voluptuous plant full of leaves for harvest.
In folklore, basil brings good luck into a new home. The next time you need a house warming gift, consider a basil plant.
Garlic: Have you tried growing your own garlic? It’s easier than you think and might be beneficial for your garden overall. All you need is one garlic head to get started. We suggest buying your first garlic from a local grower. In the fall, carefully open the garlic head and plant garlic cloves with the skin on approximately 4 - 8 inches apart and 2 inches deep. Cover with soil and voila! Wait for harvest time.
Garlic is becoming known as a plant that deters pests in your garden so you may notice greater success with other plants that surround it. Garlic is a versatile herb that adds depth to numerous recipes. Use it in infused oils, salad dressings, or even make your own flavorful butter.
Garlic has been thought for centuries to ward off evil. Many people have hung garlic strands in their home or worn garlic for protection including sailors, soldiers and mountaineers.
Lavender: With its enchanting scent, lavender adds a touch of elegance to your garden and daily routines, while also helping out our honey bees. If you keep on top of your lavender plant, you can harvest it multiple times over one summer. I find that if I harvest my lavender in early July, I also get a harvest in August and again in September. You’ll need to experiment with your best timeframe where you live.
Stuff a cotton or organza sachet (your local craft store will have these) with lavender buds for an aromatic pillow that can be used in drawers and closets. It’s been said that if you place a lavender sachet under your pillow and make a wish before bed, your wish will come true if you dream about it.
You can infuse lavender’s soothing aroma into body oils or create scented coconut oil for face and hair treatments. We’ll show you how below.
Mint: Invigorate your senses with the refreshing flavor of mint. From infused water to oil pulling with mint leaves and coconut oil, this versatile herb offers a multitude of uses for both culinary and personal care purposes. Mint has been known to soothe the digestive system, which is why many restaurants have mint candies close to their door. I always have some mint tea on hand so that it’s at-the-ready when I need it. Check your local nursery for different varieties of mint. I’ve been as pleased as punch with my newer acquisition, a chocolate mint plant, which smells exactly as it sounds, and yes, it’s divine.
Placing a few leaves of mint into your wallet or purse has been thought to bring money into your life.
Oregano: A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, oregano is a must-have herb for any garden. Its robust flavor makes it ideal for creating infused oils or adding a savory touch to salad dressings and marinades. Don’t forget to keep some on-hand for colder months.
Parsley: I was surprised by how much I fell in love with my parsley plant. Parsley can grow into a big, wonderful, plant of feathery leaves. With its bright green leaves and fresh taste, parsley is a versatile herb that complements a wide range of dishes. Try using it to create flavorful butter or incorporate it into homemade pesto for a flavour twist. After a meal, parsley can act as a breath freshener. Yes, you can eat the garnish. 😊
Rose: Beyond its captivating beauty, Rose petals offer a delicate floral flavor. Infuse them into oils or keep reading to learn how to create scented coconut oil for a truly luxurious addition to your skincare routine.
Rosemary: This aromatic herb is a culinary superstar, perfect for enhancing roasted meats, bread, and vegetables. Easy to grow, fun to watch, fragrant and versatile. You can use rosemary in a number of recipes including infused oils, salad dressings, or even create scented coconut oil for a fragrant hair treatment or hair rinse.
Rosemary has been used as incense, as a substitute for frankincense and for cleaning spaces. A rosemary infusion has been used in the past as a hand wash before healing work. It was thought that this herb would only thrive in the gardens of righteous people in medieval Europe.
Sage: Bring the positive energy to your home and garden. You can harvest your sage for summer wands. Add sage branches and leaves to lavender stems and weave them with ribbon for a beautiful, truly summer craft. Your wands can be placed in drawers or closets as a fabric freshener.
Sage brings a warm and earthy flavor to dishes, making it an excellent herb for stuffing, sauces, and marinades. Consider infusing it into oils or incorporating it into homemade pesto for a unique twist.
Sage has some unique cautions. This herb should only be used in the short term. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid sage as it can slow breastmilk flow.
Yarrow: Known for its medicinal and skin loving properties, yarrow is a valuable addition to any garden. Harness its power by using it in infused water or tea for a refreshing and healthful beverage.
Yarrow is said to bring love, friends, and distant relatives. This might be a good one to add to your wedding flowers, especially if you are planning a backyard ceremony.
Harnessing the Power of Your Summer Garden: How can I use my home grown plants
Infuse the oil of your choice: The sky (or garden) really is the limit here! Create beautifully scented oils by drying your plant material and infusing it into a liquid oil of your preference. Flowers like lavender, rose, and yarrow are great options for an infused body oil, which herbs such as basil, rosemary, and oregano will add a flare to your cooking.
Once you harvest from your plant, prepare it for drying. You can bundle branches and hang it upside down, or remove the leaves and petals and lay them out to dry. It is very important to make sure that your plant material is thoroughly dried. Water from the plant, or trapped between leaves and petals will grow mold and bacterial in your infusion. Once dried, place the plant material into a large glass jar and cover with oil. You can use any liquid oil for this as long as it is not a roasted or toasted oil. These oils won’t provide any benefit. Replace the lid and store the mixture in a cool dark place for two to four weeks. Strain the plant material from the mixture and you have a lovely scented oil that you can use as a body oil, or as a flavourful addition to cooking.
Create flavor cubes for winter cooking: Preserve the essence of your summer herbs by freezing them in olive oil. Collect your plant material and make sure that it is thoroughly dried. Chop the herbs of your choice and place one teaspoon of the mixture into each single cavity of an ice cube tray. Cover the herbs with olive oil and freeze it. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and place them into a closeable freezer bag or freezer safe container. Don’t forget to label it! These flavor cubes can be added to dishes during the colder months to keep the taste of your garden alive all year round.
Oil pulling with mint leaves and coconut oil: Craft a refreshing mouthwash using extra virgin coconut oil and mint leaves. Oil pulling is a natural oral care technique that promotes oral health and freshens breath. Create a double boiler set up using a stove safe flat pan with straight sides and add about 2 inches of water. Place 8 oz of extra virgin coconut oil into a heat safe container. Place the container into a double boiler and turn the heat on low. Simmer the mixture until the coconut oil is melted. Add one half cup of mint leaves to the oil. Continue to simmer on low heat, for 2-3 hours. Periodically check to see how fragrant the oil has become. Do not cover the infusion. Any water that gets into this mixture has the potential to create bacteria.
Carefully remove the container from the water and strain out the mint leaves. Poor the coconut oil into a glass jar, uncovered, and let cool. Once the mixture has solidified, use one teaspoon of the mixture and swish it around in your mouth as a mouthwash for 5 – 10 minutes. Oil pulling takes some getting used to. If you need to, try this out for two minutes to start and increase your oil pulling time by one to two minutes each time.
Scented coconut oil for face and hair: Elevate your beauty routine by infusing coconut oil with fragrant flower petals or buds. This scented oil can be used as a moisturizer or hair treatment for a touch of luxury. Create a double boiler set up using an oven safe flat pan with straight sides and add about 2 inches of water. Place 8 oz of extra virgin coconut oil into a heat safe container. Add one half cup of dried fragrant flower petals or buds to the coconut oil and place the container into the pan with the water. Turn your oven onto the lowest setting. Place the pan with the coconut oil container in it into the over. Leave in the over for 2 hours, checking periodically. Remove from oven, strain out the plant material and discard it. Let the coconut oil cool thoroughly at room temperature and let it sit overnight. Do not cover until it is completely cooled. On day two repeat this process using new dried plant material infused into the same coconut oil. Once the process has been done a second time, strain out the plant material and store the coconut oil in a glass jar in a cool dark place. Now you have scented coconut oil that you can use in other products, as a moisturizer or on your hair. Some people find coconut oil to be drying. We recommend using this oil on skin and hair sparingly.
Infused water: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Dr. Sherry Rogers
We need water to help out our digestive system, support the skin, assist with perspiration and to help lubricate our joints… and that’s just the start! Stay hydrated with infused water creations that combine different herbs to create refreshing and flavorful beverages. In a large jar, combine parts of your favourite plants to create more interesting flavours. We need to replenish water more quickly in the summertime, so have some fun with summer flavours. We suggest, cucumber mint, mint with berries, basil mint, ginger mint, citrus rosemary, lavender lemon, and the list goes on as far as your imagination will take you.
Infused butter: Enhance your favorite recipes by blending finely chopped herbs with butter. In a small blender or food processor, add the herbs of your choice and finely chop them. You can do this with garlic, rosemary, basil or any herb that you want to try out. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the blender and mix. Store the infused butter in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life and add a burst of flavor to your culinary creations.
Homemade Pesto: Indulge in the vibrant flavour of homemade pesto. Finely chop garlic and basil, and add this to a small glass jar. You can also add finely chopped pine nuts or walnuts if you choose. Add enough olive oil to cover your herbs but not more than that. Mix well and store in the fridge. You can even place some of this mixture into ice cube trays and freeze it for a taste of summer during colder months.
Make your own tea: Simmer your preferred herbs, such as lavender and mint, in water to create a soothing and aromatic tea. Just boil 8 oz of water and add one tablespoon of herbs using a tea ball or tea sachet. Steep the tea for about ten minutes until it reaches your desired strength. You can also use yarrow, rose or herbal combinations when you are not feeling at your best. Savour the warmth and benefits of these herbal infusions.
Salad dressing: Create your own light and tasty salad dressing by combining one part olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, and a selection of herbs such as rosemary, garlic, and basil. Add a touch of black peppercorns for an extra kick. This is a lighter, and very tasty option for summer salads or a fresh bread dip.
By harnessing the plant power from your own summer garden, you can elevate your culinary creations, beauty rituals, and overall well-being. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a cozy balcony, the possibilities are endless. From infused oils and scented coconut oil to flavor cubes and refreshing infused beverages, your garden holds the key to a summer filled with exquisite flavors and aromatic delights. Embrace the abundance of nature and let your creativity flourish as you unlock the full potential of these ten herbs... as a start! Happy harvesting!
Cunningham, Scott, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications, 2017
Natural Remedies Handbook, New York, NY, Newsweek, 2018
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