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The herbal renaissance - rediscovering nature gifts

The herbal renaissance - rediscovering nature gifts

By Blake Jackson

Long before artificial air fresheners, people relied on herbs to freshen their homes and fight unpleasant odors. They weren't just fragrant, though. Herbs like parsley were believed to have medicinal properties and were used to treat ailments. Today, herbs are a staple in many kitchens and gardens, adding flavor to food and beauty to landscapes.

So, what exactly is an herb? Botanically, it's a non-woody plant that dies back each year. In simpler terms, it's a plant with aromatic leaves, stems, or seeds used for flavoring, fragrance, or medicinal purposes.

The history of herb use is fascinating. Ancient Greeks soothed stomachaches with parsley and Romans used dill to honor victors. Scottish folklore associated thyme with strength and courage, while medieval French mothers used mugwort to keep babies warm.

Early American settlers brought familiar herbs with them and discovered many more native varieties. Herb gardens thrived on pioneer homesteads.

While modern grocery stores offer easy access to a wide variety of herbs, there's a renewed interest in homegrown goodness. There are over 70 herbs, each with its own unique qualities.

Culinary herbs like basil, parsley, and chives tantalize our taste buds.

Aromatic herbs such as lavender and mint fill our homes with delightful scents. These are often members of the mint family, known for their long-lasting fragrance.

Ornamental herbs like catmint add pops of color to gardens.

Medicinal herbs like feverfew were traditionally used to treat illnesses, though scientific evidence for their effectiveness is often limited. Some, like comfrey, can even be harmful if ingested.

Planting herbs is generally straightforward. Most can be grown from seed, while others, like peppermint, require cuttings. Herbs thrive in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. They prefer moderate fertility, as excessive nutrients can hinder flavor and aroma. Aim for at least 6-8 hours of sunlight and regular watering throughout the growing season. Thankfully, herbs are relatively pest and disease resistant.

So, why not explore the wonderful world of herbs? They can add flavor to your meals, fragrance to your home, and beauty to your garden. With a little planning and care, you can enjoy the timeless benefits of herbs.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-johnbraid

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