“Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” a Simon & Garfunkel album from 1966
According to the Oxford Dictionary, herbs are defined as "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume".
Here are some reasons to plant some herbs in your garden!
They taste amazing.
Whether it be parsley, basil, coriander or mint, thyme, sage, rosemary or oregano, there are so many different herbs to choose from. Have you tasted them all? Different herbs have different flavours that suit different meals.
For my family, mint goes beautifully with raw, grated beetroot (add a splash of balsamic vinegar and call it a salad). Our classic for rosemary is a roast lamb (plus garlic too). We like roast chicken with some lemon slices and thyme salt (thyme and salt mixed together in the mortar and pestle and sprinkled on top of the cooking chicken). Parsley is made into tabbouleh salad, oregano is put in Bolognese sauce, basil goes with tomato and goat's cheese and coriander sits beautifully atop a bowl of rice and curry.
They are easy to grow.
I have to admit that I am a novice gardener. I have been doing it for a while now, but I am much better at appreciating natural environments than I am at creating my own! Having said that, we have 11 different herbs in our garden, many just there because some seeds found the soil, waited for the water and sun, and then just did their thing! (a bit of chook pooh probably helps too).
Herbs grow easily in pots or garden beds, you don't need a lot of space to have a variety of herbs available.
Even young children can pick them and eat them.
I love an excuse to let kids be kids, and to make real food fun and desirable. I also like the idea of plants growing in the garden that I can actually eat! All that hard work may as well pay off. I love it when children are able to be creative and contribute to family meals in a healthy way. Get the kids to pick herbs that match dinner! They may not eat them initially, but over time food will look strange without green herbs on top!
They 're fabulous in a cup of tea.
I am a big fan of all hot drinks! I do love a coffee or an earl grey tea, but I particularly like herbal teas. I'm also someone who is mindful of rubbish, and whilst I love a herbal teabag, I always feel a little uncomfortable about the packaging I have to discard (plus there's the cost). With a mint tea from the garden though it is cheap, fresh and delicious. With the weather warming up, why not let the concoction cool and have it as iced tea? Also suitable for children (as long as it is cool enough!). Whilst mint tea is my favourite, I'm also fond of rosemary tea and fennel tea.
They make a beautiful, fragrant "magic potion" or "perfume"
Another regular favourite of my Nature Playgroups is magic potion mixing. The youngest children love the colours and the smells, the older children love the magic! I love that it's another reason to play in the garden and experiment with textures, tastes, sights and smells. Younger children may need to be monitored while they learn which plants are edible and which are not. Children who are in a "destroy-the-garden" phase may also need monitoring! These kids will need bigger bushes or trees, or you may want to do the picking bit for them, and let their need to be wild be expressed with mud and ripping up leaves. Everyone else can pick and play to their hearts content.
Bought herbs are really expensive!
Have you noticed this? $3 or more will buy you a bunch that wilts easily, is wrapped in plastic that ends up in landfill, and as only a small amount is required for a recipe, half the bunch ends up being wasted!
The seeds and flowers can be as useful in cooking as the leaves.
We had a huge crop of coriander a few years ago, more than we could ever eat or give away. I let quite a bit of it go to seed, which the kids "helped" me collect (this was time-consuming but ultimately worth it!). Some of these we saved to be replanted (or rather, were "dropped" during harvesting) and the rest we used to create our own spice mixes for curries. We have since done the same with fennel seeds with equal success.
They're lovely to share
If you get lucky one year and have more parsley or coriander or mint than you can manage, then bunch it up and share it with friends! Better still, plant it in your front yard and invite friends to take some as needed. I have heard of communities that share herb gardens in laneways. It saves everyone money and connects communities.