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Gardening tips: Herbs for your culinary, cosmetic needs

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th October 2008 03:00 AM

When one mentions a herb garden, the impression the listener gets, is a garden belonging to an old woman! But today it is the in-thing to have pots of blossoming herbs, seated on window sills and on kitchen work surfaces.

When one mentions a herb garden, the impression the listener gets, is a garden belonging to an old woman! But today it is the in-thing to have pots of blossoming herbs, seated on window sills and on kitchen work surfaces.

By Winifred Rukidi

When one mentions a herb garden, the impression the listener gets, is a garden belonging to an old woman! But today it is the in-thing to have pots of blossoming herbs, seated on window sills and on kitchen work surfaces.

All over the world, herbs are considered invaluable in cooking to enhance the taste of foods. Herbs also have a curative and cosmetic properties that are widely used in medicines and in beauty products.

Culinary uses
Fresh herbs are important ingredients in many classic combinations; such as tomato and basil salad, potato mayonnaise with chives and in many cases the flowers too are used as edible decorations.

Chives and marigold are simple to grow and produce attractive flowers. Certain herbs such as lemon balm and peppermint may be infused in boiling water to make herb tea, which is a good alternative to ordinary tea and coffee since it does not contain tannin or caffeine.

In many parts of the world, herbal medicine is increasingly being used, making the herb garden a source of home-grown treatment for a number of ailments.

Cosmetic use
A number of herbs have beneficial effects on the condition of the human skin and hair and are included in beauty products. These include rosemary, camomile and mint, which are used in shampoos and conditioners, thyme as an antiseptic for mouth-washes, marigold and elder-flower in skin lotions.

Where to grow the herbs
Just like other plants, herbs should be grown in conditions that are similar to the natural habitat to ensure they are healthy. Many herbs are from the tropics and the Mediterranean and usually do best under plenty of sunshine and free draining soil.

A separate herb garden in an attractive design produces an appealing feature and need not take up much space, but it may be preferable to have a culinary herb patch or herbs in containers within easy-reach of the kitchen.

If you have space, you may cut out a large circle and divide it in triangles, then plant herbs with contrasting colours in blocks. For culinary herbs that are used in large quantities, such as parsley, the vegetable plot may be the best site.

How to select the herbs to grow
The appeal of herbs lies largely in the fragrance and the contrast to other plants, usually derived from the foliage, rather than the flowers. In case you are interested in cooking, you then have to choose those herbs that will benefit you.

For example, dill is an annual plant with a greenish flat head, yellow feathery flowers and blue-green leaves, which looks attractive and a cooking herb. Do not plant it near the fennel, as this may result in cross pollination and the loss of its distinctive flavour.

Basil is another annual plant with tooth-pointed oval leaves. Its aromatic leaves are used in salads, vinegar, pesto and tomato pasta dishes. Lavender may be used as a border around the herb plot.

Now the problem with growing herbs is that because a little is used at a time, you may be faced with such an excess that you do not know what to do with it. You could learn how to dry the herbs or supply your nearest supermarket.

winnieruk@hotmail.com

Gardening tips: Herbs for your culinary, cosmetic needs

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