Dill

Botanical name: Anethum graveolens

How to grow it:

Dill is an annual herb that likes full sun and good drainage. In my area (sub-tropical) it struggles in summer – bolting to seed early but likes all other parts of the year.

Grows fine in pots –  provide plenty of liquid fertiliser and a good layer of mulch.

Propagated usually by seed, and will readily self-seed if you allow it to flower.

In the kitchen: 

Dill has quite a unique flavour which is difficult to compare to other herbs. It’s very common in European cooking and in some parts of asia. Both the leaves and seeds are used.

Is fantastic in any egg dish, on fish, with cheese, potatoes, lamb and even sprinkled in salads – try it in coleslaw. It’s the main flavouring ingredient in Dill pickles.

Seeds are also used in cooking and to make a calming tea which is soothing to the digestive system.

 

Peppermint

Peppermint

Botanical name: Mentha piperita

How to grow it: Peppermint is a very vigorous plant that will spread rapidly by it’s roots. I’d recommend you grow it in pots or containers to avoid it taking over your garden. Preferred position is part sun or even shade – and it likes plenty of water.

Propogation is simple – just pull out any piece of root in it’s growing season and replant it.

In the kitchen: Personally I prefer Garden mint for cooking, though in many situations peppermint would make a good substitute.

My favourite use is the fresh leaves as a tea, or added to other herbs for a tea blend. Peppermint is known as a mild stimulant and can be used pretty freely as a pick-me-up or to aid study, late nights on the job etc. Also thought to aid memory & and mental alertness.

Peppermint is also used to repel spiders and ants and you could try a strong infusion (tea) and spray it around your window sills and entry point for ants. The essential oil is commonly used for this purpose too.

Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil

Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum

Some other names: Basil, St Joseph’s wort

How to grow it:

Sweet Basil basil can be a biennial in warmer areas though is probably better planted as an annual. The bush can get quite large and leaves become a less tender if the plant isn’t regularly pruned and flowers removed.

Prefers full sun but will handle a little shade, moist, well drained soil. Doesn’t handle drought or frost well – keep it well watered for best results.

Great plant to grow in a pot – you can move it to shelter it in the cooler months and get a longer harvest.

Propogation is generally by seed, though I prefer to buy seedlings in spring. If you allow a plant to go to seed, you’ll find it popping up all around your garden.

Nutrition:

Sweet basil contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. High in calcium, magnesium, zinc & copper.

Regular consumption of basil is thought to strengthen your immune system.

In the kitchen

As most every cook knows, basil has a special synergy with garlic & tomatoes and is therefore essential in many italian dishes, though can be used much more widely.

Use it in eggs dishes, soups, casseroles, salads and rice dishes. Best added towards the end of cooking to preserve the flavour.

Also makes a delicious and nutritious tea – combines well with many other tea herbs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil

Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica

Stinging Nettle

Botanical name: Urtica dioica

How to grow it: Stinging nettle is considered a weed around much of the world and so it’s safe to say it’s very easy to grow in a wide climatic range. In fact the main challenge is to keep it contained as it will spread via underground runners as well as seed. Consider using barriers or growing in pots or containers- particularly if you’re growing for the first time.

I’ve found it will grow in very poor soils with virtually no care, but also responds well to regular watering and fertilising. Best to grow in an out of the way position as the stings can be painful – especially for children or the unsuspecting.

Propogation is by division of underground runners or from tip cuttings.

Will do well in pots and responds well to regular harvesting.

Nutrition: You may well ask – why on earth would you intentionally grow a weed like that?

Stinging nettle is a nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins A,B,C,D,E & K and high levels of Iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and many other trace elements.

Medicinal uses are too many for this space – I would consider Nettle one of the best general tonic herbs you can take. It’s very high in chlorophyl which is good for your blood & for your body’s ability to cleanse itself. Also thought to be very good for your digestive system.

Bizarrely, the Nettle sting has been traditionally used for pain relief – the sting is thought to be good in attracting circulation to your pain areas, though some will say the pain of the sting just diverts your attention! (I haven’t tried this yet)

Using it in the Kitchen: Obviously you wouldn’t eat Nettles raw, but as soon as you apply heat the stings are neutralised – that means you can add it to any cooked dishes – often soups and long cooked meals like casseroles. I usually throw it in to dishes stems and all & just remove the hard stems prior to serving.

If you want to include Nettle in your diet, consider using the leaves in your herbal teas. They can be added to almost any tea combination and you’ll know you’re supercharging your tea’s nutrients.

Nettle is a brilliant survival food for it’s hardiness and amazing nutrition.

 

 

Rosemary

Rosemary

Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis

Some other names: Romero, Rosemarine, Mary’s mantle

How to grow it:

Rosemary is an easy to grow perennial shrub to about 1 m, which will grow larger if given the right conditions.

Likes full sun and well drained soil – think mediterranean conditions where it grows naturally in rocky soils.

Great plant to grow in a pot – handles a bit of drought so is easy care for most people.

Propogation is generally by hardwood cuttings, though can also be grown from seed.

Nutrition:

Rosemary contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. High in calcium, Iron, potassium & magnesium though it’s difficult to consume a great deal of the herb.

Often referred to as the memory herb – thought to improve memory. Just rub a sprig and take a deep breath of the aroma to assist with studying or other concentration activities.

In the kitchen

Rosemary only needs to be used sparingly to impart a fine flavour to cooked foods. Combine with garlic and olive oil to make a baste for roast meats and vegetables, casseroles, sauces and breads. Well worth having a plant near your kitchen.

Also makes a delicious and nutritious tea.

 

Parsley

Parsley

Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum

How to grow it:

Parsley is a biennial herb to about 50cm. There are two very common cultivars – Curly leaf & Flat leaf which have very similar properties. The Flat leaf variety may grow a little larger and faster and handle slightly warmer conditions.

Prefers full sun but will handle a little shade, moist, well drained soil. Doesn’t like conditions that are too wet or hot – so maybe a semi-shade position in the heat of summer. Grows really well in pots with regular liquid fertiliser.

Regular harvesting of outside leaves & snipping off the flower buds will keep the plant healthy and abundant.

Propogation is generally by seed, though I prefer to buy seedlings in spring or autumn. In the second year it will readily self seed and you’ll get lots of new plants.

Flat leaf parsley

Nutrition:

Parsley is high in vitamins A, B, C & K.  Also high in calcium, Iron, Potassium & zinc.

Consume plenty of parsley to clean your blood & strengthen your immune system.

In the kitchen

Parsley is used around the world both fresh and cooked and it’s nutrition is well known.

Add to soups, casseroles, stir fries, omelettes for it’s mild celery flavour and to salads or to garnish just about anything. What would life be like without Tabbouleh?

 

Kaffir lime

Kaffir lime

Botanical name: Citrus hystrix

Some other names: Wild lime, makrut lime, Mauritius papeda

How to grow it:

Kaffir lime is a tree to 5m with unique “double” leaves that are incredibly aromatic. Likes full sun and good drainage – plenty of water in the drier months. A hardy plant once established.

Great for growing in pots- in cooler areas the pot can be brought into shelter in winter.

Can be propagated by cuttings, but for many it would worth buying a grafted variety which seem to grow more rapidly.

In the Kitchen:

The leaves are the main parts used in asian cooking, but the rind, zest & juice and pulp of the fruit are all edible too.

Crush leaves in your hand & add to soups and curries. Deveined and chopped finely they can be added to salads and dressings. Essential ingredient in many curry and laksa pastes.

Throw a leaf per person in any pot of tea for a taste sensation.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil

Botanical name: Ocimum tenuiflorum

Some other names: sacred basil, tulsi, kaphrao

How to grow it:

Holy basil is a perennial in warmer areas but is probably better planted as an annual in more temperate climates. The bush can get large (I’ve seen them almost 2m high) and leaves become a less tender if the plant isn’t regularly pruned and flowers removed.

Prefers full sun but will handle a little shade, moist, well drained soil. Doesn’t handle drought or frost well – keep it well watered for best results.

Great plant to grow in a pot – you can move it to shelter it in the cooler months and get a longer harvest.

Propogation is generally by seed, though I prefer to buy seedlings in spring. If you allow a plant to go to seed, you’ll find it popping up all around your garden.

Nutrition:

Holy basil contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. High in calcium, magnesium, zinc & copper.

Regular consumption of basil is thought to strengthen your immune system.

In the kitchen

Holy basil is not used in cooking widely – it’s a little strong in clove aroma for most dishes.

IT’s greatest use is as a delicious and highly nutritious tea – commonly known as Tulsi.

Thyme

Thyme

Botanical name: Thymus vulgaris

How to grow it:

Thyme is a low growing perennial bush that prefers warm, well drained conditions. If it likes it’s conditions it can spread over quite a large area making it a useful ground cover. Prefers full sun

Grows really well in pots and is great to have near the kitchen if there’s a sunny spot.

Propagation can be by seed or division – cuttings strike readily if kept moist.

In the Kitchen:

Thyme is a strongly flavoured herb so be careful not to overdo it. Mixes well with lots of other herbs – parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage etc. so if you get a patch going, feel free to experiment.

Goes well with all meat and cooked dishes – on it’s own or in combination, even sprinkled over salads for it’s pungent sweet flavour.

I like to mix leaves with butter and garlic and keep it in the fridge for use with vegetables and bread.

Makes a tonic herbal tea to boost your immune system and ward of colds and flu.

Thai Basil

Thai Basil

Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum

Some other names: Anise basil, liquorice basil, horapha

How to grow it:

Thai Basil basil is a perennial in warmer areas though is probably better planted as an annual. The bush can get quite large and leaves become a less tender if the plant isn’t regularly pruned and flowers removed.

Prefers full sun but will handle a little shade, moist, well drained soil. Doesn’t handle drought or frost well – keep it well watered for best results.

Great plant to grow in a pot – you can move it to shelter it in the cooler months and get a longer harvest.

Propogation is generally by seed, though I prefer to buy seedlings in spring. If you allow a plant to go to seed, you’ll find it popping up all around your garden.

Nutrition:

Thai basil contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. High in calcium, magnesium, zinc & copper.

Regular consumption of basil is thought to strengthen your immune system.

In the kitchen

Thai basil is used widely in asian cooking for it’s anise/licorice flavour. Can be used as flavouring or garnish.

This flavour can make it unsuitable for mediterranean dishes, pesto etc., but I will use it in place of sweet basil sometimes.

Also makes a delicious and nutritious tea – combines well with many other tea herbs.

Sage

Sage

Botanical name: Salvia officinalis

Some other names: garden sage, common sage, culinary sage

How to grow it:

Sage is a perennial bush to 60cm that likes dry conditions. Can struggle with sub/tropical rains but doesn’t mind the heat.

Plant it in full sun with good drainage – if you find the right conditions it will last a very long time.

It’s great for a pot- preferably terracotta with a well draining potting mix.

Propagated usually by seed, though you can strike cuttings in a well drained mix.

In the kitchen: 

Sage is a really useful herb in the kitchen though only needs to be used sparingly – it’s quite strong.

Great with any meat, eggs, potatoes – an delicious baste can be made by mixing with olive oil & garlic.

Sage has many medicinal properties and great taste so use it freely.

Oregano

Oregano

Botanical name: Origanum vulgare

How to grow it:

Oregano  is a creeping perennial herb that’s super easy to grow and makes a great ground cover. It’s ideal conditions are hot, sunny and dry but I’ve found it does well just about anywhere. Unless your climate is cold – then you may have to treat it as a spring planted annual.

Does well in pots with a more prostrate plant like Rosemary or Bay Leaf – no mulching needed if you get Oregano established.

Really easy to propagate – just divide out some rooted cuttings from an established plant, replant, water in for a few days and mostly your oregano will take off without any further help.

In the Kitchen:

Oregano is a great flavouring herb use fresh or dried and in combinations with other herbs.

Common in mediterranean cuisine used with meat, red sauces, vegetables. Dried leaves sprinkled over salads.

Also makes a delicious, healthy, tonic tea.

Garden mint

Garden mint

Botanical Name: Mentha sachalinensis

How to grow it:

Mint is very easy to grow, but be warned – it can be quite invasive and is likely to overtake any bed it’s planted into. I plant mine in pots to avoid any problems with it’s vigorous roots.

Likes full sun and plenty of moisture. A good idea is to position a pot underneath your garden tap and plant mint – it’ll catch any water from your tap and thrive if it’s sunny enough.

Propagation is very easy – just grab any piece of of the plant with roots – plant it in it’s new spot and keep it moist for a week.

In the kitchen:

Mint is best used fresh as much is lost through drying.

It’s used widely in many different cuisines – salads, raitas, sauces and jellies, as a garnish for curries and casseroles. Chopped finely into yogurt makes a delicious accompaniment to many dishes. If you don’t have coriander for garnish, quite often mint will work as a replacement.

A few sprigs in a jug of ice water makes a very refreshing drink in summer.

Mint also makes a great tonic tea by itself or blended with other tea herbs.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel

Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare

How to grow it: Fennel is a very hardy perennial that prefers full sun, but seems to cope in partly shady conditions too.

Plants respond well to good drainage and regular watering, but handle periods of drought well too.

I grow mostly Florence fennel as it produces a bulbous vegetable and a little bit of Bronze fennel for it’s appearance. Both varieties produce good seed and plenty of leaf growth. The flowers preceding seeds attract wasps into the garden which helps keep pest levels down.

If you ever let a Fennel plant self seed, you’ll find it comes up everywhere in the following season – it’s up to you whether that’s good or bad – I just remove the ones I don’t want like a weed. To avoid rampant self seeding – cut the flower heads of early before they set seed.

You can grow fennel in pots, but I’ve found it can get straggly – the plant has a long tap root which doesn’t like being contained.

Nutrition: Great source of vitamins A,B,C & E, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium & manganese. Fennel has too many medicinal uses to list here, but it is a great tonic to your digestive system, promotes calmness and can improve libido.

 

Using it in the kitchen: Fennel is one of those unique plants in that every part of the plant can be eaten and is used widely. Generally speaking, all parts of the plant have a mild anise flavour.

Firstly the young leaves can be eaten in salads, in egg dishes and as a garnish.

The stems and base can be used as a fresh or cooked vegetable. I like to grow Florence Fennel for it’s thick base which I love to slow roast with garlic and olive oil. Can also be grated into salads, chopped into soups & sliced thinly into stir fries.

fennel-foeniculum-vulgare-2
The bulbous roots of Florence Fennel

The seeds are used in curries and slow cooked meals, and can be chewed to suppress appetite or reduce sugar cravings.

The roots are delicious too as a roasted or steamed vegetable similar to parsnip

 

Fennel is a great survival plant as it self seeds easily and is hardy to most conditions.

 

Lemongrass

Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus

Some other names: Citronella grass, sweet rush, fever grass, camel’s hay

How to grow it:

Lemongrass is a perennial clumping grass to about 1 metre. It is harvested for the green leaves & white tender bases used extensively in Asian cooking.

It originates from a tropical climate and so it will do best in subtropical and tropical climates, but with some frost protection, will grow in cooler areas too. Loves heat and water, so you’ll do much better if you can create that sort of microclimate.

Will do OK in poor soils, but can be amazingly fast growing if given moist, well drained, fertile soil. Responds very well to mulching and high nitrogen fertilisers.

Propogation is by separating the “bulbs” at the base of the plant. Any piece with some roots attached will strike easily. For a large amount of plants, try putting a spade through the centre of your existing patch, dig half the clump up, remove the soil & carefully separate the roots. You’ll get lots of small & large pieces for replanting.

lemongrass-cymbopogon-citratus-2
Lemongrass is easy to propagate by division

Will also do well in pots – keep them mulched, watered and fertilised. Pots could be a very good option in cooler areas as the plant could be moved to a protected position in winter.

Nutrition:Stalks contain Vitamins A, B, & C, iron, chromium, calcium and potassium.

An herbal tea made from the leaves is thought to be good for fever, digestive problems, and is even thought to have anti-cancer properties. Research is continuing.

Using it in the kitchen:

If you enjoy asian cooking, then it should be almost compulsory for you to have lemongrass in your own garden. The distinctive flavour of fresh lemongrass from your own garden cannot be compared to any preserved product, or even fresh product more than a couple of days out of the garden.

Prepare by cutting the stalks off at the base & again where the white parts meet the green parts. Peel off a couple of outer layers to reveal the white tender inner parts of the stalk

Use it with garlic, chilli and/or ginger for a wide range of soups, curries & stir fries.

When cooking soups, I don’t bother cutting the stalks off – I just tie the whole cut plant in a knot, and submerge the lower parts into the broth. You can then just remove prior to serving – the flavour would have all transferred to the soup.

lemongrass-cymbopogon-citratus-3
Lemongrass stalks prepared for use in cooking

You can also use the green parts of the leaves and/or the stalks for making tea – try it with some of your other tea herbs.

Other uses

Lemongrass makes a great source of mulch. Regularly cut the green parts back for mulching garden beds or adding to compost – you can harvest many times a year.

Also a great plant for erosion control and for creating natural barriers for weeds and small animals.

In my book, Lemongrass qualifies as a survival food as it’s so hardy & easy to grow and is great for flavouring food. I’d also use the tea for fever in a survival situation and it’s a useful source of garden mulch.

lemon balm lime balm Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm and Lime Balm

Botanical Name: Melissa officinalis

Some other names: Balm, Bee Balm, Honey plant, Cure all, Melissa

How to grow it:

Lemon Balm is a perennial herb to about 50cm which is so easy to grow it can become invasive. It does well and has a stronger flavour in full sun, but will produce larger, more tender leaves for a longer period if grown in partial shade. I grow it in several patches with varied sunlight and moisture & find that I have it available all year round.

In the subtropics and tropics (where I live) it does better in Autumn to spring, in cooler climates it might die back & resprout in spring.

Will do well in pots if well watered, mulched & fed – again, preferring a partially shaded position.

The simplest way to propogate is by root division- just grab a handful of roots and all from the middle of your patch, separate the pieces and plant directly into the ground. Keep watered for a couple of days and they’ll strike easily. Will also strike well from cuttings or grown from seed.

Nowadays it’s also very easy to obtain in garden outlets or online.

lemon-balm-melissa-officinalis-2
Lemon balm is easily propagated by root division

Nutrition:

Lemon balm contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. It is well known to be calming and sedative – just try grabbing a handful of leaves and take a deep breath with the aroma! Also thought to ba a natural antioxidant.

Using it in the kitchen:

The leaves by themselves are not particularly palatable – a little bit chewy for my liking. Combined with other greens though, they go very well in salads & sandwiches and attract many comments from guests in my home. The lemon flavour is very striking & pleasant.

Leaves can also be added to hot dishes, but you’ll need to add a good handful or two to have much impact flavour-wise.

lemon-balm-melissa-officinalis-3
Leaves used fresh in salads or make a soothing tea.

Probably Lemon Balm’s best known use is as a calming herbal tea. Simply grab two handfuls of leaves and stems per cup of boiled water. Allow to steep for several minutes. Personally, I like to add a variety of different leaves to the lemon balm too.

Other info:

Although I’ve written here about lemon balm, I actually prefer Lime Balm for it’s flavour. It’s an identical plant in apearance & uses, but has a refreshing lime flavour instead of lemon. It might be a little harder to obtain in your local area though.

 

Ginger

How to grow it:

Ginger is a hardy perennial plant that is grown for it’s underground rhizomes and used in cooking, medicine and as a tea.

In nature, Ginger is an understorey plant, and so I tend to plant it under other trees. In commercial cultivation though, it’s grown usually in full sun and no doubt has higher yields.

The main ingredient needed for ginger is warmth. it will do well planted in spring in both subtropical and tropical areas. In cooler areas, you’ll have a shorter growing season and may suffer from smaller rhizomes – still worth growing if you can.

Although tolerant of drought due to the underground rhizome system, ginger does best in moist, well drained situations where it will produce large crops of swollen rhizomes. Best harvest time is when the foliage dies down for winter, but I just harvest it as needed – the rhizomes are smaller, milder & more tender early in the season, and will be much larger & more pungent later in Autumn & winter.

Propogation is by root division in spring – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. In warm areas, you can plant them right up until summer & still get good crops. Just get a piece of root from an organic source, break it up into pieces & plant into position. It strikes very easily.

ginger-zingiber-officinale-2
Ginger rhizomes dug up for division and replanting.

Will do well in pots for a year or two until it becomes potbound & you have to dig it all up & start again.

Nutrition:

High in potassium, manganese, copper & magnesium, and vitmans A & B. Many beneficial herbal actions.

Ginger is thought to be very good for your digestive & circulatory systems and will reduce nausea from morning sickness & motion sickness. Helps ward off colds & flu. Add a few slices to you tea or on it’s own.

 

Using it in the kitchen:

Ginger is mainly used as a spice in both savoury & sweet dishes.

You can grate, chop, mince or slice it into stirfries, curries, soups usually with some garlic & chilli. I find it has a special synergy with sweet potato & pumpkin – try it in your next pumpkin soup for a flavour treat. Also worth trying grated into your favorite meat marinade.

ginger-zingiber-officinale-3
Ginger root straight from the garden

I try and add it to food as much as possible for it’s health benefits, but beware – it can have a dominating flavour or actually taste quite hot.

Stores fairly well in a dark dry spot in the pantry, or can be sliced thinly, dried and reconstituted in water as required (or just added to hot dishes as is).

Ginger is a great survival food for it’s hardiness, it’s long harvesting time, it’s usefulness in cooking & for it’s health benefits.

Galangal

Botanical Name: Alpinia galanga

How to grow it: Galangal is a hardy perennial plant to 2 metres that is grown for it’s underground rhizomes and used to flavour oriental flavoured dishes.

Grows in full sun to shade, handles annual dry seasons well, but responds well to lots of water.

Grows all year round in the subtropics & tropics, and will die back and resprout in spring in cooler areas. Doesn’t like frost, so in cooler areas use as an understorey plant.

For large and easy to harvest rhizomes, plant in a deep, loose soil.

Propogation is by root division basically anytime it’s warm – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. I’ve often struck plants from rhizomes found in fruit and vegetable stores and markets, so keep your eye out.

galangal-alpinia-galanga-2
Galangal propagation by rhizome division

Will do well in pots for a year or two until it becomes potbound & you have to dig it all up & start again.

Using it in the kitchen:

Galangal is used almost exclusively in asian soups, curries & curry pastes. It has a unique aroma that adds authenticity to these dishes, and in my view, cannot be omitted or replaced. Lucky it’s a gorgeous plant & virtually unkillable!

galangal-alpinia-galanga-3
Galangal – irreplaceable for asian food fans

Slice it thinly and add it to soups, or chop it finely and add it to stir fries, curries or curry pastes.

It also has a pleasant perfumy aroma that goes well with herbal teas.

Not the most important of survival plants for it’s very limited use, but it’s really easy to grow & looks great. If you love asian food – it actually is a survival plant!!