The Edible Garden – Let Food Be Your Medicine

Spring is here and along with it comes warmer weather, blossoming flowers, longer daylight hours and buzzing bees.

Many of us have herbs growing in our gardens and often don’t think to use them in everyday life. Many herbs can be eaten, added into cooking for enhancing flavour as well as looking colourful and aiding digestion.  Herbs can help protect against diseases, clear toxins from the body, provide additional vitamins and minerals

Plants that come in spring such as cleavers or chickweed aid as a natural detoxifier after the long winter months. Cleavers is also called goosegrass and the hair sticks to everything it touches. It is very useful in treating skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema as well as being useful for a variety of diseases relating to the urinary system. This ‘weed’ also stimulates the lymphatic system.

Cleavers:  Take a good handful of herb, macerate, put into a jug, fill with fresh water and leave overnight and drink in the morning

Chickweed:  In Spring it is everywhere. It can be eaten in salads or juiced and added into a cream to help soothe inflammed skin such as eczema.  Or blend chickweed with walnuts and a little olive oil and garlic to make a quick, delicious pesto.

Calendula: Flower petals can be added into salads and have bitter properties to help stimulate the digestion as well as helping the lymphatic system. It combines well with St. John’s wort flowers to help soothe itchy, inflamed skin.

Rosemary:  A wonderful herb used by the Ancient Greeks to help improve memory and focus and concentration and often a sprig was placed behind the ear during exams. It can be added to roasted vegetables with a drizzle with olive oil or added to omelettes and frittatas. Rosemary and thyme can be used together – chop enough thyme and rosemary to cover half a piece of fish, add chopped pinenuts or walnuts in equal parts to the herbs, season with salt and pepper, place on top of fish and bake

Thyme:  Has antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, as well as being an antioxidant. Thyme is a powerful antiseptic for both internal and external use and before the invention of modern antibiotics it was used to medicate bandages. It can be used for coughs and a gargle may ease a sore throat or added with garlic, basil and oregano to tomato paste or sauce for pizza and pasta

Sage:  Another microbial herb and a mouth antiseptic. A gargle of sage can help tonsillitis, laryngitis or gingivitis or a cup of sage tea daily can help with menopausal hot flushes.  You can also mix 1 cup of cooked haricot beans with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage and garlic and serve on baguette slices as an Italian bruschetta or used in stuffing or when baking chicken or fish. The ancient Greeks and Romans first used sage as a meat preserver

Lemon balm:  Makes a refreshing drink on hot summer day and can assist with sleep. It has a pleasant lemon minty flavour. It can also be picked and eaten or even added into salads

Dandelion: the bane of many gardeners, however this ‘weed’ has a use in digestion. Being bitter in nature it helps to gently stimulate the liver. The root can be grated into salads along with the leaves which help the kidneys. When the seeds are blown off a dandelion it was said to carry thoughts and affections to a loved one.

When picking or wild-crafting herbs make sure that you are selecting the correct plant and species of herb and revert to the saying ‘If in doubt leave it out’.

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