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Growing Herbs

The English Taught The Americans The Benefits Of Herbs

English countryside home and herb garden

English Home With Herb Gardens

  Historically the English,  and most Europeans,  were ahead of the U.S. in the growing and use of herbs.  In the early 1900's many Europeans wondered why the U.S., with its vast array of land, was not taking advantage of gardening with herbs.   The U.S. had so much land compared to the English and could not understand how we could ignore such vast resources.   Our diet mainly consisted of the use of staples such as potatoes, root vegetables like onions, meat and other "farm" related products.  Nothing was wrong with the nutrition value other than the food did not taste good. 

     For centuries in England and Europe there was a committed effort to enhance the flavor of food using herbs and spices.  The most valued spice being sugar, which was used with wine as a sweetener, and led to sweet wines being something only the Royals could afford.    The addition of sugar made the wines more palatable and thus became associated with wealth because only the "upper crust" could afford such a valuable spice.

     The poor families could not afford spices such as salt, pepper, cinnamon, and other exotic flavorings so they looked for options.   The most apparent option was what was native to the country that grew naturally, yet taste good and enhanced the culinary process.   The answer was herbs.  The English began to experiment with using herbs for seasonings and developed gardens, containers, small areas to grow plants that could be used for flavorings.   This began the interest in herbs.

    About 1900 Mr. M.G. Kains, living in America, Associate Editor of the American Agriculturist, published his book called "Culinary Herbs" to begin to educate the Americans of the vast amount of cheap, harvestable herbs we could use to enhance the culinary experiences of the citizens.   In the preface to the book Mr. Kains stated:

"I can also bear ample witness to the fact that they reduce the cost of high living, if by that phrase is meant pleasing the palate without offending the purse."

 Mr. Kains was well aware of the cost of spices and the attitude that food could only be enhanced with spices that most Americans could not afford.   He wrote the book to educate the Americans on the ways to use popular foods, many root vegetables such as onions, and "recycle" the leftovers flavoring them with herbal seasonings. 

  By using herbs, rather than salt, pepper, sugar one could make very delicious soups, stews, to feed 10 -12 people, for a cost of 25 cents or less.   The ingredients were mainstay, leftovers, but when seasoned with herbs approached the culinary standards of the best cuisine found in England and Europe. 

   His original work became a primer in the U.S. on how to grow, harvest, prepare and cook with herbs.  Much of his original work has survived to present day, with the exception that today we often use herbs as healthy additives for seasonings, rather than excessive non healthy ingredients such as sugar and salt. 

   Over 20 excerpts from the book by Mr. Kains on specific herbs can be found  on the HerbFest website by typing in search, "heritage herbs".  One can begin to learn how any small area, apartment deck, or large garden can be used to produce herbs, not only tasty but also healthy, for small amounts of money.  Raising and using herbs is not just a culinary experience but a lifestyle change that is now being engaged across America.



How To Grow and Use The Marjoram Herb Plant

Marjoram herb plant picture and tag identification  

Sweet Marjoram Is Not To Be Confused With Oregano

Marjoram.—Two species of marjoram now grown for culinary purposes (several others were formerly popular) are members of the Labiatæ or mint family—pot or perennial marjoram (Origanum vulgare, Linn.) and sweet or annual (O. Marjorana). Really, both plants are perennials, but sweet marjoram,because of its liability to be killed by frost, is so commonly cultivated in cold countries as an annual that it has acquired this name, which readily distinguishes it from its hardy relative. Perennial marjoram is a native of Europe, but has become naturalized in many cool and even cold temperate climates. It is often found wild in the Atlantic states in the borders of woods.


Read more: How To Grow and Use The Marjoram Herb Plant


Lavender Fields - Provence

Lavender herb fields of Provence, France

Beautiful Lavender Fields of Provence

Lavender, (Lavendula vera, D. C.; L. Angustifolia, Moench.; L. spica, Linn.), a half-hardy perennial undershrub, native of dry, calcareous uplands in southern Europe. Its name is derived from the Latin word Lavo, to wash, a distillation of the flowers being anciently used in perfuming water for washing the body. The plant forms a compact clump 2 to 2½ feet tall, has numerous erect stems, bearing small, linear gray leaves, above which the slender, square, flower stems arise. The small violet-blue flowers are arranged in a short, terminal spike, and are followed by little brown, oblong, shiny seeds, with white dots at the ends, attached to the plant. The seeds remain viable for about five years.

Cultivation.—Lavender succeeds best on light, limy or chalky soil, but will do well in any good loam. In gardens it is usually employed as an edging for flower beds, and is most frequently propagated by division or cuttings, seed being used only to get a start where plants cannot be secured in the other ways mentioned. In cold climates the plants must either be protected or removed to a greenhouse, or at least a cold frame, which can be covered in severe weather. The seed is sown indoors during March, and if crowding, pricked out 2 inches asunder. When the ground has become warm, the plants are set in the open 15 to 20 inches asunder. It delights in a sunny situation, and is most fragrant on poor soil. Rich soil makes the plant larger but the flowers poorer in perfume.

Uses.—The plant is sometimes grown for a condiment and an addition to salads, dressings, etc., but its chief use is in perfumery, the flowers being gathered and either dried for use in sachet bags or distilled for their content of oil. In former years no girl was supposed to be ready for marriage until, with her own hands, she had made her own linen and stored it with lavender. And in some sections the lavender is still used, though the linen is nowadays purchased.

   In southern France and in England considerable areas are devoted to lavender for the perfumery business. The flower stems are cut in August, covered at once with bast matting to protect them from the sun and taken to the stills to obtain the thin, pale yellow, fragrant oil. Four-year-old plants yield the greatest amount of oil, but the product is greater from a two-year plantation than from an older one, the plants then being most vigorous. Two grades of oil are made, the best being used for lavender water, the poorer for soap making. In a good season about one pound of oil is obtained from 150 to 200 pounds of the cut plants.


Hyssop, A Bible Herb

Hyssop Plant Flowers For Landscaping

Hyssop For Landscaping & Colorful Hardy Flowers.

   Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis, Linn.), a perennial evergreen undershrub of the Labiatæ, native of the Mediterranean region. Though well known in ancient times, this plant is probably not the one known as hyssop in Biblical writings. According to the Standard Dictionary the Biblical "hyssop" is "an unidentified plant ... thought by some to have been a species of marjoram (Origanum maru); by others, the caper-bush (Capparis spinosa); and by the author of the 'History of Bible Plants,' to have been the name of any common article in the form of a brush or a broom." In ancient and medieval times hyssop was grown for its fancied medicinal qualities, for ornament and for cookery. Except for ornament, it is now very little cultivated. Occasionally it is found growing wild in other than Mediterranean countries.

  Description.—The smooth, simple stems, which grow about 2 feet tall, bear lanceolate-linear, entire leaves and small clusters of usually blue, though sometimes pink or white flowers, crowded in terminal spikes. The small, brown, glistening three-angled seeds, which have a little white hilum near their apices, retain their viability three years. Leaves, stems and flowers possess a highly aromatic odor and a hot, bitter flavor.

  Cultivation.—Hyssop succeeds best in rather warm, limy soil. It may be readily propagated by division, cuttings, and seed. In cold climates the last way is the most common. Seed is sown in early spring, either in a cold frame or in the open ground, and the seedlings transplanted in early summer. Even where the plants survive the winters, it is advisable to renew them every three or four years. When grown in too rich soil, the growth will be very lush and will lack aroma. Plants should stand not closer than 6 inches in the rows, which should be at least 18 inches apart. They do best in partial shade.

  Uses.—Hyssop has almost entirely disappeared from culinary practice because it is too strong-flavored. Its tender leaves and shoots are, however, occasionally added to salads, to supply a bitter taste. The colorless oil distilled from the leaves has a peculiar odor and an acrid, camphorescent taste. Upon contact with the air it turns yellow and changes to a resin. From 400 to 500 pounds of the fresh plant yield a pound of oil. The oil is used to some extent in the preparation of toilet articles.


Finocchio, Fennel Herbs Are Different

Fennel (Fœniculum officinale, All.), a biennial or perennial herb, generally considered a native of southern Europe, though common on all Mediterranean shores. The old Latin name  derived from fœnum or hay. It has spread with civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world, upon dry soils near the sea coast and upon river banks.

Sweet Fennel
Sweet Fennel

It seems to be partial to limestone soils, such as the chalky lands of England and the shelly formation of Bermuda. In this latter community I have seen it thriving upon cliffs where there seemed to be only a pinch of soil, and where the rock was so dry and porous that it would crumble to coarse dust when crushed in the hand. The plant was cultivated by the ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots.

Read more: Finocchio, Fennel Herbs Are Different


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