When it comes to landscaping, there are two kinds of people. Those who could spend hours on end cutting grass, trimming bushes and flowers, proudly posing next to their recently awarded yard of the month club sign. Then you have others who would rather cement the entire yard, paint it green and call it done forever! Fortunately for us, we enjoy our time outside piddling around the homestead constantly looking for ways to maximize what we have been blessed with.
Drive through our area and you will see the front of most homes will be decorated with rose bushes, juniper shrubs or hydrangeas, just to name a few of the more popular foliage selections. But if you sit back and think about it, besides the visual aspect, what need are they fulfilling for you and your family? As homesteaders, especially those who are more in an urban environment, utilizing you’re space to its full potential is the key. One overlooked area which is prime for this is the flower bed area around your porch. It is extremely easy to find plants to fill up your flower bed that are not only beautiful to look at, but will provide sustenance for you’re family. Were going to cover a few of our favorites, both for cooking at medicinal uses, that will provide for years to come.
At a glance
This is without question one of our favorite herbs to use. Rosemary is reasonably hardy in cool climates and can withstand droughts, surviving for long periods of time without water. You can find either upright or trailing forms of Rosemary; the upright forms can reach 5′ tall, and serve as beautiful hedges. The plant flowers in spring and summer in areas with mild temperatures, but the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates; flowers are white, pink, purple or deep blue.
Rosemary is is a very aromatic and pungent herb, with a strong flavor, so you do not need to be heavy handed in its use. Its leaves have pronounced lemon-pine flavor that marries well with lamb, garlic, and olive oil. You can stuff poultry with whole springs or on top of fish while cooking. Chopped finely , you can add it to bread dough, and of course any pasta sauce to give it a nice fragrant flavor. Rosemary infused oil is amazing for cooking or as a dipping oil for bread. But our favorite is rosemary and garlic pan seared steak! (Yes, there will be a recipe coming for that!)
There is a book out there we recommend everyone go out and buy called Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs. It is one of the best referenced you can find for medicinal herbs, with detailed instructions on how to identify, grow and the medicinal uses for herbs. The rosemary herb is one of the most beneficial plants you can find. For centuries it has been identified for its ability to improve concentration, memory, cellular uptake of oxygen, eases headaches and migraines. It is also known to be a circulatory stimulant, acting as a circulatory stimulant, and useful for issues related to cardiovascular system, poor circulation and low blood pressure. Tea’s and tinctures are the most popular ways to ingesting rosemary.
At a glance
Lavender is one of the more popular household herbs you will find for their beautiful flowers and aroma the plant itself gives off. The most popular species of lavender which surprisingly a member of the mint family, known as Lavandula angustifolia. It can grow between 3 – 6 foot tall, and produces a fragrant pinkish – purple flower, and is the inspiration for the color lavender. There are a wide range of uses for the flowers and evergreen like leaves from oils, perfumes and when dried, prevents moths from attacking your clothes.
In the past lavender was generally used as a garnish or in salads and dressings, but recently those in the culinary world have found new ways to incorporate it into various dishes. The “greens” of the plant have been found to be a milder version of rosemary and a great compliment to it when included in pork and fish dishes. It also makes a wonderful herbal tea and added to goats milk makes for a wonderful cheese. The flowers can be dried and added to baked goods and deserts, especially chocolate. Also the nectar from the flowers are highly attractive to honey bees, which in turn creates a very fragrant and sought after honey.
Lavender is well known for its calming effects. Massage therapists around the work incorporate it into their therapies to assist in relieving tension, stress while warding off depression and melancholy. It also is effective as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It assists in treating a multitude of infections to include staph, strep colds and flu. You can also mix combine it with tea tree oil to treat fungal infections such as ringworm and nail fungus. It is also effective in relieving indigestion and helpful with calming stomach muscle spasms associated with IBS and Chrohn’s disease. And who doesn’t love a shower or bath with some fresh homemade lavender goats milk soap!
At a glance
Wormwood is a herbaceous, perennial plant with fibrous roots. The stems are straight, growing from 2 – 4 foot tall, it has a grooved, branched, and silvery-green appearance. In the 19th century it was used as the main ingredient for absinthe, a strong spirit made from wormwood, anise and fennel. Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso were all known to drink absinthe and some feel it help induce their creativity due to its hallucinogenic effects. Although absinthe is illegal in the U.S. it can still be found in Europe. Wormwood contains thujone, a GABAA receptor antagonist that can cause epileptic-like convulsions and kidney failure when not used correctly and ingested in large amounts.
With the exception of absinthe, there are no other viable uses for Wormwood in cooking but is known and used strictly for its medicinal purposes.
The medicinal applications for Wormwood are vast. Studies have shown that herbal drug artemisinin, which is derived from wormwood, can kill iron-enriched breast cancer, making it a potential natural cancer treatment option for women with breast cancer. It is also used to eliminate intestinal parasites such as pinworms and roundworms and wormwood essential oil contains an antimicrobial activity which can fight E. Coli and Salmonella. Studies show that herbal remedies like wormwood are as good or even better at fighting small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO symptoms. Research has also found that it is excellent for individuals who suffer from Crohn’s disease with controlling and in some cases helping it go into remission.
St. John’s Wort
At a glance
Perforate St John’s wort is a herbaceous perennial plant with extensive, creeping rhizomes. Its stems are erect, branched in the upper section, and can grow to 3 feet tall. It has opposite, stalkless, narrow, oblong leaves that are are yellow-green in color, with scattered translucent dots. The dots are conspicuous when held up to the light, giving the leaves the ‘perforated’ appearance. Despite its medicinal applications and benefits, some consider it an invasive plant. It eaten in large quantities, it can be hazardous to live stalk and grazing animals.
There are no culinary applications for St. John’s Wort.
It is a well known fact that St. John’s Wort is extremely effective in the treatment of depression, there is research being conducted on the expanded benefits. Studies have found St. John’s Wort helps with menopausal mood swings, addiction and withdrawl, hormonal withdraw, anti-inflammatory agent and as a topical to treat burns, scrapes and bruises. Cancer research has recently begun putting more faith in the role that St. John’s Wort could possibly play. Research has shown a definite correlation between the prevention and treatment of leukemia with consistent use of St. John’s Wort supplements. Any cancer-preventing substance is highly valued, and this research will certainly be ongoing.
These are a few of the herbs and plants we currently have growing around our home and garden. Maximizing the space you have is extremely important and finding alternative areas for your various herbs and plants can give you’re home a beautiful landscaped look while at the same time offer many culinary and medicinal resources. Hope this helps with a little in-site and happy planting!
~ Brian and Angela
*Disclaimer: Prior to using any medications whether synthetic or natural, be sure to consult your physician to ensure they are right for you.