“As Rosemary is to the spirit, so Lavender is to the soul.”
Botanists define herbaceuous plants as “plants without woody stems that can be used for fragrance, flavor and medicinal purposes.” (http://www.herbsociety.org) A much more encompassing definition from Taylor’s Guide to Herbs: “A plant with some particular use(s), because it provides some particular kind(s) of chemical compounds or raw materials.”
Medicinal herbs are best used under the supervision of an herbalist or physician of which I am neither. For the sake of space (and safety) I’ve listed herb and edible flowers I grow and how I’ve found them to be useful. NEVER eat any flower if you are unsure of it’s identity, if you have allergies or if it came from an unknown source.
The best time to harvest herbs is early morning just after the dew has dried. Dry them on a screen in a dark spot with good air circulation. Herbs can also be easily freeze-dried by washing, patting dry and packing into freezer bags.
- Anise hyssop- The mild licorice flavored purple flowers and leaves make a soothing tea.
- Angelica- A tall and branching plant with white flowers. Stalks are used like celery and can be candied (I’ve not tried that).
- Borage- Beautiful star shaped blue flowers with a cucumber flavor. Good in punch, cold soups, eggs and salad. Also a natural way to attract bees to the garden, they adore it!
- Calendula- Only the petals are edible. They may be used to make a faint yellow dye for natural fibre yarns, fabrics etc.
- Chamomile- Cheery button-like daisy flowers with a faint apple flavor make a soothing tea, a blonde hair rinse and a spray for seedlings that prevents damping-off.
- Carnation- Also called “clove pinks” (not florist carnations)have a faint clove flavor good for tea, potpourris and soaps.
- Chives (onion and garlic) Grassy foliage and purple flowers have mild onion and garlic flavors tasty in salads and vinegars.
- Cornflower (bachelor’s buttons) Light clove-like spicy flavor good in salads and herbal vinegars.
- Dandelion- Not a weed but an herb! The greens are tasty wilted and dressed, also used for making wine (haven’t done that).
- Daylily- (not lilies) The unopened flower buds are delicious sauteed, they taste like asparagus.
- Lavender- The purple and pink flowers are perfect for vinegars, herbs de provence, jelly, teas, sachets and herbal bath mixes.
- Marigold- (tagetes) Cheerful red and orange blossoms are pretty in salads and punches.
- Nasturtiums- Leaves are used in sandwiches and salads and have a peppery flavor, green seeds are pickled like capers.
- Rose- Petals are delightful in potpourris, sachets and bath mixes. Use petals and hips for fruity jellies and jams and rosewater.
- Violet- The sweet flavor is lovely in teas and salads and used for baking. Violets are also wonderful for soaps and sachets.
- Anise- Leaves and seeds have licorice flavor. Good for baking and seasoning. Annual.
- Tarragon- (French only,please!) Good for flavoring fish, chicken and vinegars. Perennial shrub.
- Sage- Use fresh or dried to season meats and stuffings, also good with winter squash. Perennial.
- Basil- Use fresh or dried in pestos, sauces, vinegars, stir fries, jellies, teas and salads. Annual.
- Thyme- Good with poultry and mixed with other herbs for sauces, dressings etc. Short-lived perennial.
- Marjoram- Milder version of oregano. Annual.
- Oregano- Pungent. Used for pizza, sauces and meat seasoning. Large, shrubby perennial.
- Fennel- Feathery fronds used to flavor fish, bulbous base ideal substitute for celery, seeds used in sausage. Mild licorice flavor.
- Dill- Great for fish,vegetables, sauces and dips. Fresh flower heads are good for pickles. Annual.
- Chives- Pretty clumps with mild onion flavor can be used as onions are.
- Cilantro- Pungent herb used in salsas. Annual.
- Savory- The “bean herb” also good with eggs, soups and sauces. Annual.
- Chervil- Good with fish and all egg dishes. Parsley flavor. Annual that prefers shade.
- Parsley- Used as garnish as well as in soups, sauces, meat and egg dishes. Versatile and full of vitamin A and C. Biennial.
- Mint- Rampant grower flavors dips, teas, sauces, jellies, marinades and candy. Perennial.
- Rosemary- Very good with poultry and lamb, used in dressings,teas. Aromatic shrub considered an annual in zone 6 and below, but can be overwintered with some success.
- Lovage- Tall stalks with abundant celery-like leaves. Perennial.
- Lemon Balm- Officially known as Melissa, it’s a hardy perennial that self-sows easily. The leaves have a delightful lemon scent and flavor and are wonderful for baking, teas and used as an ingredient in hand lotions, herbal bath mixes and lip balm.