My dad’s five acres in the California foothills looks to be a tangle of overgrowth, dotted here and there with an abandoned beehive or garden tool. If may not look like much, but just say “herb walk” to local naturalists and watch their eyes light up! For years, Dad has led herb walks up and down his gnarled pathways and through the out-of-control weeds. (“You only call them weeds because you don’t know their purpose,” my dad chides me.)
Dad is filled with tales of the healing powers of herbs. And considering the fact that he’s an active 91 years old, I can’t argue with him.
After following my father around, I know a lot more about herbs than I used to. I know that peppermint is a good settler of stomaches, for instance, and that it eases muscles cramps. I know that lemon balm calms anxiety and lifts one’s mood, and that sage helps a sore throat. I know that rosemary reduces joint pain and–oh yes–boosts the memory. I know that valerian soothes the body and quiets the soul, and is a better sleep aid than a glass of warm milk.
No one need visit my house and expect an herb walk. But I do love having an herb garden. It’s really quite easy. Most nurseries have a variety of plants available, and you can grow them in pots. Just be sure to choose a sunny spot. During your herbs’ growing season, cut the plants back frequently, as that encourages them to keep on growing. Oh, and keep them moist, especially in the heat of summer.
So how do you get the herbs from your garden and into you? My favorite way is a cup of tea. Just pour a cup of boiling water over six or so leaves, and steep for five minutes, then strain. (For valerian tea, chop up 1-2 tablespoons of root in place of the leaves.)
My dad has lots more herbs than that, but I can’t remember the specifics. Maybe I should make myself a cup of rosemary tea. I could use the memory boost!
God Almighty first planted a garden.
Francis Bacon, Of Gardens