My 5 favorite herbs and how I use them

Herbs are some of the easiest things to grow, hands down. Proof is, even I am capable of keeping them alive and thriving. Many of them will spread like weeds if you let them, popping up every spring without any effort on your part. Herbs are usually pretty tolerant when it comes to soil type and sun and shade balance.

Here are my top five favorite herbs, which I use for tea, seasoning, remedies, or all of the above.

1. Mint

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With its refreshing, invigorating smell, mint makes delicious tea that is great either hot or cold. Mint is great for colds and digestive complaints.

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We had a glorious sage bush at our old home, but here, my poor little sage plant took some assaults from the chickens, who insisted on digging around it and trampling it for some reason (they don’t eat it, though – it’s a bonus point for chicken keepers. Sharp-smelling herbs are about the only thing chickens find unappetizing).

Anyway, my sage plant seems to be in recovery now, and is flowering. Which makes me really happy, because sage tea is a powerful decongestant and great for sore throats.

3. Rosemary

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My rosemary is still young, but its mother plant is a big arborescent bush.

Rosemary has some potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, and I just love it in cooking. It’s divine with oven-baked fish and roast potatoes.

4. Oregano (thanks to the readers who pointed out the correct name of this herb! It’s sometimes easy to get confused when the guy at the plant nursery assures you he’s selling you something which it is, in fact, not 😁)

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This is another herb I appreciate primarily for its culinary uses. It’s great either chopped fresh or dried and crushed – thoroughly air-dried herbs will keep almost indefinitely, retaining most of their properties.

I love it in bread, chicken roast, soup, and much more.

5. Lemongrass

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I adore the way this plant looks – like a giant spiky tuft of grass. It makes delicious tea, which I love to drink while breastfeeding as, unlike mint and sage, it doesn’t negatively affect milk supply.

If you’re planning a garden, herbs are one of the best places to start. I would say that at the very least, climate permitting, you should have the trio of mint, sage, and rosemary. They are perennial, hardy, easy to grow, smell delicious, and repel insects – what’s not to love?

From our backyard

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The little quail pen. It’s easy to move so that they can dig in a fresh place from time to time.

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An inside shot of the quail: the darker one is the female. Raising them has been fun and I can’t wait to try hatching their eggs (which, by the way, make delicious tiny omelets).

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The upgraded chicken coop: now on a raised netting-covered platform. Most of the poop falls right through the netting, which reduces the mess and smell.

Clockwise: sage, mint, rosemary, lemon balm.

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Tomato seedlings are in the ground.

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Two of my favorite repotted geraniums. They are incredibly easy to propagate: just cut a piece, stick it in moist potting soil, and it will soon sprout roots. I’ve been making little plants to give to neighbors this way.

As you can see, we’ve been busy and enjoying the nice weather. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe.

Can you feel the spring?

The end of February is probably the time when everything around here is the freshest and greenest. After a week of rain, I went out to see my little garden completely covered with unruly weeds – but all my plants looking healthy and invigorated all the same.

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The tomatoes are actually starting to grow tiny fruit! I’ve tied the vines to the fence to keep them from sprawling over the ground.

DSC_1098My little papaya is really beginning to shoot up

The mint and hyssop are looking nice and fresh. So do our potted celery and beet greens.

I hope that even those of you who are still snowed in will get to feel the breath of spring soon. As for the folks at the southern hemisphere, who are gearing up for autumn, I’m wishing you a cozy, snug winter with many cups of tea, good books, and crafts.

Bright and cheery

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I just love how bright and cheery the garden looks after some heavy rains and with a nice bit of sunshine and warmth. Yes, the tomatoes are actually blooming! It feels like spring.

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The garlic is growing at amazing speed too. The fresh green leaves are delicious in salads.

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Almond tree in full bloom – quite seasonable for the month of Shvat in Israel.

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This gorgeous little fellow was darting to and fro among the flowers, and I managed to capture it during a moment of rest.

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Beautiful winter roses. What can be prettier?

Listen to the rain

Time for another garden update! I’m really behind on weeding, because we’ve had so much rain and the outdoors are so chilly and unwelcoming, but at least things are growing.

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Tomatoes – one of the varieties we’ve planted.

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My husband’s container potatoes. It’s his special pet project.

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White beans… I did do some weeding here since this photo was snapped.

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Garlic shoots are just poking out of the earth.

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A row of mustard – we enjoy the tender young leaves in a variety of soups, stews and salads.

What about you? Growing anything? Or are you waiting for the thaw?

Making the land come alive

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When we first arrived at this new home of ours, I looked around and said in despair, “there was beautiful, living land all around. Why would the owner choose to kill it by smothering it in concrete?”

I mean, I know some people aren’t really into growing stuff. All they want is a hassle-free, low-maintenance yard with no mud, weeds or critters. I get it, I really do. But there are options that are less damaging, less ugly, and less permanent than concrete. Breaking concrete apart can be difficult and costly for those who aren’t used to this kind of work and don’t have the right equipment.

We didn’t give up, of course. We’re too stubborn for that.

Read more in my recent Mother Earth News post:

“There’s nothing like having the freedom to grow and raise whatever you want on your own piece of rural land, but town living has its potential for homesteading and sustainability. Our gas costs have dropped dramatically since we no longer need to drive for every little errand. Also, in a larger local network of people, there is bigger potential for swapping, trading and giving things away.”

After the rain

We’ve had some lovely refreshing rain here lately, and all our plants are looking so invigorated (as are we). Is there anything nicer than stepping out after a rain and breathing in all the fresh smells of earth and grass?

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We have a huge mango tree that provides delicious shade and, hopefully, will bear fruit this season.

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My big, beautifully propagating aloe plant.

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And flowers that are finally beginning to show some color.

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