Many parts of the US have experienced a winter season that was filled with colder than usual temperatures and record breaking snowfall. It felt like summer would never arrive. When I received an email in late winter from the company I order my seeds from saying it is time to get my garden ready, all I could do was smile with gratitude. For me, planting my herbs and vegetables in spring is a labor of love. They not only provide nourishment but I use them as medicine during the summer and freeze them for the winter months ahead. Studies continually prove the incredible healing benefits of plants as medicine. Whether you have a cold, bug bites, fatigue, anxiety or a stomach ache, the medicine cabinet is right in your garden.
The vegetables and herbs we grow in the summer are lighter in nature than what we eat in the winter and they should be. Since summer is a hot season, it is important to stay hydrated and cool during those months. Anger, hot foods and lack of cooling liquids will throw your body out of balance in the summer. The heat causes us to sweat more so it’s a good idea to eat cooling foods such as cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), summer squash, melons and sweet fruit. Bitter foods also tend to be cooling, such as dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)and kale (Brassica oleracea). I am using the term cool but not cold since foods that are too cold can interfere with digestion.
Getting your vitamins through food is the way to create and maintain good health. The summer allows us the added benefit of being able to get outside and plant herbs and vegetables. I always recommend adding herbs to all your meals. They are easy to grow and have powerful health benefits. Make sure when you are buying seeds or plants that they are non GMO. Here is my list of favorite herbs to grow to keep you healthy all summer long.
BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is probably one of the most used herbs from the garden. It is easy to grow even from seed and they stay hardy all summer long. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an antioxidant and antispasmodic. Chinese medicine uses it to sooth irritated bladder and kidneys as well as for digestive and circulatory problems. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) can help headaches and migraines by increasing blood flow. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)also helps to calm nervous tension. I love to just tear the fresh leaves into green salads. You can also add it to olive oil with some garlic and lemon juice for a nice dressing over salad. There are many different types of basil to experiment with such as Thai, lemon (Citrus x limon), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and purple basil.
CILANTRO (Coriandrum sativum)
This is such a wonderful herb and has become one of my favorites. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is rich in vitamin C. It improves digestion relieving bloating, cramps and flatulence, and can also stimulate appetite and combat bad breath. It is also used as a heavy metal detoxifier. Mostly known from giving salsa its delicious unique flavor, cilantro can be used to enhance so many dishes. It is great made as chutney, which is a staple in many Indian dishes. It is also a great herb in a stir fry with vegetables.
DILL (Anethum graveolens)
Dill became a staple in my herb kitchen after I mistakenly bought it thinking it was parsley for my crab cakes. I was having guests and didn’t have time to go back to the store so I used it. What a find! It added a taste that took the crab cakes up a few notches! Since it has been used to ease bloating, it pairs well with cabbage (Brassica oleracea). It also adds great flavor to steamed vegetables. It has been used as a cure for hiccups, insomnia, and even flatulence. Some consider dill a great booster of the immune system and a natural antibiotic. You can even chew on some dill seeds between meals as a breath freshener.
GARLIC (Allium sativum)
Garlic (Allium sativum) has become the king of all herbs. It is beneficial for heart disease in that it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It is antibacterial and antiviral, good for colds, flu’s and stomach viruses. It protects from some cancers and has been known to stop the growth of cancer cells once they develop. It also is good for asthma and respiratory tract infections. The way to get the most benefit from garlic is to eat it raw. I know that is hard for some of you, however, you can chop it up with some herbs and put it in olive oil to use as a salad dressing or mix it in with your vegetables, soups or pasta’s after you have cooked them…just throw it in at the end. To retain all the nutrients chop the garlic (Allium sativum) and let it sit about ten minutes before cooking. Make sure you buy a firm bulb and make sure the skin is unbroken. Store it at room temperature. It will last up to two months. Once you break off a clove, it will only last about two days.
LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis)
I love lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)! A low maintenance herb, you can easily grow it in your yard, but beware, it spreads and becomes plentiful! The calming properties and effect on the nervous system makes it a great choice for iced tea. It aids in digestion and helps relieve intestinal cramps. The anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it great for viruses as well as healing wounds and cuts. You can also soak the leaves in olive oil and garlic (Allium sativum)and pour over artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) for a nice summer appetizer.
PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)is a hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). The oil in peppermint (Mentha piperita)is revered for helping with indigestion, menstrual cramps and nausea. You can take it as a tea, tincture or syrup, but a nice cup of peppermint (Mentha piperita)tea is great after a big meal or just when your stomach is feeling queasy. A general rule is about 1-2 teaspoons (depending on how strong you like your tea) for a cup of water. Never boil tea leaves, just pour boiling water over the leaves and let them steep for about 5-10 minutes…again, depending on how strong or weak you like it. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)is also an anti-inflammatory and an excellent source of vitamin A and magnesium.
OREGANO (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)oil is antimicrobial which means that it is an agent that destroys microorganisms that might carry disease. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)oil taken internally helps fungal infections and respiratory ailments. Congestion due to coughs, bronchitis and asthma can be greatly helped with oregano (Origanum vulgare).It also promotes menstruation, simulates the appetite and aids in digestion. It is great when making salad dressing and pairs nicely as a marinade with lemon (Citrus × limon) or limes (Citrus aurantifolia). Tomato sauce and pizza would not be complete without a healthy dose of oregano (Origanum vulgare)!
PARSLEY (Petroselinum hortense)
Parsley (Petroselinum hortense)is a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. It is also a good source of fiber. It is a great diuretic and helps those with kidney and bladder problems. It purifies the blood and helps excrete toxins. It strengthens the digestive system and helps the stomach and liver. It also helps women with irregular menstrual cycles. Chewing on a few leaves after dinner can alleviate bad breath. The best way to use it is to chop it up and put it in food after the food is prepared since heat destroys its vitamins and minerals. Parsley (Petroselinum hortense) is also a flavorful addition to potatoes, eggs, fish, pasta, and vegetables.
However you spend the summer, eating whole, natural food, and getting some sunshine from growing it, will keep you healthy all summer long!
Have a great summer!