7 Essential Italian Herbs for your Garden and Personal Health

Posted on Feb 03, 2011 in DIY Projects, Health, Food News, & Big Pharma, Urban Gardening, Farming & Homesteading

Kevin Hayden - TruthisTreason.net

Source: Cordite Country

The rich delight of fine Italian cuisine is enjoyed everywhere in the world. The colorful array of flavors that excite the pallet can be largely attributed to the refined blend of herbs that has been grown by this wonderful nation for centuries in herb gardens.

Many people prepare Italian cuisine at home for their families and some even grow the plants and herbs needed in their own garden to keep a fresh and flavorful supply. If you wish to start supplying your family with fresh, healthy foods, this is a list of the seven most-used herbs to assure a complete authentic Italian herb garden.

1. Garlic is probably the most used herb to be grown in the garden and is the basic ingredient in many Italian dishes. One thing is certain, a garden that doesn’t grow garlic cannot be considered an Italian garden. This herb can be planted and will thrive requiring very little attention. Once harvested, they can be frozen or pickled and stored in the refrigerator for later use.

How to Grow Garlic at Home

Garlic is grown from the individual cloves. Each clove will produce one plant with a single bulb – which may in turn contain up to twenty cloves. Growing garlic is therefore self-sustaining.

When planting garlic, choose a garden site that gets plenty of sun and where the soil is not too damp. The cloves should be planted individually, upright and about an inch (25 mm) under the surface. Plant the cloves about 4 inches (100 mm) apart. Rows should be about 18 inches (450 mm) apart.

It is traditional to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year. Whether this is for symbolic or practical reasons is unclear and is probably intended for the actual Italian region.

When is the best time to plant garlic in the home garden? The answer is, “it depends”.

In the USA and parts of Europe, garlic can be planted either in the early spring or late fall / early winter.

Spring Planting

Poor weather conditions often mean that spring planted garlic produces smaller bulbs. In addition the seed garlic must be chilled before planting in order to cause it to break out of its dormancy. That said, spring garlic planting can produce good results in the warmer Southern areas where it is often planted in late February or March. It also removes any possibility of the plant being damaged by the winter cold.

Autumn / Fall Planting

In more Northerly areas it more common to plant garlic towards the end of the year. In Europe there is a tradition of planting garlic on the shortest day of the year, however this is probably more for symbolic reasons than horticultural ones.

The usual advice to gardeners is to plant fall garlic soon after the first major frost of the year, usually between mid-October and late November depending on your local climate. Garlic is generally winter hardy, however can be damaged if the temperatures are very cold and the snow cover thin. If this is the case, cover the garlic with straw to protect it.

If all is well then the shoots of fall planted garlic should emerge from the ground in early spring. If not then you still have the opportunity to plant a spring crop.

Harvesting Your Garlic Crop

As garlic reaches maturity, the leaves will brown then die away. This is the cue that it is time to harvest your garlic crop. If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split.

Proper handling of garlic after it’s been picked is almost as important as looking after it whilst it’s growing. It’s essential that garlic is dried properly, otherwise it will rot. The bulbs are often hung up in a cool, dry place. After a week or so, take them down and brush the dirt off gently – don’t wash the bulbs at this stage.

For centuries, garlic has been considered a “cure-all” and is said to be able to treat just about every ailment from the cold to the Plague!

  • Acne – Most people at some point in their lives suffer from acne to some degree. Companies make a fortune selling facial washes and creams to help. The problem is that there are many reasons for acne including hormones, diet and stress. Although garlic on its own is unlikely to cure acne, it can certainly be used in conjunction with other treatments.

Garlic is thought to work because of its antibiotic and blood cleansing properties. When using garlic in your food, make sure your crush and chop it up. This will help release the active compounds. Another way to take garlic is by placing a few cloves in a bottle of olive oil and then drizzle it over a salad.

  • Cardiovascular Health and High Cholesterol – If you enjoy eating Mediterranean or Far Eastern food you’ll notice that garlic is used a lot. The good news is that people from areas also have low incidences of cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol can be a confusing area of health. On one hand it is essential whilst on the other hand it can kill us. This is because there are two types of Cholesterol – HDL and LDL. The latter type is considered bad. Modern medicine has found that garlic contains allicin which scavenges hydroxyl radicals (OH). This is thought to prevent LDLs from being oxidized.

  • Antioxidant – Allicin naturally increases antioxidant enzymes atalase and glutathione peroxidase in your blood. It can help against the damaging effects of nicotine and slows the aging process of your liver by inhibiting lipid peroxidation.
  • Anti-Bacterial – Garlic has 1% of the potency of penicillin and can ward off a number of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptococcal meningitis, Candida albican and Staphylococcus. The problem with most antibiotics is that bacteria develops resistance to them, however this is not the case with garlic.

These benefits were first realized back in the early 19th century when English priests caught infectious fever. The French priests, who ate garlic everyday, didn’t.

  • Blood Clots – Clinical trials, which were published in the Journal of Hypertension, showed that the blood pressure of volunteers was reduced 1 – 5% after taking garlic supplements. This may not sound a lot but this small reduction can reduce the chance of a stroke by 30-40% and heart disease by 20-25%
  • What about Garlic Breath?

Despite all the health benefits of garlic you may feel that “garlic breath” is too much of a deterrent. If this is the case you can take Odorless Garlic Supplement instead.

  • Some Pointers about Garlic:-
  • Garlic is most effective when crushed or chopped and when raw.
  • One clove a day will improve your health and 2-3 cloves will help prevent a cold.
  • When cooking garlic wait until the last 10 minutes of cooking to add the garlic.
  • Be careful about taking too much as it can irritate your digestive system.
  • Don’t microwave garlic as this kills the active ingredients.
  • Don’t take garlic instead of a healthy balanced diet.
  • Garlic supplements may interact with certain drugs such as anticoagulants.
  • Always consult a doctor if you are unsure about anything.

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2. Basil is among the most commonly used herb. Its distinctive flavor is the soul of Italian cuisine and it also offers certain benefits to the garden itself. This herb repels flies and mosquitoes in the garden and, if planted nearby, will improve the taste of tomatoes and peppers.

How to Grow Basil

From the mint family sweet basil is the most popular variety and one of the easiest herbs to grow. Grown in the outdoor garden, basil is a tender annual that needs harvesting at season’s end.

However, you can also grow basil in an indoor herb garden and have fresh basil year round.

Basil in Containers

Aromatic Herbs in Containers are a superb way to have them handy year around. Even your annual herbs are doing well in pots, but stick to one species per container. Growing Herbs is a great hobby that can have has nice gastronomical and health effects.

Basil and Thyme are the perfect couple, and are a great pair to grow together.

Planting Basil in Your Garden  – The Plant Loves Sun

transplanting basil seedlings

Basil seedlings are spindly and fragile, which makes transplanting difficult. The easiest way to add basil to your outdoor garden is from seed.

start basil early spring

Start in the spring once all danger of frost is past. Basil, like other mints, is a sun-loving plant that isn’t too fussy about the soil it occupies as long as it is moisture retentive with good drainage.

Garden grown basil seldom needs fertilization. Once established, it is also quite drought resistant. However, if you do water, tepid water will promote faster growth than cold water.

In addition to sweet basil, choose your seeds from over 160 varieties in a range of fragrances that include lemon, licorice, and cinnamon as well as the minty-fresh fragrance of traditional sweet basil. Foliage colors range from the traditional green to deep purple and many cultivars also bloom with attractive flowers.

Growing From Seed

Cover seeds with about ¼ inch of soil, water, and you should see sprouts in about a week. Once seedlings develop a half-dozen leaves, thin your row so transplants are six to twelve inches apart.

Care for Basil Seedlings

When seedlings are about six inches tall, pinch off the tops to promote more leaf growth and keep your basil from becoming “leggy”. You can also begin harvesting basil when it is young and sweet.

Cut single leaves just about anytime. If cutting whole stems, make the cut above a pair of leaves. New growth will continue and preserve the plant for future use. In fact regular use of your basil can substitute for pruning, which is necessary to keep stems moist and tender and keep plants from becoming woody. In addition, be sure to pinch off blossoms as they appear.

Because basil is a mint, it can be very invasive. While basil needs to be weed-free, it also needs to be kept under control or your herb garden may end up being your basil bed!

Harvesting Basil

At the end of an outdoor growing season, harvest the remainder of your basil by cutting the stems and freezing or drying them for winter use.

  • Add aroma to your kitchen. Bind stems together and hang bunches to air dry. Dry individual leaves on a cookie sheet. After they’re dry, crumble them and store them in a covered glass jar. If moisture develops, immediately remove and dry longer. Either a sieve or a paper towel works well to re-dry crumbled basil.
  • Freezing basil helps preserve its fresh-from-the-garden flavor. Freeze harvested basil whole in plastic freezer bags to easily break or cut the exact amount you need to add flavor to any recipe. Also freeze chopped basil leaves in an ice cube tray as “basil cubes”, an easy way to add fresh flavor to soups and stews.

Grow Basil in a Container

Plant container grown basil in a similar way to how you sow seed in your garden. Growing basil indoors is packed with several advantages in addition to fresh flavor for culinary purposes.

Consider planting several different varieties in a strawberry pot. This keeps each variety in place, and if you choose cultivars with various fragrances, foliage, and flower attributes, you’ll have fresh grown potpourri as well as eye-candy for your kitchen!

To plant basil in a strawberry pot, fill the pot with dirt to the first opening. Plant seeds in that opening and water. Continue the same method to the top of your pot, planting a few seeds for each cultivar in each opening. Plant sweet basil in the top of the pot since it is the one you probably most often will use in cooking.

Container grown basil does have some special needs over that grown in the garden.

  • Use well-drained, nutrient rich potting soil and check the pH every four to six weeks. Although basil isn’t fussy about soil composition, it will grow best in a soil with about a 6.0 to 7.5 pH. Maintain pH with a good organic fertilizer at about half the recommended strength on the label.
  • Keep the earth moist, but not soggy. After watering, drain excess water from the plant saucer.
  • If a sunny window isn’t available, grow your basil under artificial lighting. Ten to twelve hours a day under a fluorescent shop fixture is an economical way to provide your plants with the light requirements they need.

Historically, the healing properties of basil have been a much talked about subject.

Many years ago, some physicians claimed that scorpions would breed in your brain if you even smelled basil, whereas others could not praise basil highly enough for its healing properties in drawing poison from the body and giving courage and strength. Even today, basil is renowned for its mood-enhancing properties.

There are many healing properties and uses for basil that have proven themselves by surviving the test of time.

  • Basil has sedative and calming qualities. A basil sandwich, for example, will help to alleviate anxiety.
  • Use basil as a gargle for clearing mouth infections – pop a handful of basil in 250ml of boiling water and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Basil healing properties will help relieve the pain of tired and aching feet. Soak 2 cups of fresh basil leaves in 2 liters of water. Allow to cool and immerse feet for a good long soak. You can also crush the leaves and massage into your heels.
  • It has been said, that a drop of basil juice from the leaves of the plant, has been very effective in the healing and relief of ear inflammation.
  • Basil is also an antiseptic and antibacterial herb. Its healing properties can be used as a digestive aid to relieve nausea and an upset stomach.
  • Basil is antispasmodic, so aids in the healing and relief of headaches and migraines, vertigo and even colic.
  • As a culinary herb, basil is one of the most cleansing and helps with healing kidney and urinary problems.
  • Basil provides a source of beta-carotene, estragole, eugenol, borneol and Vitamin C.

In Africa basil is used for healing in the removal of worms and in the Far East, as a cough medicine. In many countries basil is used in healing as an aid to childbirth and is also said to be an aphrodisiac.

Another use for the healing properties of basil was to crush the leaves and use them to draw the poison out from insect stings and bites.

Please note: I must stress the importance of consulting your doctor or homeopath before you embark upon any of the homemade herbal remedies.

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3. Parsley is another herb that is widely used to garnish many dishes and can be eaten fresh and raw. An interesting fact about this herb is that it has the quality of absorbing the odors of ones breath after a tasty meal. This tradition is quite old and is still being practiced nowadays.

Growing Parsley

Growing Parsley can be slightly more of a challenge when compared to growing other herbs but it should still be a relatively simple process. Parsley is one of the most popular herbs that are grown in English and Mediterranean herb gardens. Parsley can be used for flavoring or as a garnish. It is also a good source of nutrition and can be used for neutralizing strong smelling breath (Garlic springs to mind).

Although Parsley is a biennial herb it is normally grown as an annual as results after the first year are poor.

Sowing

Growing parsley requires more patience than other herbs as it has a long germination period – around 3 to 4 weeks. Germination of parsley requires warm temperatures so a warm room is advised rather than outside. Because germinating parsley is trickier than most herbs you may wish to sow a number of seeds in a 4 inch pot in case some seeds don’t germinate. If a number of seeds germinate in one pot thin all but the strongest one seedling.

Parsley can be moved outside if required and can be transplanted into containers or well dug soil. If growing outside then sow your plants indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to move them outside.

Position

Parsley requires a good amount of light and will do best when receiving around 6 hours of sun a day but will tolerate partial shade.

Soil type

Parsley likes a well drained, moisture retaining soil. If growing in containers ensure that it has adequate drainage holes and that they aren’t blocked. Parsley is slightly more fussy about its soil requirements than most herbs, a soil rich in rotted organic matter with good levels of nutrients will result in a good crop.

If growing indoors then a normal potting compost will be sufficient.

Tending

Ensure the soil does not dry out – water more frequently in summer. You can add a mulch to the soil to reduce soil moisture loss and reduce competing weeds.

A fertilizer can be applied to the soil around every 4 weeks and this should sustain growth through the growing season.

Outside plants can be dug up and brought inside to extend their growing season. After the first year parsley will start to produce seed at which point the plant is of no use for harvesting purposes.

Harvesting

You can harvest Parsley fresh – both the stalks and leaves can be eaten. If you want to store or preserve your parsley you can dry it or freeze it as illustrated in our article on drying and storing herbs.

Cut the outermost stalks just above ground level. This will encourage further growth. Cutting near the top of the stalks will not encourage such vigorous re-growth.

Varieties

Both flat leaved parsley and curly leaved parsley varieties are available.

When to Transplant

Transplanting seedlings should be done after the plant itself has become established. Wait until your plant has grown true leaves. This means that the leaves begin to show texture. Be sure that when you transplant that the soil is warm so that your parsley will be able to take off quickly.

It is a good idea to not transplant your parsley when there is the threat of a frost. The initial shock of the transplant will be enough for your plant to deal with. A frost could ultimately kill freshly transplanted parsley.

Parsley is far more than just a decorative sprig gracing your dinner plate. A mild diuretic, it can be used to treat a number of ailments, including bad breath, and the common cold.

Packed with nutrients, parsley is a great source of dietary calcium, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A, as well as beta-carotene, and folic acids.

Parsley was valued for its medicinal purposes long before it started appearing on plates. In ancient Greece, it was considered to be so sacred, it was used to adorn tombs.

Parsley has proved itself a potent medicinal herb. It has cancer-fighting volatile oil components including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. Parsley is also rich in flavonoids with powerful anti-oxidant properties including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.

It is known to both detoxify and soothe the kidneys. Parsley’s roots and leaves have uterine tonic action, and can be used to treat a variety of menstrual complaints, including lack of or painful periods. It has been officially recognized in both British and US Pharmacopoeias and Codex for well over 100 years as aiding in regulating menstrual complaints.

In addition, parsley is a mild laxative, helps to lower blood pressure, and acts as an antimicrobial for a large array of organisms. The root is known to be especially helpful in preventing the formation of gallstones.

That parsley sprig may save your social life, so don’t leave it behind on your plate. Eating the leaves will reduce the odor of garlic, not only on the breath, but also secreting from the sweat glands.

How to Take Parsley

According to the first edition of the Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicine (1998), parsley’s seeds have traditionally been made into a tea, and used as a remedy for colic, indigestion, and intestinal gas.

Parsley leaves can be added to tea as a gentle treatment for kidney problems, bladder infections, and to reduce mucus in the first stages of a cold and influenza. Ideal for children and adults alike, the tea comprises one teaspoon of parsley leaves and one teaspoon of raspberry leaves, seeped in one cup of boiled water for five to 10 minutes.

It can also be taken as a tincture (½ to 1 teaspoon, two times daily) or as a fresh juice (50 grams often mixed with other juices such as carrot).

Parsley leaves can be ground into a paste, mixed with water, and used on the skin to treat stings and insect bites.

Cautions

The leaves and root have been used for centuries, and are quite safe for most people. However, parsley root is discouraged during pregnancy, as a strong decoction of the root has been known to cause miscarriages. One of parsley’s primary constituents, myristicin, may also increase the heart rate of the fetus. If you are taking lithium, only take parsley under doctor’s supervision.

Parsley is a great nutrient that can add a kick to any salad, soup or savory dish, and simultaneously act as an all-round natural healer.

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4. Oregano is a decorative and has a very distinctive flavor that is strong enough to hold its own in any meal. The herb will deliver the most flavor when harvested only once lovely small purple flowers start to sprout. Be patient, it is definitively worth the wait.

How to Grow Oregano

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Oregano oil can be used to soothe toothache pain; put a few drops on the affected area for relief.

Oregano’s Anti-oxidant Effects

Oregano contains two compounds – thymol and rosmarinic acid – and together, they can minimize harmful effects of free radicals in the body.  According to the USDA, a tablespoon of fresh oregano has the same antioxidant power as a medium-sized apple.  Add this to soups, salads, burgers, and sauces to get more nutrients into your diet!

For more information and some really great facts about the medicinal effects of oregano, including it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial power, check out this brief article over at LovetoKnow.com – Medicinal Uses of Oregano

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5. Sage is an herb that graces many different Italian recipes ranging from salads to meats. It is strongly advised to keep the plants well trimmed when growing this herb for the new shoots are the most flavorful part of the plant. You should harvest the sage plants only after they have bloomed.

How to Grow Sage

Where to Plant Sage

A native of the Mediterranean, sage reaches a mature height of about two feet, and likes to spread out. It is a hardy perennial that needs well-drained, alkaline soil and a sunny location. Sage can get woody as it gets older, so plan on replacing your plant every few years, as it will start to look leggy, droopy, and unattractive by the third year. Because sage also likes some room to grow, plant it at least two feet from other herbs and plants.

Sage leaves are naturally raised in an attractive pebbly pattern with a gray cast that makes them interesting visually. In summer, spikes of attractive lavender flowers complement this gray-green coloration.

Propagate Sage from Seed or Layering

Start sage indoors from seed in good quality potting soil. Slow to germinate, sage is a fast grower once it has been transplanted into the garden. With established plants, you can peg outer branches to the soil in spring and they will root without any additional effort. Rooting takes four to five weeks in summer. Separate these offshoots from the mother plant once they have a thriving root system. You can also start sage from stem cuttings that have been dipped in rooting compound. Sage is not a good candidate for rooting in water.

Grow Sage Indoors

Sage can be kept indoors indefinitely if it is maintained in a sunny location. Make sure that the plant pot drains well by adding potshards, stones, or marbles to the bottom layer in order to enhance drainage. Use a good quality, light potting soil, to which you have added bone meal.
Sage is low in calories and fat, as are all herbs, and can therefore be added to all meals without having to worry about putting on weight.

Sage is a very good source of Vitamin A, calcium, iron and potassium. Vitamin A and calcium are both especially important for maintaining healthy teeth, bones and skin.

Health benefits of sage

Sage has been used for hundreds of years to treat all kinds of ailments. It was particularly popular in 19th century French medicine but is still used today by many people who prefer to cure themselves with herbal medicines.

  • It has recently been proven that taking sage can improve and enhance one’s memory.
  • Sage contains rosmarinic acid, which acts as an anti-inflammatory within the body.
  • Sage is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from being damaged by oxidation and forming cancerous cells.
  • Prepare a little sage tea and use it to gargle with in order to relieve a sore throat and any mouth infections.
  • Sage may help people with diabetes.
  • Women suffering from excessive sweating due to the menopause should try drinking sage tea several times a day.
  • Sage can help to regulate menstruation and is good for all female gynecological problems.
  • Clary sage is said to ease anxiety and relieve stress and depression.
  • Sage is said to help with allergies.
  • Sage is also a digestive and can aid digestion, particularly the digestion of rich, fatty foods.
  • Sage helps to ease colds, coughs and excess mucous.
  • Used as a mouth wash it will reduce bad breath.
  • Sage has antiseptic properties, which can treat cuts and sores if prepared as a wash.
  • If used as a hair rinse, it has been said that sage will reduce hair loss and darken the color.

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6. Rosemary is a perennial plant that forms a rather big shrub that sprouts beautiful blue flowers. This plant is valuable in the garden for its ability to attract bees, thus keeping them away from other plants. Keep in mind though that rosemary is easily affected by frost.

Rosemary is one of those wonderful herbs that makes a beautiful ornamental plant as well as a welcome culinary seasoning. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means “dew of the sea” and rosemary is most closely associated with the cooking of the Mediterranean area. However you don’t need perfect sunshine, sea mist or even a never ending summer to successfully grow rosemary. In fact, more rosemary plants suffer from too much attention than from too little.

Starting a Rosemary Plant

You will make things far easier on yourself if you start with a nursery grown plant. Rosemary can take some time to fill in as a plant, so expect to pay more for a mature plant than for a small rosemary start.

Rosemary is usually propagated by cuttings. Seeds can be difficult to germinate and often don’t grow true to their parent. It’s much faster to start with a cutting and you will be sure of what type of plant you will get. It’s possible to root rosemary in a glass of water, but a bit more effort will give more dependable results.

  1. Snip about a 2 inch cutting from the soft, new growth of an established plant.
  2. Remove the leaves from the bottom inch and dip that tip into a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones can be found in any garden center.
  3. Carefully place the dipped end into a container of dampened, sterile seed starting mix. Choose a mix that says it is well draining, like something containing peat moss and vermiculite or perlite.
  4. Place the container in a warm spot with indirect sunlight.
  5. Mist the cuttings daily and make sure the soil does not dry out.
  6. In about 2-3 weeks, test for root growth by very gently tugging on the cuttings.
  7. Once your cuttings have roots, transplant into individual pots about 3-4 inches in diameter.
  8. Pinch off the very top of the cutting to encourage it to develop branches.
  9. Begin caring for your cutting as a rosemary plant.

Growing and Caring for Rosemary Plants

The three fundamentals for successfully growing rosemary are: Sun, Good Drainage and Good Air Circulation.

If you live in a frost free area, you can grow rosemary in the ground year round. Provide a sandy, well draining soil and 6-8 hours of full sunlight.

Rosemary is not a heavy feeder, but fertilizing in spring with a fish/kelp emulsion will get it off to a good start for the season. Periodic foliar sprays with the emulsion will keep it looking great.


Bringing Rosemary Indoors

Where the winter temperatures dip below 30 degrees F., rosemary plants will have to spend the winter indoors. In this case, it’s easier to grow your rosemary in a container all year. Since rosemary likes it on the dry side, terra cotta pots are an especially good choice. Just be sure it doesn’t bake and completely dry out while outdoors during the summer.

Bring the potted rosemary inside once the temperature inches into the 30s. It can be a little trickier to keep rosemary happy inside. Your rosemary plant will still require 6-8 hours of full sun, so artificial lights may be necessary. Heat is not as crucial as sunlight.


Pest and Problems of Rosemary Plants

The biggest problem with growing rosemary indoors is its tendency to get powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a white, powdery fungus that can develop if the surrounding air is humid and there is not enough air movement.

Powdery mildew won’t kill your rosemary, but it will weaken the plant. Keep the humidity low by allowing the soil to dry somewhat between watering’s, keeping the plant in sunlight and, if necessary, running a fan for a few hours a day to create a breeze.

Also be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites. These pests seem to live on houseplants for the winter. Catching them before a total infestation will make them easier to control. Repeated spraying with insecticidal soap, per package directions, should take care of the problem.

Maintaining a Potted Rosemary

Move your potted rosemary back outdoors once all danger of frost has past.

As with most potted plants, the soil in your rosemary pot will degenerate through watering and root growth. Repot at least once a year. Spring is a good time to repot your rosemary, but it should be fine no matter what time of year you get to it.

When the rosemary plant puts out considerable growth or looks like it just can’t get enough water, it has outgrown its pot and needs to be transplanted into a larger one. If you want to maintain the size of your rosemary plant, root prune it by slicing off a couple of inches of the roots from the bottom and sides of the root ball and replanting in the same pot. Be sure to trim some of the top at the same time, to lessen the work load of the roots and the stress placed upon the trimmed plant. Then allow your repotted plant some time to regroup. It should reward you with many more seasons of snippings.

Using Rosemary

Rosemary is a triple threat herb. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. Simply snip off pieces of the stem as you need it.

Rosemary has a long history of medicinal use; in centuries past, Rosemary was burned to clear the air of infectious disease during the various plagues of Europe. Rosemary has also been burned for purification in religious ceremonies; the ancient Egyptians used Rosemary in making incense for the purpose of cleansing and healing. Both the Greeks and the Romans regarded Rosemary as a sacred herb and decorated statues with wreaths of Rosemary.

Ancient Healing Uses of Rosemary

Rosemary is said to stimulate the memory; both Greek and Roman students wore garlands of Rosemary to further learning in their studies. Rosemary also has a strong association with marriage and it was traditional for brides to carry sprigs of Rosemary in wedding bouquets; this was originally for its aromatic properties. Today, Rosemary is also associated with death; some European countries carry Rosemary at funerals and throw the herb into the grave.

Medicinal Properties of Rosemary

Rosemary is distilled into a valuable essential oil from the steam distillation of the flowers; Rosemary has healing properties of being pain relieving, restorative, stimulating, anti-bacterial, decongestant, diuretic and anti-fungal. Rosemary is used in the treatment of muscular pain, rheumatism, circulation problems, mental fatigue, nervous exhaustion, cellulite, arthritis, colds, bronchitis, fluid retention, sinusitis and is suitable for dry, mature skin and acne.

Rosemary is said to stimulate the memory and may be useful in restoring memory loss; historically, both William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) and the 17th century herbalist, John Gerard, mentioned the use of Rosemary as an aid for memory. Rosemary is also reputed to increase hair growth by stimulating the oily secretions of the hair follicles.

Other Uses of the Herb Rosemary

A tea can be made from Rosemary by using the fresh flowering tips; it can be drunk or used as a gargle for throat and mouth infections. Rosemary tea is useful in treating the nerves and in circulation problems.

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7. Fennel is used when making Italian sausages that adds a distinctive exciting flavor to the palette. This perennial plant must be divided and replanted every 2-3 years because once the fennel plant has reached maturity there is a noticeable loss of flavor.

How to Grow Fennel

Also called Florence Fennel or Finuccio, it is easy to grow and very hardy, lasting well after the first frost. With bright green, fern-like leaves and aromatic yellow flowers, this plant will grow three to four feet tall. Plant it in the back of the herb garden or in your vegetable garden.

Foliage and seeds have an anise-like flavor.

Propagation:

Fennel are grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden as early in the season as the ground can be worked. Sow seeds early in the season and cover with 1/4″ of soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 10-12″ apart, in rows 18-24 inches apart.

Start a new planting in mid summer to harvest in the fall.

How to Grow Fennel:

Fennel is easy to grow. They prefer full sun and a well drained soil. They will do best in rich soils.

Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.

Harvest leaves as at any time. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Extract seeds and dry them in a cool, dry location.

Harvest bulbs when they reach tennis ball size or bigger. Pull every other one out as needed to allow those remaining to grow even bigger.

Do not pull these plants up in advance of the first frost. They are very hardy and should continue to thrive and grow, even after a number of hard frosts.

Main Cooking Uses:

Having an Anise like taste, the bulbs and stalks are eaten raw like celery. They are also cooked in a variety of Italian and other ethnic foods.

The leaves are used in sauces, soups, and condiments.

The oil is used to flavor liqueurs, candy, fish and medicine. Oil of Fennel is used in soaps too.

Habitat: Fennel is indigenous to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It was spread throughout Europe by Imperial Rome and eventually found its way to India, where it is now cultivated extensively. It was taken to the US by the colonists and has been a popular plant there ever since. It is also grown widely today in China, Egypt, Australia and South America.

Fennel was well known to the Ancient Greeks and was revered by Pliny, who believed strongly in its medicinal properties and used it in as many as 22 remedies.

It was taken by the Romans to all of Italy and France, where it became popular as a galactogogue, a substance which increases a mother’s milk supply. Fennel’s potential to aid in breastfeeding is due to its content of flavonoids and coumarins, which are groups of phytoestrogens, plant compounds which exert a balancing effect on female hormone levels. This action to benefit female hormonal balance has also made fennel a popular choice for breast enhancement formulatons, and in European herbal tradition even taking fennel alone can encourage breast development.

In any list of herbs for increasing a mother’s milk or for promoting breast growth, it is likely that fennel will feature strongly.

Like other plants containing phytoestrogens, fennel has become known as a treatment for any conditions related to hormonal imbalance, such as PMS and other menstrual irregularities and the symtoms of the menopause.

Its other popular application is for its digestive and carminative properties for which it enjoys an unparalled reputation, being renowned since earliest times for relieving indigestion and intestinal gas and acting effectively in cases of colic.

It aids digestion by stimulating the production of gastric juices, is said today to provide relief from the symptoms of IBS, and more than any other herb is an excellent tonic for the stomach and the intestines.

  • Fennel is also anti-spasmodic in nature and affects the nervous system and nerve function due to its ability to prevent or relieve spasms of muscles;
  • it’s hepatic and affects the liver and the body’s detoxification systems due to its ability to tone, strengthen, detoxify and heal the liver;
  • it’s anti-inflammatory and affects immune system and reactivity due to its ability to counteract inflammation;
  • it’s diuretic and detoxifies the organism by stimulating the production of urine and the elimination of toxins through the urine;
  • it’s choleretic and furthers its reputation as a digestive aid by increasing the liver’s production of bile;
  • it’s anti-microbial and has actions against a range of bacteria as well as various fungi and yeasts;
  • and it’s proven useful as a pleasant smelling and tasting herb, as this has led to it being much valued by herbalists as a way of improving the taste of preparations containing other less-agreeable herbs.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine includes the use of fennel for gastroenteritis, hernia, abdominal pain, for a calming effect on bronchitis and coughs, and to open nasal passages and to resolve phlegm.
  • The infusion may be used as an eye wash or compress to treat conjunctivitis and blepharitis, and oil of fennel can be used externally to ease muscular and rheumatic pains.

With these herbs growing in your Italian herb garden you’ll be able to use fresh basil when preparing a tomato based Italian meal or oregano with fried foods and grilled meats. Sage has a peppery flavor that is magnificent with meat dishes, Italian salads and dressings. It will also be a welcomed addition to stuffing for poultry, pork, lamb or seafood.

There are many other herbs that can be added to the garden that are used for Italian dishes but these seven herbs are a great start and will be sufficient for a large variety of recipes. Of course, you can balance them to your particular taste and needs. Be sure to consider the growing needs of each herb you plant.

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