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No garden should be without a few herbs, a culinary necessity of which many can be grown on a windowsill all year round. Used for food and medicine long before records began, the first documented use of herbs was in about 2000BC in Babylon where tried and tested medicinal uses were detailed. Many varieties originate from the Middle East including thyme, sage, mint, marjoram, rosemary and hyssop.
The ancient Greeks did much to further the knowledge and uses of medicinal herbs. Hippocrates the ‘Father of Medicine’ taught his students the value of herbs for easing pain and curing disease and in the first century AD, Dioscordies listed the medicinal properties of over 500 plants and herbs in his work Materia Medica.
In the Middle Ages, with the establishment of ‘physick’ gardens, monasteries became centres of learning and healing – herb folklore flourished during this period. Many books and works have been published on the classification and uses of herbs. Perhaps two of the most famous were by John Gerard, an apothecary to James I, who published his Herball in 1597 and Nicholas Culpeper whose work Complete Herbal was published in 1653. Read more
How to grow Herbs
Herbs are generally undemanding and easy to grow. Many can be grown in pots and containers or together in beds and herbaceous borders. Most benefit from a sunny position in free draining soil and will need protection from cold winds. The majority of kitchen garden herbs originate from the Mediterranean and Middle East so heat and light are important factors for successful growth. Pick regularly to keep plants compact.
How to preserve Herbs
To dry herbs, hang them in an airing cupboard or other warm place for a week or so, then keep them at room temperature until they are completely dry and brittle. Crush them up and store in air-tight containers. Preserve fresh herbs by chopping them up and filling an ice cube tray, top up with water and freeze, add the frozen ‘herb cubes’ directly to your dishes as required.