Growing Herbs | Learn about Using and Growing Herbs Fri, 16 Aug 2013 00:51:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Nasturtiums, Memories Food and Medicine Fri, 16 Aug 2013 00:22:27 +0000 Sandra  

Tropaeolum majus
nasturtium flower


 I do love nasturtiums, they have such a happy, vibrant, carefree nature. They bring back memories of my childhood climbing the back fence to sit amongst the carpet of orange and green and suck sweet nectar form the flowers. I also love the peppery bite the leaves and the colour the flowers give to a salad.

Nasturtiums make a stunning groundcover or massed display along fences and can be grown in pots &hanging baskets. They are such an easy plant to grow in full sun through to part shade and are quite happy in dry gardens. They will tolerate a wide range of soil types, but a moderately fertile soil is best. Don’t over fertilise, as too much nitrogen will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers.

Fabulous in Food

All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible and have a peppery flavour. The flowers and or leaves can be used in egg and cheese dishes added to salads, soups or sandwiches.
The leaves can be made into pesto – place 2 handfuls of leaves, 3 cloves of grated garlic, 2 tbsp chopped almonds into a food processor and process add ½ cup of parmesan cheese then slowly add ½ cup olive oil. This can be used to add flavor to pasta, cooked meat, corn cobs or bruschetta. The leaves and or flowers can also be chopped through cream cheese or butter.
I like to use the large leaves as wraps for a spicy paw-paw salad or thai style chicken salad.
The seeds or young flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and spices and eaten in a similar fashion to capers. Pick only young pods that are still green and soft. 

Poor Man’s Capers

• 2 tablespoons salt
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup green nasturtium seedpods or young flower buds.
• 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 2 fresh bay leaves
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 tsp peppercorns
Bring the salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Put the nasturtium seedpods into a glass jar and pour the boiling brine over them. Cover and let them soak at room temperature for 3 days.
Drain the nasturtium seedpods and return them to the jar. Bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the seedpods and let cool. Cover the jar and refrigerate for 3 days before using. They will keep for approx. 6 months.

Medicinal Uses

If all the yummy reasons aren’t enough to make you want to grow nasturtiums, how about their medicinal value.
Nasturtiums are anti-microbial, antibiotic, and antiseptic and contain high amounts of vitamin c, hence their reputation for treatment of scurvy.The pungent and bitter principals make it a good blood cleanser, it stimulates the liver, pancreas and gall-bladder aiding the body’s elimination of toxins.
Internally an infusion of the leaves and flowers can benefit any bacterial infection but it is especially effective for respiratory and chest infections such as bronchitis, common cold and even the flu, helping to reduce the formation of phlegm.

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Rosemary, Pumpkin and Feta Quiche Sat, 01 Jun 2013 08:39:21 +0000 Sandra

I love rosemary and it goes so well with pumpkin. The rosemary and cumin seeds add a nice touch to the pastry. I use goat feta because I love the flavour, but you can use any feta you like.

Pastry Ingredients:

2 cups of plain flour
2 tblsp of chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp of dried cumin 
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp water


Pastry Method:

Turn the oven on to 200°c  now (to cook pumpkin for filling – see below)
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add chopped rosemary, cumin seeds and salt. Lightly stir.

Add the lightly beaten eggs, oil and water mix to a firm dough.
Knead gently until smooth.
Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Prep the ingredients for the filling – see below.

Roll pastry out on floured bench/board and line a greased round shallow pie dish with the pastry – trim/pinch/tear edges as desired.

If I roll out the pastry quite thin I usually have enough pastry to fill two individual pans as well (these are great as extras for the hungry offspring, but you will have to add a little extra ingredients for the filling) 

Cover the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans  (I re-use the same ones over each time I bake, store them in a well sealed container once they have cooled)
Bake in a moderately hot oven (200°c) for 15 min. Remove the beans and paper and bake pastry for a further 10 min or until the pastry looks slightly golden.
Remove from oven and let cool.


Filling Ingredients:

2 cups of (1-2 cm) diced pumpkin 
3 tblsp of rosemary leaves picked off the stems.
1 tblsp of olive oil
2 shallots chopped 
2 cups of roughly chopped spinach (you could also use kale, rocket or some other similar green) 
100g of feta cheese chopped into cubes
4 eggs lightly beaten
200 g sour cream 
2 tblsp pumpkin seeds 



Filling Method:

Place the chopped pumpkin, rosemary and oil into a baking dish and cook in the oven 200°c till the pumpkin is almost cooked through and brown on the edges. Stir once during cooking time.
Fry the shallots in a small fry pan with a little oil  till softened, remove and set aside. In the same pan lightly blanch the spinach, you don’t want to cook it, but gently heat it till it collapses slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
Lightly beat the eggs and add the sour cream, season with a little sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

I like to place some of the greens in the pastry shell first, then add the pumkin, tuck in the feta, then add a bit more green on top, but layer how you like!
Pour in the egg, sour cream mixture, then top with some pumpkin seeds.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  



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Cheesy Marjoram Butter Fri, 12 Oct 2012 02:51:17 +0000 Sandra  

cheesy marjoram butter

A close relative to oregano, marjoram’s  fresh, sweet and spicy taste make it a great addition to meats, fish and poultry. It is especially nice with cheese and egg dishes. Try sprinkling it over steamed or roasted vegetables or add it to homemade tomato sauce to toss through pasta. I love it in a cheesy butter recipe.

Cheesy Marjoram Butter
125g butter
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp freshly chopped marjoram
1 tbsp freshly chopped chives
2 tsp grainy mustard
Leave the butter to soften before mixing all the ingredients together. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

It is delicious spread on french sticks or ciabatta bread and heated in the oven or grill. Pop a dob on steamed or roasted vegetables, cooked chicken or meat. Try it tossed through hot sweet corn..yum!

corn with marjoram butter

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Our trip to Peru Thu, 11 Oct 2012 23:14:00 +0000 Sandra We are just back from a fantastic holiday is Peru. Our son Jason moved there two years ago with his Peruvian girlfriend Lorena, they are running a fantastic restaurant called ‘Nanka’ in La Molina Lima. They have a vertical herb garden across one wall which helps set the scene for a restaurant that uses organic, local, seasonal and sustainable produce. The food is fresh, modern and lends itself to sharing, which is the Peruvian way.

Nanka Restaurant in Lima

We based ourselves in Lima and travelled around from there. Lima is a big city and very busy. For 8 months of the year it is covered with fog, (no sun) that comes in from the ocean, so it is quite weird day after day. Once you move west out of Lima you can catch some sunshine and the mountain areas are really sunny.

saqsawoman cusco peru

Cusco known as the centre of the Inca empire is the main city before heading to Machu Picchu. It has kept its ancient charm and has many interesting streets and buildings of stone. Mud bricks (adobe) are used extensively by the locals for their dwellings and we felt right at home.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was a highlight of our holiday a truly amazing place high in the mountains. It is really hard to comprehend the how the Inca people created such a place with their bare hands. The rocks they used are massive and they carved them so they fitted together perfectly with no need for mortar. Lots of lateral thinking going on back then.

sacred valley view

The sacred valley was also very beautiful.

sprouted corn for chicha

We stopped at a house that had a red bag on a stick, this means they have chicha for sale.  Chicha is a sprouted corn corn beer, it was really good.

peruvian woman weaving alpaca

The local women have a real talent for producing fine cloths, woven from alpaca wool, they are dyed using natural plant and insect dyes.
When the Spanish invaded the Incas they realised how special these cloths were and demanded them as taxes.

ceremony sun island lake titicaca

We went to Isla del Sol (Sun Island), in Lake Titicaca, Lake Titicaca is a huge mountain lake on the border of Peru and Bolivia. There were extensive gardens on this southern tip of Isla del Sol, with many medicinal herbs all well labelled. We attended a ceremony high on a hill overlooking the water. I’m not sure if it was the view or the ceremony, but I felt deep gratitude  for such a wonderful world in which we live.

witches market la paz bolivia

La Paz in Bolivia an interesting city that starts at the base of mountains and rises up the sandy hills. This is where the famous witches market is held and we had fun looking at the bundles of fresh herbs and the many packaged remedies for every ailment you can think of.

potato display mistura lima

Mistura a huge annual food event was on while we were in Lima and it was great looking through the market area at the different produce that is grown throughout Peru. Choosing a potato for a particular dish here in Peru is difficult..there is sooo many different varieties, in fact there are close to 4000 different varieties.

macaws on clay lick in amazon

A trip to the Amazon basin was very exciting, besides seeing heaps of Macaws and other beautiful birds, some monkeys and piranha, we got to see and hear about the uses of some of the medicinal herbs and trees growing in the area.

herb beds agriculture university Lima

While we were in Lima we were lucky enough to be invited to the Agriculture University in Lima by Daniel one of Nankas’ Restaurant suppliers of fresh herbs and vegetables. We also went to Daniels farm south of Lima where he grows most of his produce, it is great to see what growers are doing, they are the important link to the food we eat. If you can’t grow it yourself, befriend the grower!

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Calendula Infused Oil Mon, 16 Jul 2012 11:28:37 +0000 Sandra

Calendula Oil

I love the sunny orange flowers of calendula; they brighten a cold winter’s day and warm the senses.

A good way to preserve their orange glow is to make infused oil. It is very easy to make.

Once you have made this vibrant infused oil you can use it to soothe and heal minor wounds, itchy, inflamed skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and nappy rash. It is also useful for stings, burns, bruises and cradle cap. It can also be used as the base for lip balm, creams and ointments.

While I do not usually measure the ingredients, I have given a guide below. While I do not usually measure the ingredients, I have given a guide below, but do not worry too much about the amounts.

Calendula Infused Oil

1½ cups dried or fresh calendula flowers

If using fresh flowers, pick after the morning dew has dried and partially dry. This can be done overnight on a towel in an airy spot or in a dehydrator set at 30°C for a couple of hours.

2 cups cold pressed sunflower oil to cover

You can use any good quality oil you like. I use sunflower because it has the same shaped flower and is from the same family, Asteraceae.


Loosely pack a clean sterilized jar with calendula flowers.

Pour oil over flowers and cover completely.

Seal with a tight fitting lid.

Place in a warm dark place for 2 weeks.

Strain through cheesecloth squeezing gently.

Pour into a sterilized amber bottle.

Calendula infused oil jar

My favourite method:

To hasten the infusion process use a yoghurt maker. Pick a jar that fits comfortably into the yoghurt maker, add your calendula flowers and oil and seal well. Fill the yoghurt maker with hot tap water or near boiling water up to the top of the red plastic interior tray. Place your filled jar into yoghurt maker ensuring the water level does not reach the lid of the jar. Screw on the yoghurt maker’s lid and sit overnight or all day. Put fresh hot water to keep oil warm. This can be done for 3-5 days. Strain and store as in original recipe.

Yoghurt Maker

Quick Method:

If you want your infused oil quicker you can do it in a double boiler. I use my steamer saucepans and place a wide bowl on top. Put the calendula flowers and oil into the bowl.

Put some water in the bottom saucepan and bring it to the boil, turn the heat down. Place the bowl on top of the top saucepan. The water in the bottom needs to simmer very gently for 3 hours, keep an eye on the water in the saucepan to make sure it does not evaporate. Stir the calendula oil at regular intervals. Strain and store as in original recipe.

Heating Oil

Tips and Hints

The better quality oil you use the better the finished product. I would not use oil on my skin that I wouldn’t put in my mouth!!

Oils do deteriorate, and even though you have bought high quality oil, if it has not been stored properly or kept too long chances are it is no longer good oil.

Light, Heat and Air all contribute to oils oxidizing or going rancid.

Many recipes for infused oil recommend placing your jar of infused oil in the sun to infuse. I personally prefer to keep it away from the sun as light will speed up the oxidation of the oil. If you wish to use the sun’s warmth to gently infuse your oil, wrap it in a towel or a dark paper bag to exclude light.

If using the quick method in a double boiler or steamer, be careful not to overheat the oil.

When pouring off the finished product I prefer to use a few smaller amber jars, rather than one large one. This reduces exposure to air and light each time it is opened to be used.

Store your infused oils in a cool dark place.

Next time I will share my Calendula ointment recipe with you.

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10 Herbs for a Shady Garden Sun, 11 Mar 2012 11:10:45 +0000 Sandra Most herbs like some sun in their lives and when planning a herb garden this is one of the most important considerations. But for those shady spots around the garden that you would dearly love to fill with herbs, try some of the following herbs.

Herbs grown in the shade will require less watering than when grown in the sun, however remember that they may be competing with trees for water. Most shade loving herbs like rich soil and will benefit by adding compost to the area. For the herbs that may get a little leggy, try pruning regularly for a bushier look.


Pogostemon sp

Patchouli Leaf

A perennial bush that loves the shade. Patchouli grows to approx 1m, it has large rounded green leaves 14cm long and clusters of small pink lipped flowers produced in spikes. It likes rich moist soil and responds well to pruning. Patchouli is used for it’s lovely fragrance in essential oil, soaps, shampoo, etc. The essential oil is used to uplift the senses and relieve stress, nervous exhaustion and mild depression.

Mushroom plant

Rungia klossi

Mushroom Plant Herb

This one is a must for salad lovers. A hardy perennial bush to 60cm, with dark green glossy leaves and sky-blue flowers in spring – summer. A nutritious plant that is higher in protein than mushrooms, it contains calcium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron and other vitamins and minerals. Its crunchy mushroom flavoured leaves are delicious raw in salads and sandwiches or add to soups and stir-fries at the end of cooking to ensure full flavour. It will tolerate the sun, but grows well in a shady position producing larger crunchier leaves.

Vegetable pepper

Piper sarmentosum

Vegetable Pepper in garden

Vegetable pepper is a perennial, creeping plant growing up to about 60cm. The leaves are dark green and glossy and oval shaped with a pointed tip and has small white flowers that occur in spikes. It likes a warm spot in the shade with rich soil and good drainage.

Vegetable pepper is originally from Thailand and Vietnam, and is cultivated in other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. The leaves which have a spicy peppery taste can be cooked like spinach and used as a vegetable or can be shredded and added to soups stews and stir-fries at the end of cooking to give a subtle peppery flavour. Raw Vegetable Pepper leaves can also be torn or shredded into salads and are particularly nice in rice salad. The leaves are also used to wrap small pieces of food

Lemon balm

Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a clump-forming perennial with heart shaped, deeply veined leaves that are covered with hairs, it grows 30cm – 90cm high. Here in south east Queensland lemon balm does not flower.

Lemon Balm has a delicate flowery lemon flavour and has a wide variety of uses. It adds zing to fruit salads, garden salads, fruit drinks and punch, sorbet, herb butters, dressing and sauces for savoury dishes.

Fresh leaves can be bruised and applied to insect bites, cuts and grazes. A leaf tea is a relaxing tonic for anxiety, mild depression, nervous headaches and digestive problems such as indigestion, acidity, nausea, bloating and colicky pains. A strong infusion can be used on cold sores.

Lemon balm prefers rich moist soil and partial shade. It can tolerate direct sunlight but the leaves may yellow slightly during hot summers in full sun, plants grown in shade tend to be larger and more succulent.


Rumex acetosa

Sorrel Herb

Sorrel is a perennial with broad lance shaped bright green leaves and grows to about 90cm high. It is happy to grow in the shade and will tolerate most soils although it does prefer moist fertile soils that are slightly acidic.

The tart, lemony leaves can be used to flavour soups, sauces and salads. Sorrel leaves partner well with avocado in a salad or on a sandwich. Add some shredded leaves to scrambled eggs, omelets and frittata. Quinoa salad loves the tangy addition of sorrel as do seafood and tomato dishes. Stir finely shredded sorrel through a basic white sauce to give a real zing to vegetables. Like spinach sorrel should not be cooked in aluminum.


Alpinia galanga

Galangal FlowerNative to South Asia and Indonesia, galangal is a perennial plant, growing from rhizomes in thick clumps, with green stems and lush green strappy lanceolate leaves reaching up to 2m high. It flowers high in the plant in spikes covered with numerous creamy – white flowers that have a touch of deep pink veining on them. The rhizome is similar to that of ginger with a creamy brown skin and pink tinges to the new growth. It has a similar appearance to ginger, but has a different taste, it has a light earthy peppery taste, it is not as hot as ginger. Used in soups and curries it can be added as slices or pounded into curry pastes.

It is very easy to grow in sub-tropical to tropical areas in part sun through to shade. It likes a well- drained soil and thrives with adequate moisture.

Herb Robert

Geranium robertianum

Herb Robert flower

Herb Robert is a dainty looking plant with branching stems and green leaves that are covered in fine hairs. The flowers are five petalled, bright pink and are followed by seed pods that resemble a bird’s beak.

The leaves of Herb Robert can be used for diarrhoea, gastrointestinal infections, peptic ulcer, haemorrhage, inflammation of the uterus. Use externally for skin eruptions, wounds, inflamed gums and throat and herpes.

Herb Robert is a potential treatment for cancer; it has the ability to make oxygen available to the body’s cells helping the body to fight disease.

Herb Robert grows in a wide range of climates. In hotter climates grow in the shade and water regularly, it grows better through the winter in tropical and subtropical areas. It self seeds readily ensuring an abundance of plants.

Vietnamese mint

Persicaria odorata

Vietnamese Mint herb

Vietnamese mint is native to S.E. Asia it has pointed green leaves with dark markings and small pink flowers produced in spikes in summer. A perennial it grows to around 80cm likes a warm moist position; it does grow well in the sun but will still grow vigorously in the shade. Naturally grows best in tropical and subtropical zones. Protect during winter in cooler areas.

The leaves have a very strong hot minty flavor with citrus overtones. It is used throughout Vietnam and neighboring countries. Vietnamese mint adds a distinctive flavor to soups, curries and salads, particularly with rice or noodles and chicken. The leaf is an essential ingredient in laksa and Vietnamese spring rolls and pho.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum

Sweet Woodruff herb

Native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia, sweet woodruff is a pretty plant for a shady area. It is a creeping perennial and grows to 30cm high with bright-green leaves growing in star-like whorls, with between 6-8 leaves to every whorl. The white flowers usually appear in spring, I have not seen it in flower here in the sub-tropics. The plant has a sweet fragrance derived from its coumarin content. When dried the scent has been described as a fresh-cut hay and vanilla fragrance, and it is used frequently in potpourri. It is used in Germany, to flavour May wine called “Maiwein” or “Maibowle” in German. It is also used as a syrup for beer, in sausages, jelly, jam, soft drink , ice cream, and a herbal tea with gentle sedative properties.

Sweet woodruff prefers shade and a well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Sweet woodruff plants will grow more vigorously with regular watering.


Curcuma domestica

Turmeric Flower

Turmeric is a perennial, growing to 1metre. It has large lily like green leaves

and white to pale yellow flowers. The knobbly rhizome is bright golden yellow. Turmeric is native to India and Southern Asia. It likes humid conditions and moist well-drained soil; protect it from frost in cooler climate. The aerial parts of the plant die back in winter remerging in spring; the rhizomes can be dug up in autumn. Turmeric has a warm mild aroma and adds a distinct golden yellow colour to foods. It is an essential ingredient in commercial curry powders and is used in pickles especially piccalilli, adds flavour and colour to curries, devilled eggs, beans, lentil, rice, poultry, seafood and vegetables in particular cauliflower and potato dishes. Turmeric has numerous medicinal uses it stimulates the liver and gall bladder, it has cholesterol lowering properties, is used for arthritis, to prevent Alzheimer’s and cancer. A poultice of turmeric can be used for skin problems such as psoriasis, bruises and fungal infections.

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Mint – Cool and Refreshing Fri, 09 Dec 2011 10:02:34 +0000 Sandra Mint Drink

There is no other herb that refreshes like mint. Popping a few leaves into drinks and meals adds a fragrance and flavour that stimulates the senses and lifts your mood. A sprig of mint happily swimming in an icy glass of your favorite beverage makes you really feel like you are on holiday.

Mint is used as flavouring for everything from toothpaste and chewing gums to alcoholic beverages and herbal teas.

Mint belongs to the family Lamiaceae a very large family in the herb world including other common herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, basil and oregano.

The name mint comes from the Latin word menthe and Greek word minthe. In Greek mythology it is said that Persephone, jealous of the love her husband Pluto had for the beautiful nymph Minthe turned her into a low growing mint. Pluto unable to undo the spell gave mint its wonderful smell, so that when walked upon she would not be forgotten.


Mint is an aromatic perennial herb, there are many different varieties, most having underground stolons that spread easily through the garden. They have branched square stems, with leaves arranged in opposite pairs. The oblong through to lance shaped leaves, range from smooth to crinkly and some downy, the margins can be smooth or serrate. Colours also vary from pale yellow green to deep dark green through to blue grey. The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls.

The substances that give the mints their characteristic aromas and flavors are menthol the main aroma of Peppermint and Japanese menthol mint and pulegone in pennyroyal and Corsican mint. The compound primarily responsible for the aroma and flavor of spearmint is R-carvone.




Old Fashioned MintOld Fashioned Mint


Mint is easy to grow, it likes a medium to rich soil, moist but not wet. While most information suggests growing in shade to part shade, I find the flavour and aroma is much more pronounced in plants that get more sun. If growing mint in full sun you do need to make sure you water regularly.

Mint can be invasive, the strong willed runners can extend far and wide through the garden, for this reason many people prefer to grow mint in pots. Add compost to the potting mix when planting your mint in pots to help the mix retain moisture.

You can also sink a large bottomless container or pot into the garden to plant your mint in, although you will still need to keep an eye on it to ensure it does not jump over the top.

Propagation of mint is best done by cuttings; this ensures that the mint will be the same as the plant you are cutting from. Mint seed can be variable, some mint seeds are sterile and some do not resemble the plant you thought you were getting and it can be very disappointing when the result is a mint with no flavour.

As mint is such a vigorous grower regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer will keep the plant healthy.

Towards the end of winter you can divide plants in pots and give them fresh mix, they do get tired, like a mother who constantly gives to others, but never receives the nourishment to keep up such a vigorous routine.

I find mint tends to grow really well where you don’t want it to, I have a patch under the chaste tree, the more I pull it out the better it grows. Pots of mint that look a little tired can be cut back and slash the roots to encourage better growth.

Plant mint along walkways, so it can be brushed against and release its refreshing aroma.

Mints are supposed to make good companion plants repelling pest insects and attracting beneficial ones.


The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.

Mint is commonly used with peas, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, and corn to pep up the flavor.

To sweeten pineapple, add some fresh torn mint leaves. Try a Mint and watermelon salad with feta and black olives, mint leaves add a real freshness to salads.

Add chopped mint leaves to scrambled eggs, and omelets. Mint jelly is a traditional condiment served with lamb dishes. Mint can be frozen in ice cube trays.

Add a couple of dried mint leaves to the sugar bowl to add flavor to the sugar, for serving to guests with iced tea.” Or add a couple of fresh mint leaves in the filter with the freshly ground coffee as it brews in the morning for a very pleasant cup of coffee.

Offer bright green sprigs of fragrant, fresh mint to nibble on after a meal to freshen the breath and help digestion.

The Mojito, a traditional Cuban cocktail said to be a favorite of the writer Ernest Hemingway, is made with rum, powdered sugar, lime juice, club soda and a mint unique to Cuba.


Peppermint leaf tea is used to treat indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, colds, headache and cramps. Mint leaves are known for their ability to calm a nervous stomach. They soothe the digestive tract and can help relieve stomachaches as well.

Peppermint is part of a popular tea blend for colds and flu, Known as YEP tea it also contains yarrow and elder flower.

Studies have shown mint leaves may slow down some of the most harmful bacteria and fungi that are introduced into our bodies.


Mint was strewn across floors to cover the smell of the hard-packed soil. Stepping on the mint helped to spread its scent through the room. I love this idea and have strewn mint and scented geraniums on the ground when having a BBQ to keep the mosquitoes away and the smell of the crushed herbs when being walked on is delightful on a balmy summers night. I have also made mint vinegar for adding to my bucket of water when mopping the floors.

Place fresh mint in bowls when going away to help keep the air fresh.

There are so many different varieties of mint to choose from, some of the varieties we have had include – old fashioned mint/garden mint(this is my favourite), spearmint, peppermint, curly mint, ginger mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, eau de cologne mint, water mint, pennyroyal, Corsican mint, rust free mint, Japanese menthol mint, lemon mint, hung cay mint, native mint, chocolate mint, Egyptian mint, Moroccan mint, pennyroyal, basil mint, white peppermint, variegated ginger mint.

Then there are the impersonators, which are known as mint, but are not from the Genus ‘Mentha’ these include Vietnamese mint, stone mint, calamint and mountain mint.

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The Urban Physic Garden – A display of medicinal herbs and recycling genius Sun, 13 Nov 2011 10:54:25 +0000 Sandra Urban Physic Garden

When we were in London we visited the Urban Physic Garden, this garden was created by a collective of designers, urban growers and, over 150 volunteers, on a slice of unused land in Southwark London.

The urban block nestled between two buildings and backing onto the railway bridge was transformed into a garden themed like a conventional Hospital with ‘wards’ including cardiology, respiratory, psychiatry and dermatology, each filled with herbs relating to the ward. It was put together using recycled timbers, and other would be junk along with donated plants and plenty of volunteers.

Recycled timber beds

The gardens are all in polystyrene containers and are supported in recycled timber frames. The range of medicinal herbs jammed into this block was amazing.


The Cardiology ward included herbs such as ginkgo, rosemary, globe artichoke, motherwort, foxglove, garlic, yarrow, chicory, ginger, chilli and flax.


The respiratory ward contained elecampane, horseradish, angelica, thyme, wild strawberries, caraway mullein and verbena.


The dermatology ward contained Echinacea flowering beautifully, parsley, tea tree, self heal, gotu kola, marigold and aloe.


The general medicine ward contained echinacea, calendula, borage, rue, yarrow, peppermint, lemon balm, angelica and feverfew.

Operating Theatre

The operating theatre was down one end against the brick wall built from recycled steel poles and timber. This was where talks and lectures were held.

Treatment Room

The treatment room surrounded by white curtains where you could book in a massage on certain days.

Herbariam Xray Room

The Herbarium and X-ray room

Rambulance Cafe

The Rambulance café supplied light refreshments from the back of its retired ambulance.

The fire pit was the focal point for evening gatherings and sing alongs.

Cafe Table

The eating area was shaded with a sail that had pipes attached to collect the morning dew and rain, this went into holding tanks.

Herb Weed Wall

Alongside the water storage area beside the café there was a wall of herbal ‘weeds’ growing beautifully from the run off when tanks were full.

Lavender Loo Loo watt Toilet

The toilet was certainly an environmental masterpiece. The actual toilet was made from the Queens horses poop. It is fitted with a urine diverting bowl that separates the urine and faeces. Urine contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium in the right ratio for growing plants. The faeces from the toilet goes into an anaerobic digester on site where it is converted into natural gas. This supplies the gas for the stoves of the Rambulance café.

The herb tea we had was made using water heated by poop!

The garden, a summer project has been pulled down and was auctioned off in mid August.

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Elderberry Tinctures – Making Tinctures using Elderberries Thu, 29 Sep 2011 11:00:49 +0000 Sandra Elderberry Tinctures in Bottles

I have been busy this last weekend making tinctures to press off in the tincture class on the 8th of October.

I got a little carried away with Elderberries, making 3 tinctures each using

different alcohol. One with brandy 37.1%, one with vodka 37.5%, and one with 92.7% Ethanol (neutral spirit). I used dried berries from Sambuccus nigra, I used these as the plant is very slow growing here in SEQld unlike its American cousin Sambuccus canadensis, which grows a little too well suckering up through the garden. It is flowering beautifully at the moment – I must make some elderflower champagne.

With calculations done to discover the amount of water to add to give me an alcohol percentage of 25%, I pounded the berries in my mortar and pestle before putting into glass amber jars with wide necks and filling with the alcohol/water mix, a good shake and off to the shelf in my laundry. These will need to be given a shake every day, before being pressed off in 2 weeks time.


Elderberry Tinctures

I also made a tincture of elderberries with vinegar, it will be interesting to taste the different tinctures, I have a feeling I might like the brandy one the best.

Tinctures done, I still had 200g of elderberries left, these I made into sweet syrup.

I put these into a saucepan with 400ml of pure water, brought them to the boil and simmered for 20min. I then strained it through a sieve and ended up with around 250ml of liquid.

To this I added 1 cup of sugar and brought it up to the boil. I then took the mix of the heat and poured it into sterilised glass bottles.

So all this Elderberry medicine, how shall I use it – Elderberry is extremely useful for fighting the flu. It contains compounds that keep the flu virus from attaching to the cell, so it can shorten the duration of your illness and possibly lesson the severity. Elderberries are also a good source of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants which are responsible for giving many red and purple fruits their colour.

And it tastes pretty good as well!

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Borage – Now is the time to plant Borage Tue, 06 Sep 2011 04:15:35 +0000 Sandra Borage Blue Flower

Now is the time to plant Borage.

Borage normally self seeds prolifically in our garden, but the wet weather after last year’s crop set seed, really slowed down the self sown crop this year. It gave us the opportunity to plant some in a few different places. A couple of plants have raced to be the first to bloom and have already come into flower, but the rest are taking their time and growing into large plants, these will put on the best show through spring and into summer with their starry blue flowers.

Borage Borago officinalis is from the Boraginaceae family along with comfrey, lungwort and forget me not to name a few. It is sometimes known as starflower.

Borage grows to a height of 60-100 cm. The stems are branched, hollow and covered in white hairs. The leaves are alternate, large and wrinkled and also covered in hairs. The star like flowers have five narrow triangular pointed petals, are usually blue, with black anthers in the centre. They contain four brown-black seeds.

There is also a white flowering borage.

Originating in Syria, but naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America.

Borage White Flowering

It is suggested the name borage is derived from the Celtic word borrach meaning ‘a man of courage’, the Celts drank their wine with borage before entering battle.

Some people say that the name might be derived from the Latin borra, it’s meaning rough hair, describing the hairy covering on the stems and leaves.

The Greeks and Romans believed that Borage was a source of courage and comfort, and there are references to the flowers being embroidered into medieval tapestries and the colours of jousting knights.

An old Latin verse goes:

Ego BoragoGaudia semper ago. “I, borage, bring always courage.”

Borage has long been associated with health and good cheer and Parkinson (1620-1640)commends it ‘to expel pensiveness and melanchollie.’

Culpepper(1660) finds the plant useful in putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat, and rheumatism.’

John Evelyn, writing at the close of the seventeenth century tells us: ‘Sprigs of Borage are of known virtue to revive the hypochrondriac and cheer the hard student.’

Traditionally Borage was used as syrup for fevers, jaundice, itch and ringworm. Culpepper states it was used for ulcers in the mouth and throat and for inflammations of the eye.

Borage is rich in minerals, especially potassium, calcium and mineral salts. It also contains beneficial saline mucilage, this forms a soothing film over a mucus membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation. It makes an excellent facial steam for improving very dry, sensitive skin.

In recent times Borage has been cultivated commercially for the seed oil, which is the highest known plant-based source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Borage oil is often marketed as starflower oil. Borage seed oil is used for regulation of metabolism and balancing hormones, being a remedy for PMS and hot flushes of menopause.

Externally, a poultice of the leaves can be used on swellings and inflammation.

Tea made from the dried flowers is a traditional calming drink in Iran. It has a rich purple color that turns bright pink by adding a few drops of lemon juice.

Borage has a light cucumber fragrance, the young leaves can be torn into salads, mashed into cream cheese, made into sauces or puréed soups. It is popular as a culinary herb in Germany, a green sauce made in Frankfurt (called grie soß) is made from seven herbs, as well as borage they add parsley, chervil, chives, cress, sorrel and salad burnet. This sauce is served with boiled or braised meat, boiled young potatoes, fish and vegetables.

The leaves and flowers were originally used in Pimms before it was replaced by mint.

Add flowers to herbal vinegar as a dye and for a slight cucumber flavour.

The flowers and young leaves can be used to garnish salads, dips,

and cucumber soups.

Borage can be propagated by seed all year in the sub-tropics, or after frost in colder areas. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year. It will grow in most soil types but it prefers light, free-draining soil.

In the garden, borage is a useful companion plant to strawberries they are believed to stimulate each other’s growth. Their broad leaves protect the soil and the roots draw up nutrients.

Borage Ice Cubes

Half fill ice block trays with cold water and freeze. Remove from freezer and tip out the half blocks. Put a borage flower into each division, replace the half blocks and top them up with water. When the tray is returned to the freezer the borage flower will be set in the middle of the ice block.

Borage Ice Cubes

Candied Borage Flowers

Pick the borage flowers, each with a small stem, when they are quite dry. Paint each one with lightly beaten egg white, using a water colour paintbrush. Dust them lightly with castor sugar and set to dry on waxed paper in a warm place like an airing cupboard or in a very cool oven.

Candied borage flowers make attractive cake decorations

Borage-Flavored Lemonade

¼ cup of lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of sugar

3-4 medium-sized borage leaves

2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend for approximately 30 seconds. Strain into a tall glass, and garnish with borage flowers.

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