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Seasonal Tip

All About Herbs
July 09, 2010

When it comes to history, geography, cultures, romance, and colorful stories, herbs win the prize! They are woven into the histories of the world's earliest civilizations, have ties to magic and religious rituals, and they are staples in American folklore. What makes a plant an herb? Herbs are plants that are valued for their flavor, coloring properties, fragrance, cosmetic benefits, and medicinal attributes.

There are many different ways to use herbs in the home. For instance, herbs can be grown for fresh culinary use or they can be dried for both culinary and medicinal use. Herbs are great for potpourri, soaps, and scented oils. Cooking oils and vinegars flavored by herbs are also excellent gifts, not to mention catnip goodies for our favorite felines!

Herbs are easy to grow plants. Many will even thrive in poorer soils. Most prefer a sunny location. Popular herbs such as basil, cilantro (a.k.a. coriander), parsley, and nasturtiums are among those that are considered to be annuals and should be replanted every year. Chives, some lavenders, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are perennials and will return year after year.

No matter if the garden is big or small, a deck, or even a sunny windowsill, there is always room for herbs. But beware: these delightful and fascinating plants can quickly change you from a casual, summer herb gardener into a dedicated year round collector! The foliage is the most common used part of an herb, however, stems, flowers, seeds, oil, and roots are also utilized. When using herbs for culinary purposes, be sure to employ the proper section of the plant. For example, teas made from leaves and teas made from the root of the same plant can have very different effects upon a person's body. In addition, different herbs require different methods of preparation for usage. Some herbs are used while raw; others are dried, crushed, steeped, or boiled. Before making use of any herb, especially those being ingested, it is vital to understand the right part of the plant to choose, and its correct method of preparation. This information is readily available in a variety of reference books as well as on the internet.

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