My mantra is everyone should grow something. The easiest method to have a mini garden is to get some plastic or
ceramic pots and plant a few
seasoning herbs and spices. You only need to spend extra money for appearance sake because a plastic paint pail or a piece of spouting will be adequate. I search the
discount ten-dollar stores for nice planters. Some seedling sources sell plants in suitable pots very
reasonably. I bought my two pepper trees in pots for thirty-five dollars. That may seem more than buying a few seasoning or bitter peppers at a time, but you and your family have an actual hand in their
production and can watch them grow. Remember, fresh spices taste the best.
I recommend my biggest planter—four feet long, a foot wide and high, because it can fit almost anyone's habitat. It's built with a compartment to hold water, so you don't have to water it every day. Perforations in the inside floor of the planter permit moisture to seep to the roots.
A planter needs a growing medium or dirt. Potting soil is available in a lot of hardwares and agri shops for small money. If you want to just dig some soil, I recommend you sanitise it by dumping it in an old foil baking dish and
putting it into a 350 degree oven for half an hour. Baking soil? It kills all the bacteria, insects, and fungus so you begin with zero pests or problems. You will need some
fertiliser, not much. Use water
soluble like Nutrex or Miracle Grow 20-20-20.
What do you want to grow? Herbs are good for small containers because just a little—a leaf or two—will enrich the flavour of a common dish. A bit of herbs can also be used for a refreshing or healthy tea. Peppers, chives grow well in small pots and again only one or two will brighten any dish. Carefully snip off the pepper from the tree and it should bear for months with minimal care.
Brightly coloured bitter peppers are attractive décor. If you carefully snip off one of the green straws from a chive it will regenerate. Remember, you are only adding a bit to accent dishes.
One tomato tree in a small pot should bear well for a few months. A small rectangular pot can generate several heads of lettuce. Again snip the lettuce leaves and the plant will keep growing. It is the same with chadon benee.
Find some in a market and snip off the leaves to use and plant the roots.
Sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, celery, parsley, basil, purple and green fennel, dill, chadon benee (culantro) can all be found in my big planter. A stalk of celery and a few sprigs of parsley will create flavourful rice. A chopped chive with a piece of pepper or pimento will make an egg omelet shout. Once you have oregano and basil, you are at least partially an Italian chef.
Fresh herbs as mint or thyme can freshen your living space with a delightful, organic aroma. Almost every herb was first
recognised for its medicinal
purposes. A window or patio pot of fresh herbs can soothe more than a few illnesses.
Always consult with a
physician before using herbal
concoctions especially if you are already using medication.
You want to grow many perennials as these plants will last more than two years with proper
attention. These are all incredibly easy to grow in pots. Everyone is familiar with chives and chadon benee. Dried herbs can be
substituted for fresh if your feel your thumb isn't green enough.
The following recipes are as simple as growing the ingredients, usually needing only one pot.
THYME—There are about 350 species of thyme. Usually used for cooking are the common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon thyme. The most commonly used medicinal thymes is Spanish thyme (T. zygis). A tea can be made by adding one teaspoon of crushed thyme leaf in half cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 10 minutes before straining. Drink every four hours to treat a cough. If the tea is sweetened with honey it increases the effectiveness.
CASSEROLE —a one pot meal
Ingredients: one nice eggplant sliced about a half inch thick, three pounds Irish potatoes peeled and sliced thin, two green sweet bell peppers seeded and sliced a quarter-inch thick, one large onion chopped, three garlic cloves chopped, one large can (28oz) peeled tomatoes, three TBS fresh thyme minced, oil for frying, salt and spices to
Method: Place eggplant slices on a dish and lightly salt on both sides. Let sit an hour then dry wiping off salt. In large skillet over medium heat two TBS oil. Add onion and garlic, sauté until golden, about ten minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices and thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Add potato and pepper slices. Keep stirring for about twenty minutes. Mash tomatoes with spoon. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Add eggplant pieces and cook on low for ten more minutes. Cover, remove from heat and allow to sit for half an hour before serving. That will be difficult because this smells so good! Top with another spoon of crushed thyme before dishing on plates.
OREGANO—a perennial herb,
(origanum vulgare) growing to twenty inches with pink flowers and spade-shaped,
olive-green leaves. Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, two oils which have remarkable bacteria-fighting power. With potent antioxidants, oregano is high in iron,
manganese, and other important minerals for health. It's one of the healthiest and
tastiest herbs you can eat.
BASIL—ocimum basilicum, usually is a perennial in tropical climates and is used to season sauces, soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Basil also offers many important health benefits as blocking enzymes in the body that cause swelling. Eating basil is an ideal treatment for people with arthritis. Add a few basil leaves into your favourite dish for a fresh burst of flavour.
SIMPLE ITALIAN PASTA
Ingredients: two cups pasta, one medium onion chopped small, one clove garlic minced, one TBS fresh oregano minced, one TBS fresh Basil minced, two TBS butter,
margarine or olive oil, salt and spices to your taste, two TBS Parmesan cheese optional. Add a can of flaked tuna drained to expand this dish. Add a minced, seeded hot pepper for zest.
Method: In a sizable pot boil pasta per
directions. Drain water. Combine all
ingredients and cover. Let sit for fifteen
minutes before serving. Crusty bread or bake plus a simple salad makes this quick elegant meal.
CELERY—The calcium, magnesium, and potassium in celery also helps regulate blood pressure. Celery may also lower
cholesterol by increasing bile acid secretion. This stalk also contains coumarins which have been shown to be effective in the
prevention of cancer and has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help with inflammation such as arthritis. Caribbean celery has much more flavour than imported. You want to grow celery at home because it has been found to be the vegetable most
contaminated by pesticides.
PARSLEY—Petroselinum hortense -There are many types of parsley but the most
common are curly-leaf and the more pungent Italian or flat leaf-parsley. Flat-leaf is
preferred for cooking. Two tablespoons of parsley contain 16% of the RDA of vitamin C and over 12% of the RDA of vitamin A. These are two powerful antioxidants that fight inflammatory disorders like arthritis and strengthen the immune system. Parsley also contains iron, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and iodine. Parsley is an excellent breath freshener.
It cleanses and strengthens the kidneys and can even help break up kidney stones. Parsley tea is very heart healthy.
It is difficult to grow from seed so look for seedlings.
SHIRLEY'S GREEN SAUCE—add to
almost any cooking
Ingredients: twelve leaves chadon benee, one head garlic, one full-grown stalk celery, two leaves Spanish thyme, quarter-cup
Method: Mince it all together with a blender and store in bottle. Use to marinate.
Ingredients: two or more cups cooked rice, two stalks local celery chopped including the leaves, one medium onion chopped, half bunch of parsley chopped, one clove garlic minced, one carrot peeled and chopped, half a hot pepper seeded and
minced – optional, one TBS oil, salt
and spices to your taste.
Method: In a frying pan heat oil and add onion and garlic and cook stirring for three to five minutes. Reduce heat and add
remaining ingredients except parsley. Cook on low for ten minutes. Stir to keep rice from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley. If you want this as a main dish add scrambled eggs.
officinalis, rosemary is a perennial herb. This herb is a choleric, antiseptic, diuretic, and a tonic stimulating bile secretion and eliminating it in the intestines, destroying
microorganisms, while increasing the quantity of eliminated urine. Research indicates rosemary improves the blood flow, refreshes and energizes the mind, an ideal memory stimulant for both adults and students. Rosemary tea is recognized for its powerful antioxidant properties and its ability to treat a range of physical discomforts.
Ingredients: three pounds Irish potatoes chopped into small cubes, one onion chopped, two garlic cloves minced, one TBS fresh rosemary crushed, three TBS oil - olive or canola preferred, salt and spices to taste.
Method: In a bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, oil, rosemary, garlic and garlic salt; toss to coat. Transfer to a foil-lined 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until
potatoes are tender and brown.