Herbs & spices

Vanilla Bean: Planting & Care

Vanilla Bean: Planting & Care

The vanilla bean plant, also known by its botanical name as V. planifolia, is actually a member of the orchid family. Commercial vanilla beans are cultivated in Central and South American countries; particularly in Mexico.

You can plant your own vanilla bean plant at home. You may need to order the plant root or a cutting of the plant via the Internet or through a tropical plant company. If you receive the plant through a tropical plant company or an Internet company, follow the directions that come with it. The vanilla bean plant requires an artificial tropical climate similar to the area where the plant is normally grown. The vanilla bean plant is sensitive to light, heat, and moisture. An ideal environment should be in indirect sunlight with ample humidity and away from extreme cold temperatures.

Growing Dill

Growing Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the carrot family, has been a favored culinary herb for centuries. Not only its flavorful foliage, but its pungent seeds are used. Native to southern Europe, dill is a staple in Greek cooking. Though dill is best known as a pickling herb for cucumbers, the leaves can be used fresh or dried in salads, meats, vegetable dishes and soups. Used whole or ground, the seeds add zest to bread, cheese, and salad dressing.


Dill grows well in gardens throughout the entire United States. Its delicate foliage provides an ornamental element wherever it is grown, making it an ideal candidate not only for herb gardens, but for flower beds as well.

Parsley – Planting & Growing

Parsley – Planting & Growing

Parsley is one of the best known herbs in the kitchen and is sprinkled over vegetables as a garnish and added to soups and stews. What most people don’t realize is that parsley is extremely nourishing, containing vitamins C, A, and B; iron, calcium, manganese; phosphorous; and even iron. Its fresh taste enhances dips, spreads, soups, quiches, salads, potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. Parsley also acts as a breath freshener, so chew a sprig after eating a garlicky dish.

It is difficult to germinate and requires a high temperature. Some people delay sowing until into the summer but it is a help to soak the seed in warm water overnight and pour boiling water down the seed drills if parsley is to be sown directly in the kitchen garden.

Thyme – The Herb For Your Garden And Kitchen

Thyme – The Herb For Your Garden And Kitchen

A well-known and important herb, common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a perennial subshrub and is still used in the kitchen after many centuries to flavour meat, fish and vegetable dishes, in bouquets garni. It is a charming, attractive plant for the herb container. There is a number of thymes that can be used in the kitchen including T. herba-barona, with the scent of caraway traditionally used to flavour a baron of beef, and some creeping thymes.

Thyme is a shrubby perennial with small, oval, narrow, grey-green leaves, long, woody, branched stems, and sturdy roots. This plant blooms in mid-summer and has lavender-pink flowers that occur in small clusters. The flowers attract bees and the honey produced is highly valued. The leaves are very aromatic. Leaves, stems, and flowers may all be eaten.

Arnica montana

Arnica montana

Also called Mountain tobacco, arnica (Arnica montana) is a much-valued perennial herb in medicine and arnica ointment is used to treat bruises, sprains, varicose veins and other conditions. It is also used in homeopathy to treat epilepsy, high blood pressure and shock. It is also used internally, because of its irritant effect on the stomach. Its action is stimulant and diuretic.

As with all medicinal herbs, it should not be used in its natural state for the plant is poisonous and toxic and can cause skin irritation. It is not a large plant ( 30-60 cm by 15 cm) and carries attractive golden-yellow daisy-like flowers, held on a long stems. It is a popular plant for growing in containers. Period of flowering is in midsummer to early fall.

Ginger – The Multipurpose Herb

Ginger – The Multipurpose Herb

Ginger (Family Zingiberaceae) is a perennial herb that thrives in most parts of southern Asia, Jamaica, Nigeria, and the West Indies. The plant has recently been cultivated in Florida, California, and Hawaii. Purple orchid-like flowers grow on the stalks of the wild plant. The most common part of the plant known for its multi-faceted use is the thick tuberous rhizome root that is brown on the outside but a dark yellowish amber hue on the inside.

Ginger yields an essential oil that is steam distilled from the unpeeled, dried and ground root. The scent is somewhat bitterer than the root but when used in aromatherapy the oil mixes well with sandalwood, cedar wood and patchouli, adding a woody-spicy scent to the mix.