Herb enthusiasts share favorites in honor of National Herb Day
STRASBURG – National Herb Day began in 2006 to encourage herbalists, gardeners, culinarians, and the general public to come together and spread their knowledge about the many added benefits of herbs. To celebrate National Herb Day, which is Saturday, Janet Heishman and Jim Evans of Gabalot Gardens share their favorite herbs and their uses.
Evans, a former chef, enjoys the ability to elevate any dish to the next level by tossing in a handful of his favorite herbs.
“Herbs are so easy to grow, no matter where you live,” Evans said. “I just stick them in my raised garden beds out back and I always have this never-ending supply of my favorites.”
- Strawberry Mint: a petite green leaf that has a fruity scent and flavor. “It gives off a mild flavor of strawberries and is excellent on ice cream or in tea.”
- Spearmint: known for its strong flavor and fragrance. “We commonly see it in teas and mint juleps.”
- Rosemary: one of the most aromatic and pungent herbs. Its needles are a lemon-pine flavor. “I love it on chicken or lamb. But it’s a good addition to soups or pork.”
- Sage: it grows almost anywhere but is tastiest when it receives a lot of sunlight. “It isn’t a very flavorful herb but when paired with other herbs it can be. I typically use it on chicken or pork.”
- Bulb fennel: grows from a bulb-like structure that almost looks like a baseball. “It has a sweet licorice flavor and can add a crunchy texture to any salad.”
- Bay leaf: an evergreen that should not be missing from any herb collection. “Most cooks use it in their soups or stews.”
- Garlic chives: have an oniony flavor with a very distinctive garlic overtone. “It’s a very difficult herb to grow but is good in egg dishes or soups.”
- Curly parsley: known for its curled and frilly green leaves. “You’ll typically see this used as a garnish.”
- Basil: rich in flavor and very versatile. “If you grow nothing else, grow basil. It can add rich flavor to almost any dish.”
Heishman said the use of medicinal herbs date back to biblical times and are still commonly found in nature.
“People have been using herbs for over a thousand years, not just for culinary purposes but also for their medicinal benefits,” she said.
- Comfrey: an anti-inflammatory and perfect for topical healing. “You take the leaves if you have a wound and pound them into a poultice and apply a layer for healing.”
- Horehound: a bitter herb that is part of the mint family and is commonly known as a remedy for respiratory aliments. “Typically you see it made into lozenge candies that aid in digestion and soothe sore throats.”
- Marshmallow althea officinalis: root system has evolved into today’s yummy marshmallow treats. “This is a really great herb for people who have the flu because when combined with other antibacterial herbs, it moistens the lungs.”
- Valerian: cats love it and so do earthworms. “Can be made into a salve for skin problems, rashes or sore muscles.”
- Gotu kola: rich in nutrients. “Used to improve memory and intelligence.”
- Chamomile: a daisy like plant that has been used since ancient times. “Commonly known as an insomnia and anxiety cure.”
- Ginger: one of the most widely used herbs in both the kitchen and in homeopathic remedies. “Relieves nausea and pain.”
- Lavender: smell it and relaxation hits almost immediately. “It also eases pain and can function as an antiseptic.”
- Parsley: it’s not just a decoration on the plate. “Loaded with so many nutrients and healing powers.”
Gabalot Gardens is located at 373 Green Acre Drive in Strasburg. 540-465-3246