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Planting a garden? Don't forget the herbs

Published April 4, 2013 10:17 am

Health • Five versatile herbs that grow well in Utah.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Spring is in the air and many people have the urge to get their hands in the dirt.

When planting a garden, everyone thinks of tomatoes, squash and other summer-pleasing vegetables, but don't forget to save space for herbs — especially if you have a small space.

Too often herbs get a lowly place in the garden, tucked away and forgotten except for the occasional use. But those who know the power and versatility of herbs celebrate and value them.

Here are five herbs that thrive in Utah and should be considered for your space. All were chosen for their versatility and ease in growing them. Even if you only have a patio, all of these can easily be grown in pots.

Lavender • A must in any home garden because of its fragrant smells and many uses. It grows easily, requires minimal amounts of water and is a natural repellent for many animals.

Lavender flowers are edible, so use them to dress up salads, entrees and desserts. Or add some to salt along with other herbs to make a signature seasoning. Lavender tea, made from the flowers, is good for headaches. Lavender also is known to help with digestive issues and can help with relaxation, so having some in your bedroom may help you sleep.

Place lavender flowers in a cotton bag and then in your dresser drawers to freshen clothes and keep moths away. Or make your own room freshener by steeping the flowers in hot water then straining the flowers and adding a bit of alcohol as a preservative. Use it on your carpets, pet areas, etc.

Peppermint • Mint gets a bad rap because it is a vigorous grower and can take over a garden if left unchecked. Simple solution, grow it in a pot and enjoy all its benefits worry free. Peppermint is good in salads, desserts and drinks, but also is valued for its cooling effect, which can help with digestive issues and upset stomachs. Peppermint can be dried and made into a tea. It's cooling effect can also help with sunburns, bug bites and rashes. A simple way to use it for these issues is to steep some in water and use it as a wash, or if the area is small, simply crush a few leaves and apply.

Borage • This is an old time herb that is becoming popular again, and with good reason. It is easy to grow, hardy, will often self-seed and looks beautiful in the flower or vegetable garden. Its blue flowers are edible and are said to taste like cucumbers. They are very high in gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that plays a role in joint health. The flowers also are a high in vitamin C, A and iron.

Besides the flowers young borage leaves are edible and can be added to salads or bean dips.

A word of warning — borage can have a diuretic effect, so avoid using it in large quantities.

German chamomile • I like herbs and plants that make me smile, and this is definitely a happy plant. It is small and bears little white and yellow flowers that spruce up any corner of the yard. Chamomile tea is popular for relieving stomach aches and motion sickness. It is used as a relaxant and it has anti-viral properties that make it useful in treating wounds or rashes.

Add flowers to a bath to relieve irritated skin. To make a tea, add flowers to boiling water and let it steep 15 minutes then strain.

Lemon balm • This hardy grower comes back year after year and has a refreshing, minty, lemony taste. Use the leaves to make a hot or cold tea or dab some of the steeped water onto your skin for a natural insect repellent. The light, fresh scent is used by many as an anti-depressant, so if you are feeling down, pick a few sprigs of this herb to freshen up your outlook.

lwodraska@sltrib.com