Tuesday, July 6, 2010
A huge bag of awesome!!
(Note: All information contained within is not meant to replace the advice of your personal qualified health care practitioner.)
I love growing things. I used to kill every green thing my black little thumbs touched: cactus, venus fly trap, bulb flowers, "unkillable" ferns; you name it, I've slaughtered it. A friend of mine once showed me a book called "Plants even YOU can't kill." After a short browse, I noted that I had destroyed at least 40% of the books offerings and placed it back on the shelf. Last year, I decided enough was enough. I bought good, beautiful, organic, and practical plants (generally all of these attributes in one) and set out to keep them alive.
Thus far, my success rate is about 60%. The spider plant is the biggest I've seen in a long time, the 2 basil plants suvived the winter and are going on one year old, the mint had a rough go for a while, but there are some buds poking through the once decimated soil, and the pretty yellow flowers are still alive and kicking. In the battle I've lost rosemary, thyme, and a butterfly plant. I mourned them properly.
The other day I decided it was time to strike out again. I headed out to China Town Redux (Broadview/Gerrard: my name is not the official title of the neighbourhood) to find some good, healthy and cheap potted herbs.
And what a find I had.
All the herbs I bought possess culinary, medicinal, and magical properties. Below is a short, keynoted list for each herb on my own balcony. I will do this one herb at a time, as I think they're all so glorious and deserving of individual posts.
I highly recommend balcony/backyard/rooftop gardening to anyone living an urban (herban!) lifestyle. They're beautiful, function, good smelling, magical and health giving. What more could a person possibly ask?
Culinary: marjoram is part of the collective "herbs de Provence" and is generally sweet and wonderful. Be sure to collect "sweet marjoram" else you'll have a flavourless mountainside herb with no value but its admittedly loveley greenery. There is also a variety called "wild marjoram" which is generally known as oregano. Sweet marjoram can be used dried or fresh, in cooking or raw in salads and as a garnish for just about anything. When looking into recipes using marjoram as the major herb, it seems to be paired with main ingredients possessing very strong flavours; lamb, brussels sprouts, chicken, beef, even onion. Marjoram is often nicknamed a 'meaty herb.' It is not generally used for baking.
What I've always found interesting is that one can use a significantly smaller amount of dried herb than that of fresh; about 1/3 the amount of dried to fresh is the average ratio. I assume this is because of the presence of volatile oil in relation to the amount of actual leaf matter, but I could be making this up. This is true for pretty much all herbs in the dried/fresh dichotomy.
Medicinal: Marjoram has many medicinal affinities with oregano, which is becoming more and more popular in natural medicine. Marjoram (and oregano as well) is a natural disinfectant, antifungal, antibacterial agent. It can aid digestion and ease stomach cramps and flatulence. It can be used to calm anxiety, releive menstrual cramps, and even help to calm fussy children. It is generally given as an herbal infusion (like tea); the leaves and flowers are used. Dr. John Christopher used marjoram as part of a tonic for diaphoresis (excessive sweating). It may also be used as a steam inhaled to clear the sinuses and relieve laryngitis. Professional singers often drink marjoram tea sweetened with honey to preserve their voices.
Marjoram is not to be used medicinally during pregnancy as the effects have not been sufficiently studied.
Magical: Ancient Egyptians used marjoram in the embalming process, and also burned along with other herbs to please the gods. This is likely because it is an extremely wonderfully aromatic herb, pleasing to more than just the gods. It is said that if marjoram is found growing on a gravesite, the person contained will enjoy a pleasant afterlife. Legend says that if one annoints one's self with marjoram before bed s/he will dream of one's future partner. Marjoram is universally thought to promote happiness and well-being.