There are many plants, for example herbs, that most of us use in our kitchen’s almost on a daily basis. Many of these plants have wonderful immune boosting-qualities in. As you know, maintaining a strong immune system is key to your health and well-being. When it is “out of sync,” then dis-ease manifests. Here are a few plants (herbs), that you can easily plant in your garden, or in a pot, to use when you are cooking.
The Calendula’s petals have antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties in. The more intense its colour, the higher the level of active ingredients.
Growing Calendula: these plants are frost hardy. Calendula likes full sunlight and fertile soil that drains well. On average, it grows to 45 cm in height, and about 30 cm wide. All it needs is a liquid fertilizer once a month, and removing the dead flowers, that will encourage new flowers.
Using Calendula: pick the flowers in the morning, when the water content is at its highest. Pluck the petals and use it to make a tea. This tea will help to clear infections (due to its antiviral actions). The tea can also be used as a detox and to balance the digestive system, liver and gall bladder.
Making Calendula tea: cut up 2 teaspoons of petals in a glass jug and pour 750 ml of just-boiled water over. Cover it and let it steep for 10 minutes, before straining. Enjoy!
Rich in vitamin C, A and minerals such as iron, parsley provides good protection against colds and flu. The darker the leaves, the higher the iron-content.
Growing Parsley: Parsley is best grown in full sun. it likes deep, fertile soil that drains well. Make sure to plant out the new plants every 6 months; especially if you harvest on a regular basis, otherwise it develops a stem, which reduces its yield.
How to use Parsley: 2 tablespoons per day as a garnish or juiced, should keep the doctor away! A mild-flavoured tea can also be made from parsley, which you sip 3x per day as a digestive or tonic.
Thyme has strong aromatic, antiseptic leaves, containing thymol (an antifungal). Thymol helps to treat throat and chest infections like bronchitis and whooping cough. Thyme is also an excellent tonic herb, which strengthens the lungs and immune system.
Growing Thyme: Thyme is a small, bushy perennial that needs full sun. It tolerates poor soil and responds well to regular trimming. Thyme needs to be fertilized 1x per month or 2x, if you are picking it constantly.
How to use Thyme: the leaves are wonderful to use in slow-cooked, meaty stews or soups. Whole sprigs can be added at the beginning of cooking and removed just before serving. Or you can strip the leaves from the stem, chop it and leave it in the dish when it is served. You can also make a tea from the Thyme-leaves; by placing leaves in boiled water and letting it steam for a few minutes. This can be drunk 3x per day, but not longer than a week, as it can affect iron absorption. Therefore, if you have high iron-levels, either drink this 1x per month or, if unsure, ask a health practitioner or wellness shop.
When you hear Oregano, you immediately think of Italian food! That is because it is used in many of their dishes. The leaves are highly antiseptic and used to treat coughs, tonsillitis, bronchitis and asthma.
Growing Oregano: Oregano is a hardy, perennial herb, that loves full sun and attracts butterflies. It can survive heat and cold winters. There are 2 types of Oregano. Variegated Oregano (O vulgare “variegate”) has cream and green leaves; a lovely groundcover. The golden, upright variety has striking foliage.
Often associated with Italian food, especially tomato-based sauces, the leaves are highly antiseptic and are used to treat coughs, tonsillitis, bronchitis and asthma.
How to use it Oregano: the leaves have a robust flavour, which works well in cooking. Not just tomato sauces, but also roasted vegetables, soups, stews and bread. Dried oregano has a much stronger flavour than the fresh leaves, so make sure not to put too much in your dish when using the dried leaves.
Asian greens like tatsoi, mizuna and Pak choy, are fairly good sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamins B2 and B6, folic acid, iron and magnesium, as well as calcium.
Growing Asian greens: Apart from Mizuna (which prefers partial shade), all other Asian greens do best in full sun. Fertile, well-composed, well-draining soil, is important. Also make sure to plant plants with edible flowers like nasturtiums and violas, next to it, for colour.
How to use Asian greens: Tatsoi leaves are crunchy and lightly peppery; delicious in salads, soups and stir-fries. Pak choi has mild, peppery flavoured leaves that can be cooked like spinach and the stems steamed like asparagus. Mizuna leaves have a pleasant peppery flavour, reminiscent of rocket but sweeter and can be used in salads, in stir-fries or steamed.
I am sure many of us remember Popeye, the sailor man, that ate spinach almost daily. He must’ve known that it is loaded with vitamins C, K, minerals, plant protein, flavonoids and iron, which act as antioxidants. The darker the leaves, the higher the content. It is a cool-season vegetable and, if you cannot find it, opt for Swiss chard.
Growing Spinach: Spinach must be planted in full sun, fertile, well-composted soil, and watered regularly. When you want to harvest spinach, cut / twist the leaves off from the base of the plant. Make sure to harvest the biggest leaves and not the small ones (unless it is a baby spinach, of course). When harvest season is over, the plants’ leaves start to flop and the plant can be removed. However, if it is only a few leaves that flop, then it could mean that the plant is either not getting enough sunlight and/or water.
How to use Spinach: Cooking spinach with the lid off will release the sulphurous smell of the spinach. Make sure the water is salty in order to preserve its flavour. Careful not to overcook it, unless you are using it in a quiche or want to make cream spinach. Another good idea is to stir fry it in a pan, with some added butter or oil.
Other healthy options
There are more options to choose from to use in your kitchen. For example, butternut, all the brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and kale in particular, carrots, garden peas, garlic, leeks, onions (both the red and white onion) and sweet potatoes.
Before you go shopping next time, make sure to choose a dish that incorporates one / more of the above-mentioned ingredients. Organic plants, herbs, vegetables and fruit are always the better option, as it is free from pesticides and other harmful things. Another great option is to plant your own (either from a small plant or seeds). Planting it is organic soil is the best choice, then you know what you are using (and eating) are as healthy as it can get.
Happy cooking and happy eating!