Christmas is coming and with it the preparations for supper and to receive family and friends at home. We carefully plan our meals, and during the weeks before the big day, we decide during the shopping the special touches of our party.
Buying aromatic herbs in packs is customary, but why not a seedling? A new green friend? It is a way to give a permanent meaning to this care and celebrate life, start the year with new allies in the garden.
In addition to decorating the house, the herbs can also be used to supply the kitchen and, according to the beliefs, they also have a protective effect on the family.
Herbs can be cultivated easily, provided that the three fundamental aspects of plant development are observed: fertile, well-drained soil, six hours of light per day or four hours of sunshine and regular watering. And without forgetting that a little love, faith, and perseverance make all the difference when it comes to planting.
At retail, the most common herbal seedlings to find are rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), basil (Ocimum basilicum) and mint (Mentha piperita).
From the family of labiates, rosemary tolerates the cold well, dry and well-drained soils. It can reach a height of up to two meters and is very attractive to bees when it flowers. It is a perennial plant and can live up to ten years. Its trunk is very branched, woody and has small greyish-green leaves on top and white underneath in the shape of a spear. It has small flowers, which can be white, blue or pink.
Only rosemary leaves are used for consumption. It is a very appreciated herb, complements recipes for bread, meat, sauces, and salads. It can also decorate roasted dishes, cheese, and cold plates, small consumer pans. As it has leaves with a high content of essential oils, rosemary lasts a good time even after it has been cut.
It is said that on the way to Nazareth, Mary lay down to rest beside a rosemary plant and when she woke up the plant was all flowered with blue. In the Christmas decoration, it can even be used as a small tree to replace a Christmas tree or as a garland for the door.
In Brazil, basil is perhaps the best-known herb, because we love pizza so much, it is that little leaf of pizza Marguerita (the one in the image that opens this post). It serves to season sauces, vinegar, cheeses, and salads and is lovely with fish. In popular tradition, basil is related to prosperity, joy, money. They say it attracts proper fluids and makes people happy.
Basil is straightforward to plant. It likes large, well-drained pots, with soft soil and fertilized with worm humus or compost. You can make a seedling of a single branch, so much so that the excess leaves and flowers are cleaned before planting. Then, keep the watering regular for two weeks. It usually lives for more than two years, but then it begins to dry the woody branches, losing the vigor of the leaves and giving numerous honey flowers (which attract bees).
But the food needs to stay away from the intense cold. It doesn’t tolerate frost and may resent watering when the sun is still warm. Inside the house, it looks for light, and it gets smeared and has fewer leaves. It can withstand the sun for up to six months.
Now let’s go to our last herb in this post. Mint is a ubiquitous herb in Brazilian homes and gardens. It covers entire beds if not controlled and can supply grass all year round.
To cultivate, reserve a sunny and spacious place. Within a year, the whole bed will be taken over by it. If you don’t want it to invade other plants, make barriers with dividing plates for flowerbeds, which can be found in garden shops, or plant them inside a pot in the flowerbed itself. Put a lot of fertilizer so that the plant produces many leaves. Try to cut the leaves instead of pulling them out because the stem is solid and the roots come off quickly.
Mint can be used to season almost any recipe for Arabic food, as well as to enhance the taste of fruit salads, ice cream, and chocolate cakes. It is deliciously beaten in pineapple juice and serves to make jelly.
So what herb will you choose to start 2016 with your home full of aromas and flavors?