Planting an Indoor Herb Garden

Why wait for the weather to change? Planting an indoor herb garden can be an easy way to introduce yourself to the joys of gardening and is a wonderful way for gardeners to get their gardening-fix even during darker, colder months. Tending to plants can be very relaxing, therapeutic, and rewarding. Harvesting fresh herbs for spaghetti sauce, stews, and broiled meats gives your food a flavor which rivals your favorite restaurants! It is far less expensive than buying herbs in the store, and since it is a living plant, you never have to worry about the excess rotting in the fridge!

What You Will Need:

  • A Window – ideally with Southern exposure in winter. If you live in a dark place, you can use full-spectrum lamps to keep your plants happy!
  • Herbs – choose plants which you will actually use (I rarely use marjoram, even though it grows easily). My favorites – basil, thai basil, lemongrass (not an easy one to grow), cilantro, and oregano. You can start from seed if you wish, or purchase starter plants from your nursery.
  • Several small pots with holes for drainage – individual pots will allow you to keep an easier eye on each plant and its needs. If space is of concern, you can group them in one container, but growth may be compromised if your herb choices have differing needs.
  • Organic Soil – Choose organic, compost-rich soil for your plants. It contains a wider spectrum of nutrients and beneficial organisms than standard potting soil.
  • Plant food — worm castings, worm tea, PlanTea, or fish emulsion among others to give your herbs once a week.

For actual planting, this video is a basic how-to.

For some medicinal qualities of common herbs and spices we use in cooking, check out this blog post!

The Magic of Herbs

This post is part of FoodRenegade’s Fight Back Fridays, a blog carnival promoting the Real Food Revolution

Herbs have been used for centuries to not only flavor our meals, but to provide powerful medicine to keep the body healthy and strong. Below are some of the medicinal properties of herbs commonly used in cooking. Growing fresh herbs in your home is a wonderful way to not only give your food spectacular flavor, but boost your immune system, prevent food poisoning, and give your body powerful plant medicine!

Bon appetite!

Oregano: oregano is a strong antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. The aromatic oils in this herb offer natural food preservation due to these qualities, and have been used for thousands of years to treat bad breath, arthritis, cough, wounds, and bacterial & fungal infections. Oregano also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities as well and may prevent cellular damage.

Basil: Basil is great for cardiovascular health, promoting lowering of cholesterol, stable blood sugar, and supporting the body’s ability to cope with stress. It contains triterpenoids (similar to ginseng, eleuthero) giving the body resistance to internal and external stressors. It has sedative, calming qualities and is often prescribed to alleviate anxiety (Holy Basil specifically is renowned for this). Traditionally it has been used for stomach aches, nausea, mouthwash, headaches, urinary complaints, and healing infection. Like oregano, it contains many antimicrobial properties and has powerful amounts of antioxidants.

Rosemary: a natural mood booster and energizer, rosemary has been used in aromatherapy for centuries to facilitate memory and boost mood. Medicinally, this herb have been used to soothe and facilitate the digestive tract and reduce anxiety. In ancient times, many Western cultures wrapped their meat in rosemary to retard spoilage. Rosemary can also be added to oils and used to massage achiness out of sore muscles.

Sage: Crushed leaves can be applied to wounds to speed healing. Sage is also reputed to be a powerful antiperspirant. It is the sacred cleansing herb of the Native Americans and is used to cleanse both body and environment of physical and spiritual impurities. Sage tea helps regulate menses and the herb in cooking helps reduce inflammatory conditions (arthritis, asthma, arterial damage). It also has been shown to improve brain function (citation)

Cayenne: as anyone who has tasted it knows, cayenne is potent! It has a strong ability to bring circulation and movement to the body, benefiting the joints (it’s an ingredient in many arthritis creams), heart, and speeding healing. Cayenne can be sprinkled in your socks on a cold day to keep your feet warm and is an essential addition to natural cold and flu therapies. It helps expel mucus from the body, kill infections and stimulates saliva and stomach secretions to improve overall digestion.

Cilantro: this herb is commonly seen in salsas and guacamole. Like the other medicinal plants listed here, cilantro is a great digestive assistant and reduces gas. It has been used traditionally to ease anxiety and (for what it is worth) one study with mice supports this. (Can we rule out the placebo effect here?) In the United States, the leaves of this plant are known as cilantro, its seeds are known as coriander.  Dodecenal, a compound found in the fresh leaves, is shown to kill the Salmonella bacteria. It seems logical that its popularity occurs in regions where heat (Mexico, India) cause rapid spoilage.

To get started on your own indoor herb garden, click here!