Speaking of herbs: Mints, marjoram and more!

Among the members of the Labiate family that are used as herbs are Peppermint, Spearmint, Marjoram, Sage, Thyme and Basil. The mints are among the easiest herbs to grow, but at the same time difficult to control as they send out roots in all directions. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is the most commonly grown garden mint in northern Europe. This plant carries narrow almost unstalked leaves. The flowers are lilac coloured and arranged in spikes, including a pronounced terminal spike. This plant grows well in moist habitat. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a perennial plant, with aromatic oils in leaves, stems and roots and is used for food flavouring. Peppermint has a strong odour and a pungent taste. Indigenous to Europe and Asia it commonly grows near streams and in other damp places. It is cultivated in Europe, Asia, and North America for its essential oil. Oil of peppermint is widely used for flavouring candy and medicines. The oil contains large quantities of menthol. Menthol, also called peppermint camphor, is used as a soothing balm.

Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an aromatic woody plant with dense leaves growing on short stalks. Hairy Thyme (Thymus praecox) grows wild in Iceland and other northern European countries. Here, this plant is used as herbal and medicinal tea while it also adds delicious flavour to lamb dishes and game meat. In Iceland, Hairy Thyme grows best on heath as well as on other dry land. The small pink flowers of thymes are a major attraction also for bees. Both Common Thyme and Hairy Thyme can be cultivated to produce a herb harvest. The herbs are harvested in the wild or in cultivated fields when in full flower. Subsequently, you may dry the herbs by spreading out the herb material on a large tray and then store them in a small container along with other herbs and teas.

Basil (Ocímum basilicum) is a herb belonging to the Labiate family, and has a mild clove-like aroma and is used for adding flavour to egg and tomato dishes. Basil is also a medical herb used for stomach and nervous disorders. Here in the far north, Basil grows well in south-facing windows. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a tender bushy plant with woody stems. The herb is used as seasoning for meat, soups and salads. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is best grown in full sun on well-drained soils in temperate regions. I have grown Sage indoors on windowsills with very good success.

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