We have looked at popular culinary and medicinal herbs in the last two blog posts, so in this week's blog post we will have a look at some of the more unusual but popular herbs in our range. Let's start with.........
PyrethrumI think we are all aware of Pyrethrum as a natural insecticide. It contains pyrethrin which acts on the nervous systems of many insects, therefore you will find it as an ingredient in most insecticides such as your fly spray. The flowers are harvested and dried and crushed.
Pyrethrum was used for centuries as an insecticide and lice remedy in the Middle East. The first records appear to be of the pyrethrum daisy being traded on the silk routes in China 2000 years ago.
Sage WhiteThis Sage is a popular herb with the Native Americans. White sage is burnt in purification rituals by the Native Americans as it has a strong aroma. The leaves need to be dried for a couple of days before making into smudge sticks (incense). When burnt, these release white smoke that is said to invoke a peaceful feeling.
The white to pale lavender flowers of this plant are very attractive to bees and bumblebees.
Szechuan ButtonSzechuan Button is a native to the tropics of Brazil where it is known as Jambu. This unusual looking plant is also known as the toothache plant as it has analgesic qualities when the leaves or flowers are chewed, helping to relieve toothache. It also creates a cooling sensation in the throat when used medicinally.
Using the flower in your cooking, the tangy citrus taste can help to offset the intense heat of chillies. The leaves are used in Brazilian and Thai cooking.
To use the flowers, pick them when they are thimble size and before they are fully open. They are golden yellow with a burgundy centre.
Soapwort has a lovely flower and grows well in most soil conditions. The crushed roots and leaves have been used since the Renaissance as a soap. Museums still use it to clean delicate fabrics and you can use it as a shampoo.
Used externally, it is great for eczema and other skin problems. Other medicinal uses are for bronchitis and to treat dry coughs, or as a laxative.
WormwoodWormwood has origins back in Ancient Egypt and Greece and is the main ingredient of Absinthe, an alcoholic beverage which had many uses. One of these is as a malaria preventative for the French troops in the 1840s.
Generally it is used in relation to the digestive process and is a powerful remedy for treating roundworm and pin worm infestations. It has a bitter taste and therefore stimulates and invigorates the whole of the digestive system.
Black Cumin seed is known by many names; fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, black seed or caraway seed. It has an aniseed smell, and a peppery nutmeg smell when crushed. Don't confuse this seed with onion seed or black sesame.
It is used Bengali cooking, in naan bread, in Turkish bread and Bosnian pastries. In Arabic, it is referred to as the "seed of blessing", and used in pastries on Muslim religious holidays.
Black cumin seed was found in Tutankhamen's tomb, and it was believed to be used to assist him in the afterlife.
CatnipCats are particularly attracted to this plant and you will find a lot of products on the supermarket and pet shop shelves that contain Catnip. If you have some in your garden, expect to see the family feline/s pawing, licking, chewing or rubbing themselves on the plants. But beware, too much of a good thing can make them a wee bit aggressive.
This is also used as a traditional human cold and flu remedy. It eases stomach upsets and is a good treatment for children when they have diarrhoea. It has a slightly numbing effect and sedative action, giving it relaxing properties.
EpazoteEpazote (pronounced 'epa hote ay') is commonly used in Mexican and Caribbean food, traditionally with black beans. It is said to have properties that prevent the flatulence caused by eating beans, and so it works well as a seasoning in bean dishes. It has a similar but stronger aroma of fennel, anise or tarragon. The leaves as well as the seeds are used. The flavour is very different when cooked than when eaten raw.
SteviaStevia is very popular with customers here at Kings Seeds and we get a lot of enquiries about it. History shows use in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten tea, in medicine and as a sweet treat. The leaves are used as a sweetener and sugar substitute and due to the fact that it has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is creating a lot of interest as a natural sweetener, especially for diabetics.
ValerianValerian has been used for centuries and Hippocrates described its therapeutic properties back in the 2nd century. In England, they used it during World War II to relieve stress due to the air-raids.
This herb is one of the most useful as a sedative and to reduce tension and anxiety. It helps insomniacs and other sleep disorders as well as pain associated with migraine, rheumatic pain and menstrual pain.
We hope you have enjoyed our three blogs on herbs and that you have found some of this interesting. It has been fascinating doing the research for these posts and I'm looking forward to trying out some of these new ideas myself - hope you get the chance to do the same....