I think after this snowy winter we are all ready for some spring weather. Spring is just around the corner and I can already see some of the trees and plants starting to bud flowers.
It is amazing how many secret ingredients grow in our backyards that have medicinal properties for our health. I would like to discuss some common plants in our garden that we can actually cook with that benefit our health.
Herbs are a really great way to get natural nutrition into our food.
Keeping an herb garden is quite easy, and can be done indoors in a garden window or outside in the warmer weather. I would say the easiest herbs to grow are basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley. The medicinal properties of herbs and plants have been known for thousands of years. I like to use the “Italian herbs” like oregano, thyme and rosemary as antimicrobials and immune supports through the winter season. Breathing in the essential oils help clear sinus congestion, while eating the whole herbs can prevent and improve colds.
Basil is a great “adaptogenic” herb for stress management. It tastes great on a fresh tomato/mozzarella salad with aged balsamic vinegar. Rosemary can be used on top of baked chicken with olive oil, garlic and sundried tomatoes. I love to mix thyme into sautéed mushrooms with a little coconut oil and garlic powder.
Trimming your herbs on a regular basis will cause them to grow into a more full plant.
Tomatoes are an easy plant to grow, but the taller the vine you may need to add some extra support.
Try building a raised garden bed to grow vegetables in. Summer squash, zucchini, peppers, and lettuce are all fairly easy vegetables to start growing. Zucchini and squash make an excellent pasta substitute for the summer. If you can use a “spiralizer” to make “zoodles” with the zucchini, cook them on low-medium heat with a little olive oil, sea salt, and garlic until soft. Tomatoes and squash contain a lot of vitamin C, and A which help support immune and respiratory health.
Some flowers have health benefits as well, even though you may not want to directly eat them, you could perhaps make an infused tea out of the flowers.
For example, lavender, chamomile and lemonbalm are all called “nervines” which help relax anxiety and calm the nervous system. Stinging nettles is a common plant that when made into a tea can decrease histamine levels during allergy season. Peppermint and spearmint can soothe an upset digestive tract. Green tea leaves may be harder to grow, but the benefits seem endless. Green tea is a natural antioxidant and can help reverse cell aging, support brain health, and improve the immune system. Turmeric is a highly powerful antioxidant as well as a natural anti-inflammatory for pain when used on a regular basis. It can be used in cooking, with coconut milk, or as a tea.
I hope this article helps you realize that your garden can become a part of your medicinal kitchen this spring.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a Primary care Naturopathic doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.