Enchanting Italian Magic Herb Garden

If you ever get a chance to visit the ‘Enchanting Botanical Gardens of Italy’, there are at least thirty of the botanical gardens , you will almost every time find an exquisite Italian herb garden which is a feast for the eyes .These herb gardens contain mostly Mediterranean herbs which need less water and become dormant in summer. They are excellent in culinary and healing purposes.

The magic herbs including summer savory, garlic, tansy and borage are used in hundreds of Italian recipes for exquisite aromas every day and are believed to promote health and a sense of well-being. Here is a list of my favourite herbs that can be easily grown in your home Italian herb garden.

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Lavender:
Lavender is a perennial herb and cultivated in light sandy soil and full sun. The height varies from 10 to 18 inches. It likes sun and should be mulched in during winter for protection. You can sow fresh seeds in late summer or autumn or use cuttings in well drained soil. Harvest flowering stems just as flowers open, you can pick the leaves any-time. The dwarf variety can be used in hedge. Full grown plants have to be replaced once in five years. Lavender tea is made from the blossoms and is used as an antidepressant. Lavender is excellent in potpourri and can be used instead of rosemary while cooking chicken, flavoring vinegar and making fragrant stews.  You will definitely find lavender in an Italian herb garden if you take a leisure walk along the country side of Italy.

Borage:
Borage is an annual herb that grows in most soils, tolerates dry spells, and prefers full sun. The plant reaches two feet in height. The herb finds wide usage in treating bronchitis and rashes. The infusion is used as eyewash. Sow the borage seeds on site or in pots in April to July for summer flowers and in autumn for spring flowers. It does not respond favorably to transplanting hence plan the space for cultivating before-hand. Pick flowers and leaves to use in salads, yogurt, cheese, pickle and sandwiches. To use the fresh flowers, first remove the thorny back side and then rinse the flowers gently and pat them dry. A culinary borage delight is colorful and tasty combination of shrimp and avocado, with a lemon vinaigrette and borage flowers. It has thistle like hairs on the leaves but if you can tolerate them, the leaves give wonderful cucumber flavor and coolness to cold drinks. Borage is often used in Italian dishes and is must in an Italian herb garden.

Sage:
Common sage can be easily grown from seed. Sage is a semi-hardy perennial that grows to two feet and can be grown indoors if you have enough sun. Other varieties include broad leaf, clary, and pineapple sage. It is also a wonderful ingredient in veal and pork dishes, goes well with sausage, kebabs and tomatoes. When used in combination with peppermint, rosemary, and wood betony it provides an excellent headache remedy.

Rosemary:
Rosemary needs a sunny area with excellent drainage and should be protected from cold weather. Trimming the herb will maintain a healthy growth, generally it is recommended to prune the herb after flowering. Stems of one year old or more contain a good amount of oil, hence allow the stems to mature before you begin using them. Add very sparingly as rosemary can be overpowering. Used in a wide range of meat and poultry dishes, especially lamb, pork and chicken. Rosemary is also great for flavoring mashed potatoes and finds extensive usage in Italian dishes. It is a delight and should be grown in your home Italian herb garden.

Fennel:
Fennel still grows by the side of every road in Italy. Fennel herb prefers dry and sunny areas. It is a perennial that can reach four to six feet high in favorable climate. It is noted and famous for treating flatulence. It has a delicious sweet licorice scent and can replace Dill in recipes. Fennel helps to reduce the appetite preventing obesity and helps improve digestion. It is often used as a sedative for small children. It is also used for cancer patients during radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Basil:
Basil prefers at least six to eight hours bright sunlight. Basil herb has to be saved from frost. Basil’s warm spicy essence is revered by the Orient and the Mediterranean chefs. Sliced tomatoes taste divine when topped with a sprinkle of olive oil and a basil chiffonade. Basil’s sharp flavor complements garlic and tomato based dishes well. It is used in Italian sauces, pesto blended vinegar and placed favorably in spicy Thai cuisine. It is an essential herb for an Italian herb garden.

The never ending list of healing plants remains to be explored fully, the time and investment on un-locking and utilizing their potential is close to minimal. The herb plant kingdom offers a cure to almost every kind of common ailment and usage is simple. The herb kingdom encompasses a wide range of healing properties and are even known to cure depression – a state of mind. You can use Lavender to wash and bathe relishing the unique fragrance or use olive oil with herb-infusions like chamomile to soothe, and render your skin supple and more beautiful. Or use the humble Italian bay-laurel as an astringent to aid digestion and prevent stomach disorders. You can certainly enhance your Italian herb garden and keep reaping the benefits of the herbs.

If you are planning to grow herbs “Check out” –
Growing Mediterranean Herbs