The Herb Garden
Mint was grown for its refreshing scent and many culinary purposes: sauces, jellies, syrups, teas and drinks. It is said to repel mice and insects. As a health and beauty aid, it is used in skin care products and for oily hair. Mint tea remains a popular herbal beverage today. We add a few leaves with the tea bags when brewing iced tea.
Lemon balm, was said to be good against "the bitings of venomous beasts." The juice "glueth together" green wounds. Today, uses include teas, wines, liqueurs, vinegars, and in fruit salads and fish dishes. Lemon balm may be added to potpourri and furniture polish. We sometimes add a few leaves of Lemon Balm when brewing iced tea to give the tea a minty/lemon hint. Excellent in a fresh cut fruit salad.
In a time when strong and unpleasant odors were common, sweetly scented herbs were prized. Lavender was often used to scent clothing. Dried lavender would be tucked among stored clothes to refresh them by infusing the garments with their scent. It's easy to dry and the dried herb may be used in sachets or potpourri. Lavender has been baked into cakes, cookies and muffins and used to make jellies, teas and vinegars. In the home, it is added to potpourri and bouquets and used as an insect repellent.
Thyme adorned the Colonial garden. Thyme flavored foods and added another herb to the Colonial family's medicine chest. Thyme is often referred to as the "blending herb" for its ability to pull flavors together. Cooks use it in salads, stews, soups, sauces, meats, eggs, vegetables and cheeses.
Garlic Chives add a light onion/garlic flavor used in soups, egg salad, Asian dishes. A must have on farm fresh scrambled eggs.
It's told that sage was useful against snakebite and would turn hair black. Today, sage is useful in digesting rich foods. It may be added to vegetables, meats, eggs, breads and vinegars. Sage enhances the flavor of game meats and stews, two staples of the era. What's a Thanksgiving turkey without sage stuffing?
In the kitchen, rosemary flavors meats, vegetables, eggs, cheeses and marinades. It provided a tasty accent to lamb, game, and stew dishes and was grown as a culinary herb.
Today, parsley is used as a garnish on many a restaurant plate, but in Colonial times, cooks seasoned food with parsley and prized the herb as a health tonic. Some also believe parsley was used as a dye, producing a green color. Garnish dishes with parsley or add it to vegetables or salads.
Colonial Americans grew dill to flavor stews and pickles, and for its healthful properties. One of the favorites in our herb garden because of the wonderful fragrance dill imparts and because the caterpillars of the Swallowtail Butterfly chew on the leaves and make their chrysalis on the stems. Later, they return to the Butterfly Garden. Try a few sprinkles of dill on fresh scrambled eggs or an omelet.