Close To Plants 2
Hi there lovely one. Good to have you back for the Plantstories again…
In “Close To Plants 1” I told you about the raspberries, the currants and the gooseberries. This time I will tell you about all the rest from my blueberries to my beloved pear tree.
If a kitchen has only a few herbs in its possession, basil will likely be one of them. Its fragrant essence combines well with rosemary and thyme in meat dishes, fish, vegetables, cheese, soup and eggs, and is one of the main ingredients in pesto, along with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. I have my basil inside my Greenhouse.
Basil is considered one of the healthiest herbs. It’s best when fresh, exuding a sweet, earthy aroma that indicates not only the promise of pleasantly pungent flavor, but an impressive list of nutrients. Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, is one of them. Just two tablespoons of basil provides 29 percent of the daily recommended value.
Basil also provides vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes, powerful antioxidants that protect the cells lining a number of numerous body structures, including the blood vessels, from free radical damage. This helps prevent cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.
Other vitamins and minerals in basil include iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. Not surprisingly, basil also has antibacterial properties and contains DNA-protecting flavonoids. It’s the flavonoids and volatile oils in basil that give it the most health benefits, the former protecting on the cellular level, with antibacterial properties related to its volatile oils. Among these are estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene, all capable of restricting the growth of numerous harmful bacteria, including listeria, staphylococcus, E. coli, yersinia enterocolitica, and pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Some antibiotic medications that have been found to be resistant to some of these strains have been inhibited by basil extracts. One of those oils – eugenol – can block the activity of the harmful enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). This same effect puts basil in the “anti-inflammatory” category because it provides relief from related problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
There are two basic parsley types: one with curly, crinkly leaves and the more familiar Italian parsley, which is flat. The latter is hardier for withstanding cold in Northern or Midwest gardens.
If you want to be impressed by parsley, take a look at its vitamin K content – a whopping 574% of the daily recommended value. What this does is promote bone strength, but it also has a role in the treatment and possible prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. The vitamin K dominance is enough to make the 62% daily value of vitamin C and the 47% DV in vitamin A look positively paltry, but the “C” content is 3 times more than in oranges, and the “A” augments the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, helping to prevent eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
The iron in parsley (twice as much as in spinach) is essential for the production of an important oxygen-carrying component in the red blood cells called heme. Copper is important because it’s required by the body for normal metabolic processes, but must be supplied through outside sources. The manganese in parsley contains super-antioxidant superoxide dismutase, and the folate helps form red blood cells and make up our genetic material.
Parsley is useful as a digestive aid with its high fiber content. This helps move foods through the digestive tract and controls blood-cholesterol levels, but has a diuretic effect as well. A tea made from parsley is a traditional remedy for colic, indigestion, and intestinal gas. As an herb sprinkled in food, it actually helps purify the blood and fight cancer. Eating parsley is now thought to be a way to detoxify the system of harmful compounds like mercury, sometimes found in dental fillings.
Quite a unique compilation of compounds and volatile oils is contained in parsley. Eugenol is used in dentistry as a local anesthetic and an antiseptic to help prevent gum diseases. It’s also been found to reduce blood sugar levels. Polyphenolic flavonoids and antioxidants include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and alphathujen. Volatile oils include myristicin, limonene, apiol, and alpha-thujene. It also contains one of the highest antioxidant counts among plants, with an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of 74,349 per 100 grams of fresh, raw parsley.
Rosemary is one of those herbs with a thousand uses. It’s extremely hardy and therefore easy to grow and maintain inside or out. Indoors, it requires lots of light but not too much heat and humid air. Spritz the plant with water a few times a week. Add an entire sprig to vegetable soups for a bright, unique flavor.
For centuries, one of the most common medicinal uses for rosemary has involved improving memory, not just for the flavor it adds to food. This herb, especially the flower tops, contains antibacterial and antioxidant rosmarinic acid, plus several essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, and α-pinene that are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties.
Most recipes call for a few teaspoons of rosemary rather than 100 grams, but the above chart indicates the balance of nutrients, which are many. The same amount provides 16% of the daily value of vitamin A for free radical-zapping antioxidant properties, vision protection, healthy skin and mucus membranes, and increased protection from lung and mouth cancers. Mostly renowned for fighting infection, the vitamin C content synthesizes collagen, the protein required for optimal blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones.
Manganese, another of the more prominent minerals in rosemary, plays such a critical antioxidant role in the body – specifically aided by its cofactor superoxide dismutase – that it’s associated with lowering the risk of cancer, specifically breast cancer.
One of my favorite smells comes from lavender. Fragrant, beautiful, and versatile, lavender is typically added to bouquets or to bathwater for a purifying and uplifting effect. A close cousin of mint, it grows as a small shrub that has lovely violet flowers and green or pale grey leaves. It’s native to northern Africa and the mountainous Mediterranean regions, although it also grows throughout southern Europe, Australia, and some parts of the United States today.
If you wish to grow lavender in your own backyard, remember that this lovely plant needs well-drained soil and at least six hours of full sunlight each day. For best results, use a soil mixture that has a higher sand content than clay so your plant will grow healthier and will produce more baby plants. Adding peat moss around the first lavender plant is essential, and so is giving it enough water during the first season. Once the lavender plant grows well, it will be resilient enough to handle drought conditions.
Lavender leaves and flowers, whether fresh or dried, are edible and have a mildly sweet but slightly bitter aftertaste. They can flavor salads, jellies, sorbets, desserts, and beverages, and can also be added to sauces and marinades.
The health-conscious need not worry about using lavender, as it only has a few calories per tablespoon. There are over 100 known compounds in lavender, including phytochemicals and antioxidants. The most well-known of these is limonene, a type of terpene that stimulates the digestive enzymes in your liver and helps detoxify your body, ridding it of carcinogens. According to animal studies, limonene can also help reduce tumor growth.
Caffeic acid is another constituent of lavender. Previously believed to be carcinogenic, caffeic acid was found to actually help inhibitcancer growth and have tumor-shrinking properties.
Also beneficial are coumarins, a group of compounds responsible for lavender’s fragrance. Studies have found that coumarins have complex multi-biological activities that may prevent HIV, tumor, hypertension, and osteoporosis. However, coumarins are moderately toxic and should not be consumed in amounts over 0.1 mg per day.
Sage has been revered for centuries for its medicinal and culinary uses. The botanical name comes from the Latin word “salvere,” meaning “to be saved.”A member of the mint family of plants and closely related to rosemary, its warm and musky essence is essential for making the fragrant dressing that goes so well with turkey.
Rubbed sage literally comes off the leaf almost like a powder and is extremely light and fluffy.9 Fresh is the most flavorful and fragrant, making the most pungent recipes. When fresh sage isn’t readily available, your best bet is ground sage, although it tends to lose its strength after a year or so. It’s best stored in a cool, dark place, in a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid.
Sage pairs well with cheese. Sprinkling roughly chopped sage leaves near the end of caramelizing onions or mushrooms, egg bakes, omelets and even tea are other delicious ways to use this herb.
Sage is known for its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin and luteolin, plus rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body. Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which can help enhance mental clarity and memory. This knowledge can be extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. In fact, sage, made into a drink from the leaves, has been called the “thinker’s tea.”
A gram of sage (as seen in the nutritional profile) indicates the health benefits that even a small amount provides. Vitamin K is the most prominent, with 43 percent of the daily recommended serving in the more practical serving of 1 tablespoon.
Sage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins such as folate, thiamin, pyridoxine and riboflavin in much higher doses than the recommended daily requirements, plus healthy amounts of vitamins C and E, thiamin, and copper.
Love, Health And Wisdom