Seedwise: Poor man's apothecary

by Ken Greene

I enjoy finding quotes that inspire me, challenge me, and remind me not just how to garden, but why I garden. Each week I'll choose one to share with you that you can pass on to your gardening friends. If you have favorite quotes let me know and I'll add them to my growing garden of quotes!

This week's quote:


In this photo: Yarrow, Evening Primrose, Parsnip, Green Tub Trug, Copper Plant Marker

Gardening is healing. The hues, scents, and quietude of gardens turn them into healing spaces that feel different from the rest of our lives--giving us a moment of perspective and an opportunity to heal just by slowing down. Sometimes our gardens heal by giving us the freshest food from the best soil. Just being outside and soaking up the sun produces vital vitamin D, the only vitamin your body can make itself. But what about all the vitamins, minerals, and medicines our bodies need?

Over the last century we've moved from fresh picked to picked off the shelf, from soils teaming with life to soils deadened with chemicals, and from farmacy to pharmacy. Historically, many households had an apothecary garden full of important plants that remedied common ailments. You can still grow your own apothecary garden- one that heals through beauty as well as through the medicinal properties of the plants. You can keep this as simple as you want or learn from herbalists some of the more complex ways to use plants.

Chamomile frontOne of the easiest ways to add some healing plants to your garden is by growing individual varieties for herbal teas. One of my favorites is chamomile. Chamomile is easy to grow and self sows- coming back each year. It's also simple to harvest (I use mini-snips) and dry for soothing winter hot teas. Here's how we do it:

Harvest the chamomile when the flowers are full and before the petals begin to bend back. Place them in a single layer on a screen somewhere with good air flow, warmth, but out of direct sun. When they're dry put them in a glass jar with a lid in your kitchen. To me, chamomile can be used both as a stimulant and sedative. The cuteness quotient of a jar of these tiny yellow and white flowers will brighten any mood, and a properly steeped cup of tea can quickly calm your nerves.

We've been getting creative with herbs here at the Seed Library. I love herbal infused summer drinks. Learn from Steven how to make refreshing beverages in Stay Cool with Summertime Teas. Our handmade soaps use herbs and seeds from the garden to both scrub off dirt and moisturize at the same time and our all-natural bug spray (the only one we use on the farm!) uses plant power to keep the bugs off so you can stop swatting and relax in your garden.

One more way that gardens can heal is one of the most important. Gardens give us a way to heal others. Share something fresh you've grown with a neighbor. Pick a bouquet to bring to work and brighten the office. Invite a friend to sit with you in the garden (and do a little weeding). Donate fresh vegetables to your local food pantry. No matter our wealth, we can all generously share the riches of our gardens. Through sharing our bounty we can extend nature's healing touch beyond the garden gate.

This blog is provided by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small group of dedicated growers and plant lovers working to provide good seed to gardeners and small farmers. Your purchases support our work. Thanks!