Growing food in your garden is a labour of love. It can take a deal of hard work and often ends up feeding pests as much as you and your family.
So if I told you there is a range of nutritious foods that have few pests and that you can plant and forget you’d be interested, right?
And if I told you they have beautiful flowers, attract bees and there are some for almost any spot in your garden, you’d be asking where to get them, yes?
The truth is, you probably already have some. But they are stuck in a tiny area squashed in so tight they can’t flourish. They grow so slowly they rarely get used.
Herbs often get overlooked as a food in their own right because they are used to add flavour. But they are jam packed with micro nutrients that are generally missing from fast grown, high water content leaves at the supermarket.
Herbs are nutrient dense giving their benefits at the expense of very few calories.
As an example, take a look at chives. This herb is from the onion family, but instead of tearing up the plant, you use the fresh green leaves. Cut them off a couple of inches above the ground and they will quickly come back so you can harvest some more. They get sold in the supermarket squashed up in tiny pots producing equally tiny plants. Give them some room however and you have a different story. They grow to over 2 feet tall and produce beautiful mauve flower heads that bees love.
Food Use — When used fresh the flavour is a bright delicate onion taste similar to salad onions. I like to use it liberally mixed with leaves such as rocket as a salad ingredient or added at the end of cooking to omelettes or quiches. You can also juice it in your favourite recipes.
Chives can be used instead of onions in many recipes, just add near the end of cooking rather than at the beginning.
The flowers are also edible if you can bear to take them away from the bees.
Nutrition — Chives are packed with a host of healthy vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds. These include vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium. They have been shown to help with sleep and mood as well as having antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to Grow — Chives are incredibly easy to grow. Buy one of those pots from the supermarket, divide roughly in four and plant in your flower border where they will come back year after year. You can also grow from seed although it will be a year before you see much harvest this way.
Cutting will reduce the flowers you get so I like to save a couple of patches and allow them to flower, just for the tremendous number of bees they attract.
Chives like plenty of sun. They grow happily in most soils but do best if it’s slightly acidic. A mulch of composting leaves will help with that. Chives have few pests or diseases. They can attract thrips however, which should be rubbed off as soon as they are spotted. They look like little black aphids. I’ve never had any problem here in my northern UK garden.
Grow Yourself Healthy
The great thing about growing your own is that you can use way more in your dishes when you have loads available rather than just a tiny bunch, increasing all those health benefits. You also get fresh produce that you know the provenance for. If, like me, you garden organically, you’ll know there are no chemicals used and that nature’s pollinators are supported.
Other great fresh herbs that are easy to grow include Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Mint, Tarragon and Dill. Each has it’s own interesting chemical constituents and health giving benefits.
Why not check out some other herbs for yourself? Or pop back over the next couple of weeks and see which one’s I’ve added.