Friday, July 6, 2012

go green! without having a garden (with fresh herbs & the best indoor houseplants)

L-R: parsley, cilantro, & basil
Gerbera daisies
Our beloved peace lilies 
fun crafts with Landon 
Landon's (soon to be) daisies & strawberries

When my mother in law passed away we got this beautiful peace lily plant from some friends and I am proud to say that it has been thriving and growing beautifully under the care of my green thumb for over a year now. I have always wanted to have my own garden but obviously there's one of the pitfalls of renting. I've heard a lot about bucket or container gardening which is a great way to garden without a yard, but our space is still pretty limited for that. But then I realized I could still do something even smaller, sans yard. After a trip to the farmer's market a few weeks ago I purchased my own herbs & started my window herb garden. I currently have sweet basil, cilantro, & italian parsely. I also started growing gerbera daisies which not only serve as our pretty table centerpiece but they have lots of indoor air purifying qualities as well (keep reading below). And Landon also started his two baby pots of daisy and strawberry seeds yet to sprout :) 

SO if you are only renting or have small space without a yard I strongly encourage you to start a little window garden because it is easy to take care of and plus there are so many great benefits to having house plants and fresh herbs in your home. The peace lilies are really great because they clean the air of a lot of indoor contaminants. It'd even be a good idea to place one in a bathroom or laundry room because they remove microscopic mold spores in the air by 60 percent, but they also remove many other contaminants such as benzyne, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Another great plant to have in your home are gerbera daisies, which also remove benzyne from the air, and are also known for improving sleep because they absorb carbon dioxide and give off more oxygen overnight. Higher levels of oxygen have been found to stabalize breathing & increase duration of sleep by 10 percent. So a great idea to place to place in your bedroom or baby's nursery ;) Some other great indoor air purifying plants include bamboo palm, snake plant, areca palm, spider plants, African violets, Boston ferns, eucalyptus, & English ivy. (Read more here & here for more info).

I started reading Back to Eden a few months ago where I've been learning all about the many medicinal and healing properties of herbs. Not only do they add a lot of flavor for cooking, but they are also really good for you too. Here's a breakdown of the health benefits associated with the herbs I'm growing so far:

Basil can help treat neausea and stomach cramps. It is also effective in relieving/healing snake bites and insect strings. Recently there has been a lot of research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studied in vitro have established that compounds in basil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, and potential for treating cancer. In India, it's used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma, and diabetes and in Siddha medicine it's used for treating pimples. (Source).My favorite way to eat basil? Tossed in with chopped tomatoes and chopped mozzarella in a caprese salad (optional add-ins: cucumber, avacado, salt & pepper, and/or balsamic vinegar).
Cilantro also contains lots of antioxidants as well as antibacterial properties against salmonella. In Iran, it is used for relief of anxiety and insomnia and in other holistic medicine it is used as a carminative (helps eliminate gas) as well as aid in the digestive tract. (Source). 
Favorite way to eat it? In fresh guacamole :) Combine 2-3 mashed avacados, 1 chopped onion, chopped tomato (1 large or a few roma), salt, pepper, & fresh lemon juice. Helpful hint: keep avacado pits in the mix to keep your guacamole fresh and from turning brown over long periods of time or for leftovers.
Parsley (Note that"curley" parsley is usually just used for a garnish or decoration although it can be consumed, but "italian" parsley is more typically used to cook with and consume). Parsley is very rich in iron and vitamin C and vitamin A. It actually contains more calcium, potassium, & phosphorus than the same amount of spinach. It is commonly used for its diuretic effect and helps with kidney stones, urinary problems, fevers, and it is also very good for your liver and spleen. (Source). Apigenin, a chemical found in large quantities in parsley, has been found to have strong anticancer properties. Lastly, this super-herb is antimicrobial and can also lower your blood pressure. (Source).
Favorite way to eat it? In anything! I throw it right in with in my salads, lasagna, & pasta sauces. 
Note that when preparing food or cooking with fresh herbs, you will want to add the herbs in their "raw" state for the most flavor and health benefits. Otherwise toss in at the end of cooking because many herbs will lose their flavor as well as lose all their good qualities when cooked at high temperatures.

There are so many more other benefits to growing your own herbs. You will find yourself saving lots of money by growing your own -- Each of my plants were about $3.00 a piece, they last forever, & are always growing and producing more fresh herbs to constantly pick off and eat. Compare with a small package of fresh herbs for $3.00 or $5.00 a pack (if organic) that only lasts only a couple of days. Another great benefit to growing your own is that they will be grown 100% organic, without use of any pesticides. And last but not least there's the huge convenience factor of having them always fresh right in your home to use whenever you need.
I hope I've inspired you to start growing your own herbs or other plants in your home. I'm definitely not an herbalist but I love continuing to learn about all this and I hope to keep it up and grow even more in my learning and experience with a real garden someday. Pun intended :)

One last bit of random information to leave you with since it sort of goes with the spirit of this post and I probably will never find another time to share it: Next time you are finished with your green onions/scallions, don't throw away the white ends. Put them in a glass of cold water and place by a window and they will almost instantly start to grow right back. After a couple of days, just use scissors to cut off what you need for meals and periodically replace with fresh water. Pretty cool huh?

Disclaimer: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information should not be used for professional diagnosis and treatment.

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