Peppermint (Mentha xpiperita): Peppermint is a potent stomach-soother; studies have found it to relieve digestive distress in sufferers of chronic indigestion. A mild anesthetic, peppermint can also help ease the pain of sore throats. Menthol, its active ingredient, helps treat colds and congestion. GROW IT: Peppermint is among the hardiest plants in the garden. It can grow in partial sun and will grow well indoors from seed provided it gets at least some sun each day. Peppermint doesn’t need much water; allow soil to dry between waterings. Peppermint needs room to spread. Plant seeds in a large pot, then thin to one plant every 12 inches once plants reach about 2 inches tall. Even one strong seedling will quickly spread to fill an entire pot. EAT IT: Peppermint makes a delicious hot or iced tea, and can also be muddled and mixed with soda water (and sugar, if desired) for a refreshing beverage. Mint is common in Thai dishes such as spring rolls and Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh salad. You can also make a simple mint sauce to complement lamb or other meats by combining fresh mint with sugar and vinegar. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Known as the “herb of remembrance,” noted herbalist James Duke says rosemary contains more than a dozen antioxidants that slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that aids in memory and may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. GROW IT: Drainage and light are both crucial for rosemary. Line rosemary pots with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of gravel or perlite below a fast-draining soil mix. Place pots on a saucer, then water from the bottom by filling the tray with water. Rosemary needs lots of light, so place it in a west- or south-facing sunny window or under fluorescent lights. Moving air will help prevent powdery mildew, which often plagues indoor rosemary. Ventilate plants with a small fan. If you see rosemary leaves going white with mildew, snip off the affected areas, then spray the plant with a mixture of 2 tablespoons milk per cup of water. EAT IT: A classic flavoring for roast chicken, rosemary works well with almost any poultry, beef, pork or fish recipe, as well as on potatoes or in flatbread. Sage (Salvia officinalis): Sage has multiple health benefits. It’s been found to enhance memory, particularly in the elderly. Sage is an excellent source of vitamin K and is rich in numerous antioxidants. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found sage particularly effective against oxidative stress in liver cells. Studies have also found sage to be a potent antibacterial, adept at killing common pathogens such as salmonella and staphylococcus. GROW IT: A Mediterranean native, sage is an extremely hardy perennial and will survive winters outdoors in most climates. It requires lots of sun and excellent drainage, so make sure not to overwater. If growing sage indoors, include a 1 1/2- to 2-inch layer of gravel or perlite below well-drained potting mix. Sage needs lots of sun, so unless you have a sun room, consider using a grow light or fluorescent lights placed 6 inches above the plant and left on for 14 hours a day.
EAT IT: Sage’s robust flavor holds up to strong, rich ingredients such as meats and cream sauces. Sage is often used in sausages, stuffings, cream pasta sauces and baked goods such as cornbread. You can also brew a tasty tea by steeping fresh leaves in boiling water. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): In Europe, health-care practitioners use a variety of thyme products to treat coughs, bronchitis, emphysema and even asthma. The German Commission E (a German governmental health regulatory agency) considers thyme a bronchospasmolytic, expectorant and antibacterial. In a German study including more than 7,000 patients, a treatment of dried primula root and thyme extract proved as effective as synthetic drugs in treating bronchitis. GROW IT: Although you can propagate thyme easily from cuttings or plant divisions, you can also purchase small thyme plants and keep them alive on a windowsill while you eat them, then buy a new plant. Thyme prefers full sun, so grow it in a sunny window or under fluorescent or grow lights. Drought-resistant thyme needs infrequent watering and well-drained soil. EAT IT: Thyme commonly flavors soups, stocks and stews. It is a crucial element in many French and Middle Eastern dishes, including the classic French flavoring herbes de Provence. In the Middle East, it is combined with oregano and marjoram in the spice blend zahtar, used in flatbreads and to flavor meats. source:motherearthliving.com