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Sally Mulligan shares her herb knowledge

“Herbs are absolutely amazing and you’ll get so much enjoyment from making a garden."

The guest speaker at Johannesburg South Garden Club’s February 25 meeting was Sally Mulligan, who spoke on her love for herbs, how to grow them and how to use them.

“I’ve been growing herbs for many years and it’s such a wonderful pastime. Most can be used either for medicinal purposes or in foods, but be careful with some if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Rosemary and parsley are best avoided as they are possibly unsafe, affecting the uterus.

Spekboom

“This herb is being spoken about a lot at the moment. In fact, everyone seems to be growing it!

“It’s a phenomenal herb and it grows well in Gauteng, but will flourish even more in Pretoria and the Eastern Cape, where the climate is warmer.

“It’s suitable for home gardens, but be very careful where you plant it as it spreads like wild fire.

“Therefore, it must be kept in a controlled area. You will find during the winter months its growth slows down.

“Spekboom has many benefits, including improving the quality of the air, as well as being a water-wise plant.

“It’s very easy to grow and contains high amounts of vitamin C, making it a wonderful flu-fighter. The plumb and juicy leaves have a tangy, lemony taste.”

Bulbine frutescens

“This is a fantastic medicinal plant and can be used for a whole lot of skin conditions, including burns, blisters, cold sores, cuts, grazes, insect bites, sunburn and more.

“Squeeze the juice from the leaves and rub it over the skin. When I’m at local markets with my herb stall, the children call it auntie Sally’s get-better plant.

“Apart from growing well in the garden, it can also be grown in pots in a place where it will get lots of sun. It needs very little water.

“Interestingly, when government schools were built years ago, Bulbine was always planted in school gardens.”

Wild garlic

Sally said this herb is very pretty and it tolerates drought well.

“You can eat the entire plant; use it to add to sauces and risottos.”

Rosemary

“Wild rosemary is similar to ‘common’ rosemary in appearance, but it’s very pungent and must be used sparingly.

“It’s perfect for adding to salts and using as a rub for lamb. Common rosemary, as well as using in cooking, will help to keep flies and mosquitoes away.

“Cut big pieces off the shrub and waft it around your kitchen and over work surfaces.

Cat mint

“If you own cats, then plant this herb. They love it. They will roll around in it and it is safe for them to eat.

“It’s such a pretty plant and will attract bees and butterflies.”

Nasturtium

The plant has beautiful bright orange, yellow and purple flowers.

“It has a flavour similar to watercress and can be eaten in salads.”

Making teas with herbs

“Always pick herbs from the bottom of the plant and let the boiled water cool a little before pouring over herbs.

“Lavender tea is amazing and you can make it from the flowers. It will make you feel calm and is also known for reducing tension and taking away a headache.

“Use lemon verbena leaves to make a tea. This will help with digestion, asthma and aching joints.

“Pick the leaves of lemon verbena and use them dried in your cupboards. You’ll never have another fish moth.

“Mint makes a wonderful tea and it’s one of the easiest herbs to grow. It will help with digestive disorders and stomach pains.

“Pick lemon balm and put the leaves into your bath water or hang up under the shower head.

“Chamomile flowers make a delicious tea and it will have a fruity taste, similar to apple.”

Scented geraniums

“Rose, nutmeg and lemon are the types you can buy, and these can also be used to make teas using the leaves. Put plants inside and cooking smells will disappear fast.”

Thyme

“This is an excellent herb and best grown in containers. Known to break down fatty foods, just don’t cook it for too long.”

Basil

“Apart from being delicious in Mediterranean and Italian dishes, it can be made into a pesto and is also good in salads, pastas and pizzas.

“Make a tea from basil leaves and it can help to boost immunity and help with headaches.

“Herbs are absolutely amazing and you’ll get so much enjoyment from making a garden. You don’t need a large garden, and most herbs can also be grown in pots,” added Sally.

You’ll find Sally at the Walkerville Agricultural Show, on March 14 and 15. If you would like to contact her for more information on herbs call 083 393 1921.

The next Johannesburg South Garden Club meeting takes place on March 21 at 9.30am for 10am at Kliprivier Recreation Centre, Peggy Vera Road, Kibler Park. For more information call club chairperson Dennis Boddington on 083 642 1967.

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