Durban - The Covid-19 lockdown is a good opportunity to start a herb garden if you have not already done so.
So says Pietermaritzburg born-and-bred food gardening author, Jane Griffiths, who recently released Jane’s Delicious A-Z of Herbs.
“Eating organic herbs and vegetables from our own gardens will boost our immune systems, helping us ward off illness or not be as sick if we do catch something,” she said, adding that herbs could be grown in the smallest spaces, “even a sunny window sill”.
The book, which starts off with a quote from Hippocrates - “Let food be thy medicine” - is rich on information about the healing properties of herbs, addressing ailments ranging from depression, migraines and nausea to mouthwash.
Griffiths’s journey to looking at her garden for wellness started at the opposite end of the scale: her father was a pharmacist.
She has childhood memories of her father making pills, as they did back in the day.
Food gardener and author Jane Griffiths has produced a hands-on guidebook to herb gardening, Jane’s Delicious A-Z of Herbs. Picture: Keith Knowlton.
“There was something magical about the pestle and mortar and the smell of the ingredients. Playing hide and seek among the cavernous shelves, while dad measured out healing concoctions, I fully believed there was a cure for everything.
“Unluckily I was wrong. Science, for all its progress, does not have all the answers,” Griffiths believes.
“Realising that modern medicine is as fallible as its human practitioners, I began exploring a more holistic approach to healing.”
She said when she started growing her own vegetables and herbs, it was a natural step to experiment with making unguents, lotions and potions.
“Mom’s old double boiler was hauled out from the back of the cupboard and put to good use melting bees’ wax and shea butter.
“Abundant herb harvests were chopped, macerated, dried, steeped and spread. Making everything from delicious body creams to healing tinctures, I began following in my father’s footsteps.”
Griffiths said asking her which is her favourite medicinal herb was like asking someone to name their favourite child.
“But I would probably choose turmeric as my best medicinal herb. It is easy to grow, although it requires a little patience in the beginning, and it’s a beautiful addition to the garden, with large strappy green leaves and gorgeous flowers.
“It is a particularly effective anti-inflammatory and inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, especially age-related ones.
“It is not water soluble - to gain maximum benefit, turmeric should be mixed with a fat (oil, butter or milk) and heated.
“Taking a bit of black pepper with it increases its efficacy.”
Her book, a hands-on guide, also covers the culinary and household properties of more than 80 different herbs.
Jane’s Delicious A-Z of Herbs: A Guide to Growing Herbs Holistically in South Africa, (Sunbird Publishers) retails for R285. For further information, see www.janesdeliciousgarden.com