growing + harvesting herbs for the whole family
Herbs and leafy greens are some of the easiest plants to grow. Interestingly, they’re also difficult to store and transport, hence when you buy them from the supermarket or grocer, they’re disproportionately expensive.
If you’re venturing towards the end of the year with the intention to eat a little better and spend a little more wisely, perhaps you could rustle up some terracotta pots, soil and seedlings and grow your own.
If you feel like you need a helping hand and wise guidance, you’re not alone. My friend Meagan of Whole Family Rhythms recently partnered with herbalist Courtney Irwin from Secret Life of Herbs to create the Whole Family Herbs eGuide – 40 beautiful pages abundant with planting, gardening and harvesting advice. It’s written for urban and rural families alike, delves into the world of kid-friendly herbs and contains over 15 recipes that are especially delicious, nourishing and supportive for young children.
I chatted to Meagan about the guide, her own garden/farm ventures (she moved from Sydney to her native Canada last year) and the best way to get kids involved in the process.
PS : What prompted you to explore and write about herbs for the family?
Meagan : We have grown herbs and vegetables at home since my eldest was a toddler. Back then we lived in a small split unit with a back porch and no grass. I found may secondhand pots and containers and plated seedlings in those. We grew lots of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and even zucchini in those pots. When children (and adults) grow their own food they experience it in a completely different way. They love getting their hands dirty, take pride in using the watering can and revel at the magic of the first ripe tomato. Once you start growing your own it’s hard to stop!
PS : How have herbs enhanced your cooking and, therefore, your family’s health?
Meagan : Herbs add so much nutrition and flavour to our daily meals but the other reason we love them is because they add colour and beauty! We top our stews with a cup of brighten green chopped parsley to increase vitamin C; we decorate our birthday cakes with violets and chamomile flowers and the older children have begun making their own herbal tea blends (a favourite at the moment is lemon balm and mint with honey) to soothe tired nerves in the evening.
PS : For someone who is just starting out, what are the five best herbs to grow and why?
Meagan : Courtney and I gave a webinar recently outlining the five best herbs to grow and cook with young children. We chose them for their wonderful health benefits but also because they are fairly easy to sow and grow.
Chamomile for its soothing, calming properties.
Mint and Lemonbalm for their digestive, calming and cooling properties.
Thyme for it’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties
Rosemary because it nourishes the growing nervous system.
All of these herbs are high in many essential vitamins so adding them to your children’s daily menu helps to reach daily intake recommendations without having to use expensive supplements.
PS : How can you best get your children involved in the growing, tending and eating of herbs?
Meagan : My advice is: start small. Find a couple containers, fill them with dirt and buy already established seedlings (instead of planting seeds yourself) for simplicity’s sake. Choose mild flavours that work with many things like mint, lemonbalm and parsley. Experiment and use them in all sorts of dishes and drinks – use them raw and cook with them. Make tending to the garden part of your Daily and Weekly Rhythm. Your child can help with weeding, watering, harvesting and preparing. After you get the feel for small-scale gardening you can add more containers or plots. After a few years you might like to try harvesting and saving your own seeds!
If you would like to read more interviews with Meagan, you might like my post on Establishing Daily Rhythms with Toddlers as well as an introduction to her family guides in my Mother + Maker series. I encourage you to follow her on instagram and if you feel like your mothering days need a little more structure and guidance, I hand on my heart recommend you delve into her seasonal guides, available as a download or printed book.