A TO Z OF HERBS
A is for Alfalfa, Aloe, Angelica and Anise
This perennial is a highly nutritious herb and contains large amounts of Vitamin A. It is said to be good for the digestive system, for strong bones and is believed to be helpful in the alleviation of arthritis.
The most common use of Alfalfa is as a sprout and you can grow the sprouts yourself or buy them ready-sprouted from the supermarket.
If you want to sprout Alfalfa yourself, you should be sure the seeds you are buying are for human consumption and are not meant for sowing as an adult crop. (Some seeds are treated with chemicals).
Place your seeds in a container with holes at the bottom to allow water to drain away. Rinse with water and leave in a warm place with a cloth over the top of the container. You have to rinse the seeds with fresh water around twice a day. Seeds will swell and begin germinating in a day or two.
In the garden, Alfalfa is also used as a green manure. Dig the plant in while it is still relatively young as the digging gets harder, the older it gets.
This plant is grown as a house plant in cooler climates. It is highly drought resistant because, like most succulents it can store moisture in a its leaves.You can propagate Aloe vera easily by removing one of the suckers and potting it up separately.
Aloe vera juice is sold as a gastrointestinal soother but the plant is most commonly used to help heal wounds and minor burns. Keep the plant handy and if you burn yourself or get a sting or bite, break off a piece of leaf and rub the pulp on the burn or sting.
You should be able to find Aloe vera quite easily in the houseplant section of your local garden centre but make sure the plant you are buying is Aloe vera. There are other aloes which don't do the same job.
This is a large, biennial with a hollow stem. The yellowish-green flower heads are bourne in the second year and the whole plant is strongly aromatic. This is a great herb for the back of the border.
The young stems are candied as a cake decoration or added as a flavouring for stewed fruit. It can also be used in drinks as a flavouring for fruit juices and punches. Angelica is said to aid the digestive system
Avoid using angelica if you are pregnant or diabetic.
This is an annual native to Mediterranean regions. It has finely cut leaves and small white flowers. The seeds may not ripen in cooler climates so the plant should be grown in a sunny position. Anise is said to be a good companion plant because it has insect repellant qualities and may help to protect other fruit and vegetables.
It is the seed of this plant that is most commonly used and it can be used sparingly to flavour cabbage and other vegetables as well as in liqueurs. Aniseed is the main flavouring for pernod and ouzo.
Medicinally, oil of anise is used in cough mixtures because it also acts as an expectorant.