Tuesday, 24 September 2013

DIY: Instant Cuban Oregano Plants

There is nothing simpler than starting your own Cuban Oregano plant from a cutting. 

Commonly available Cuban Oregano, formally know as Coleus Aromaticus, is not a true oregano. It is also called Mexican Mint, Spanish Thyme and Indian Borage. There are at least 40 plants listed as Oregano. Most commonly used oregano, Mexican oregano, is also a false oregano and a relative of Lemon Verbena. 'Common Oregano' is wild Majoram and also called Greek Oregano.Feeling confused? Well, don't be. Even if the Cuban Oregano is not a true oregano it still has an intense flavor and an unforgettable fragrance that adds freshness to your meals. 

The large fuzzy and succulent type leaves might not even look like oregano to you but once you rub gently on a leaf, you will smell a hint of thyme and strong fragrance of oregano. The plant grows 2-3 feet tall and has a spreading habit. 

Growing Cuban Oregano at Home

Cuban Oregano loves a sunny spot. It will survive in partial shade as well but will be prone to pest and diseases. Too much fertilizer will make the plant grow excessively but will lose its flavor. Keep soil well drained and let is dry out a little between watering. The easiest way to start your own Cuban Oregano plant is but cuttings. This should be done during early spring, early fall or during a monsoon season.

I started my oregano plant from a packet of fresh herbs I got from Sungold Organic farms last week. You can pick a few stems from a nursery or a friend or simply use your store bought fresh herbs.

Select new 3-4 inch long stems with leaves on it. Pick all the leaves from the bottom leaving only a set or two of tiny new leaves on the top. Make an angled cut at the bottom and quickly put it in a cup of water until to prepare your pot.
Pick a pot that you want your herbs to grow in and fill it with 70% sand and 30% manure or home made compost to make a simple and basic soil mix. I like to water my pot before planting cuttings. 

Gently, push the stems 2 inch deep into the soil. Plant cutting at 3 inch distance. Keep your new plants in partial sun for a week or two then bring them into the full sun. Make sure to keep it moist at this stage.

There you have it! Your own pot of fresh Cuban Oregano! Grow it organically to get maximum benefit of this wonderful herb.

Happy Gardening!

*Come back soon for a post on drying oregano quickly.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Grow your own stress reliever

Drop the Drugs! This herb with delicate feathery leaves and daisy-like flowers can do wonders when it comes to de-stressing your life.- Writes Zahra Ali

Chamomile not only looks pretty in the garden but also delights your soul and heals your body. ‘Chamomile’ can mean one of the three different varieties: Roman chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis), German chamomile (Matricaria Recutia) or Moroccan chamomile (Ormenis Mixta). Although all of the three chamomile varieties belong to the same family, they have their own distinct qualities and must not be confused.
Roman chamomile is a perennial herb with a fragrance that has hints of fruity apple with a sense of bitterness. It is so gentle that it can be given to infants and children. Roman chamomile promotes relaxation, helps relieve stress, calms your nerves and has a restorative effect. On the other hand, German chamomile is an annual herb that has an intense odour that gets better when diluted. The fragrance is almost fruity with a slightly bitter undertone. It blends well with lemon or lime. German chamomile has a soothing, calming and balancing effect when the inky blue essential oil is used for massage or brewed as tea. Moroccan chamomile is not considered as true chamomile and should never be replaced with German or Roman chamomile.
Stress buster plant No matter which variety of Chamomile you choose to grow in your garden, the cultivation methods are the same. Select pots or the spot in the garden where you want to plant your herb, keeping in mind that German chamomile grows up to 12 inches tall and will need a 12-inch pot while the Roman chamomile spreads to two feet with a height of eight inches and looks better as a companion plant in pots.
Sow seeds in a sandy well-drained soil as soon as the temperature in your area goes below 26°C. Keep the soil moist but never soggy. Seeds will germinate in a week or two on a sunny window sill and plants will survive in full or partial sun, though during summers, it is better to move it to a shaded spot. Occasional organic feed will keep the plants growing. For saving seeds, let few blooms dry on the stems.
Beat anxiety with chamomile tea Pick flowers the day they bloom, separate the petals and sun dry these delicate flowers and store in an airtight container to bring out the best flavour. Use one teaspoon of dried petals for a cup of chamomile tea or little more than that if using fresh petals. Avoid taking this in pregnancy.
Aromatherapy for insomnia and depression Add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to your bath for a soothing soak and a deep relaxing sleep later. Spread the mood-balancing aroma to deal with depression by adding a few fresh chamomile flowers to your bath water; alternatively, you can use a few drops of chamomile oil.
Recover from ‘Baby Blues’ Chamomile makes it easy for you to recover after childbirth. Make an aromatic massage oil by mixing with four drops of Roman chamomile, rose and ginger to four tablespoons of any basic oil. Use this to massage the body twice a day. Avoid if breastfeeding.
If after-pains are a problem, adding a few drops of chamomile essential oil to your bath may do the trick.
Give your eyes a break! Place a cool used chamomile tea bag on your eyes for 10 minutes, listen to some relaxing music and let chamomile do its magic on your strained eyes.
Plant this delightfully cheerful herb in your garden and make your life stress free naturally!

' Grow your own stress reliever' was pubished in Dawn Newspaper on Sunday 14 September 2013

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Recipe: Thai Tom Yum Soup

Home made Thai Tom Yum Soup made from home grown vegetables 
The joy of picking fresh herbs and vegetables from your garden right before you make a meal is unmatchable. The feeling gets doubled when you are making the soothing Tom Yum Soup.

Tom Yum Soup works perfectly as our lunch. Like other Thai food, Tom Yum tastes best when made from freshly picked herbs. Since we love Thai food, we planted Lemon Grass, red chillies, Thai Basil and Lemon in our organic kitchen garden. But I replace some of the ingredients that are difficult to find with locally available ones. For example, I use ginger instead of Gangal and Lemon Leaves instead of Kaffir Lime Leaves.

Here is my recipe on everyone request.

Serves 2-4
Chicken strips 100gms / Prawns  1 Cup
Coconut Milk 1 Can
Tom Yum Paste 2 Tbsp
Thai fish sauce 2 Tbsp
Chicken Stock 3 cups
Flat noodles 1/4 of a packet
Mushrooms fresh or canned diced 1/2 cup 
Tomatoes 2 quartered
Long Red Chillies 4
Lemon Leaves 4
Lemon Grass stock or leaves 3 
Ginger thin 1 inch wide slices 6

Lemon Basil 10 leaves
Red chillies chopped 4

1. In a deep pan, pour the stock and mix Tom Yum paste and turn on the heat.
2. Add noodles and all of the herbs and vegetables. Let it cook for 3-5 minutes
3. Add coconut milk and Thai fish sauce. Simmer for 3 more minutes.
4. Add Basil and red chillies. Serve .

I hope this will inspire you to grow your own herbs and to enjoy them in meals that are made for your soul!

Happy Gardening


further reading

crops in pots