February 11, 2015

This afternoon our family went out for a treat. We headed to a celebrated local food truck here in Columbus, Ohio, called Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. On Sundays, they offer grassfed brisket, and as I devoured my tender and delicious plate of ribs, I began to ponder the phenomena we call barbecue here in the United States.

I’ve often lamented that our cuisine in America is lacking the completeness of others around the world. I looked at the traditional food in India and thought that they were superior because they had not divorced their food from their medicine. Here we are in America and food is clearly found in the supermarket while medicine is hidden behind the pharmacy counter.

Today I suddenly saw that I may have been wrong. We do have a traditional cuisine here in America that combines food and medicine. It’s been hiding right under my nose. Barbecue is distinctly American. All of us participate, whether we grill meat or vegetables. And despite the techniques and sauces that vary by region, the spices are similar. It’s where we Americans effectively marry food and medicine.

This week, I’d like to encourage you to grow a barbecue garden. Grow the spices that we often take for granted in our dry rubs and our sauces as merely flavor. Grow them for their health benefits and cover your grilled vegetables or grassfed meats with them. Revel in the food as medicine culture that is alive and well even here in America.

1. Cayenne (Capsicum anuum)

5 Herbs to Grow for Summer Barbecues - Photo by Tennessee Wanderer/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) #herbs #bbq #barbecue

This well-known spicy pepper is grown as an annual and harvested when it is red. The compounds within cayenne include capsaicin. This herb promotes good circulation and is a digestive aid.

2. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)

5 Herbs to Grow for Summer Barbecues - Photo by Emily/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) #herbs #bbq #barbecue

We use the seed from this plant. In most of the U.S., we need to grow cumin under high tunnels or in greenhouses to allow it enough time to mature. Cumin is a master digestive tonic, encouraging a return to fitness when the stomach and bowels have become sluggish.

3. Garlic (Allium sativum)

5 Herbs to Grow for Summer Barbecues - Photo by Isabel Eyre/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) #herbs #bbq #barbecue

Of course, we all know garlic. A premium digestive tonic that is antibacterial to boot. The regular addition of this plant to our food has been known to decrease the virulence of many of the most dreaded degenerative diseases.

4. Mustard (Brassica juncea)

5 Herbs to Grow for Summer Barbecues - Photo by Jessica Spengler/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) #herbs #bbq #barbecue

Mustard has very important folk medicine applications externally, but when we use the ground seed in our food there’s even more to consider. Mustard is easy to grow and tends to produce large amounts of seed for our use. It’s a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory herb with support for our kidneys and antibiotic action throughout the body.

5. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

5 Herbs to Grow for Summer Barbecues - Photo by Darryl/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) #herbs #bbq #barbecue

The common black pepper we use at the table is the product of a tropical vine. Of course, most of us in the U.S. will be unable to grow this in any quantity, though it’s possible to get a plant to grow for personal enjoyment if you have a sunroom or greenhouse. Black pepper is far more than just a condiment. This powerful medicinal herb has been used as an effective pain reliever, a circulatory tonic, digestive aide and also increases the absorption of nutrients of the food we put it on.

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