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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Uplifting Herbs for the Winter Windowsill

Dawn Combs
Hobby Farms Contributor

Dig up holy basil and lemon balm to add to a windowsill container so you can beat the winter blues with teas made from their leaves. Photo courtesy iStock/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Dawn Combs

The wind is crisp, the sky is a clear blue, and the leaves eagerly follow their companions to carpet the grounds on our little farm here in Ohio. I have spent the past week bringing in the contents of my vegetable garden and picking the last of our fall apples. Today I am turning to my herbal companions.

Do you harvest your medicine along with your vegetables?

Most gardeners think only of the frost on the pumpkin, but I worry also about the frost on my tender herbs. I make an effort to focus on planting both perennials and natives, but there are oh so many tender annuals that I feel I must have in my medicinal and culinary arsenal, as well. Here in my garden, the chamomile is not just a companion plant for the cabbage, but also a useful nervine (a class of herbs that feeds and nourishes the nervous system) for my tea cup.

When the growing season is over outside, I begin to turn my thoughts to what I would like to have available throughout the winter. Sometimes that means a good store of dried and frozen medicinal herbs, but there are always some plants that I must have fresh.

Medicine in the Windowsill
My lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) will overwinter—it’s hardy where I live—but it will do so below ground while I crave its lemony-tasting leaves. Tulsi, also called holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), will be destroyed in a hard freeze, and my only hope will be that it has left enough seed behind to replant itself in the spring. These two plants will make a lovely combination in a beautiful pot I found this morning in the barn loft.

When digging up lemon balm to take indoors, get all the roots so you decrease risk of shock to the plant. Photo by Dawn Combs (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Dawn Combs

I dig carefully around a good specimen of each, ensuring that I get all the roots so that there’s less chance of shock. Inside, these two plants will be happy in a partially sunny room, such as my kitchen. I will keep them watered and healthy all winter long with the help of a constantly brewing bucket of compost tea.

Tulsi, or holy basil, makes a great container companion plant with lemon balm. Photo by Dawn Combs (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Dawn Combs

Throughout the winter I will pick a few leaves of each and make myself a cup of tea whenever I feel low. Lemon balm and holy basil are bright, sunny and cheery. They also happen to be pretty darn tasty! The combination is an excellent treatment for the winter "blahs” that creep up on many of us who live in overcast areas of the country. This blend would also be perfect for anyone you know who is suffering with a touch of the blues that aren’t associated with the weather. Don’t worry about the need for an expensive dryer or figuring out how the lowest setting works on your oven! Most herbal teas are best picked fresh.

Head on out today and preserve that bit of green for your winter windowsill. If you put together an extra pot, it might even make a perfect early contribution to that holiday gift list you’ve been compiling.

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