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Growing a Shakespearean Herb Garden 
by Wendelynn Gunderson June 22, 2005

  • Chamomile, Anthemis nibilisChamomile was often known as Roman Chamomile in Shakespeare’s day. It is a low growing perennial, averaging about 9 inches in height. The leaves as well as the flowers have a very strong scent. Dry or freeze for future use. Chamomile has many uses and has been referred to as the “physician’s plant.” Useful as a strewing herb it also has culinary and medicinal uses. Chamomile flowers may be brewed into a relaxing tea. The tea is also useful as a rinse for blonde hair, an insect repellent, nightmare preventative, and gentle diuretic. Its leaves and flowers were used in poultices to reduce inflammations and swellings. As a companion garden plant, Chamomile is known to improve the flavor of onions, cabbages and lettuce.
  • Chives, Allium schoenoprasumChives are a perennial, sun loving plant. They grow in small clumps that average 6 inches high. Harvest the slender green shoots when they are young. Older shoots become bitter. Chives have a light onion flavor. Dry or freeze for future use. Chives are a companion to carrots.
  • Heartsease, Viola tricolorWe know Heartsease as Johnny Jump Up, the early spring wild pansy. It is an annual, growing easily in moderate to full sun. Heartsease is a compact plant, rarely reaching more than 6 inches. Heartsease does well drying or freezing for long-term storage. The leaves and flowers may be added to salads or used for decoration. A tea brewed from the flower was thought to ease various heart conditions. The nectar from a Heartsease flower was considered a magical essence and could allow one to see fairies.
  • Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalisHyssop is another of the “physician’s herbs” as it has many uses. It is a perennial that grows to a height of 10 – 12 inches. Hyssop needs full sun and prefers to be in somewhat poor soil. Dry or freeze the leaves for future use. The leaves have a strong slightly bitter minty flavor. Pick them when they are young to reduce the bitterness. The leaves may also be brewed into a tea which has many historic medicinal uses including loosening the phlegm of a chest cold, curing toothaches, worming, curing breathing problems, as a laxative and to reduce the swelling and discoloration of bruises. Hyssop is a companion to grapes, and cabbage but is toxic to radishes.
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