Herbs around my houseBy Adina Dosan (adinamiti)
October 22, 2010
The adventure of building a house in the middle of a field has its beauty and can be fun, even if difficulties come one after another. About 4 years ago, when we bought this piece of land where we've built our new house; the field around had only grass on it and it was clean, which made a very good impression on us. The real-estate agent, who sold us the land, said they had sown herbs on the field, but at that time only a few small poppies were blooming. Two years later, when the house was ready, I loved walking on the field full of poppies, daisies and all kind of flowers which I thought were weeds or just wild flowers. My stray doggies always accompanied me on my walks, chasing the mice and lizards throughout the field. I had almost forgotten what the real-estate agent said and that many of those wild flowers were in fact herbs. I was about to find out about them, one by one, as I discovered them on the field.
I knew about poppy seeds' medicinal and culinary uses. Recently I've found out that only Papaver somniferium, also called Opium poppy, seeds are used for these purposes. I've always loved rolls with poppy seeds on and poppy seeds paste inside them! On the field I've discovered a few species of the Corn poppy - Papaver rhoeas.
One day I saw a worker picking up some golden flowers and I was surprised when he told me they were common St. John's wort which is used for making a tea good for liver's protection and for treating depression. Its Romanian name is Ringer. I loved their blooms and wanted them right away in my garden. This way I could have clean flowers for some tea, if needed. With the dogs walking all over the field, those might not have been so clean! And since I've also wanted to bring some poppies in my garden, why not bring more of the wild plants inside? This way I might have saved them from their iminent extinction, after all the houses on our street - and more streets around us - would have been built.
Centaurea cyanus, also called Cornflower because it grows mostly in the corn fields, was the third to come into my garden, between the poppies and St. John's wort, according to my plan. I thought it would be fun to see red, yellow and blue together, like the colors of our national flag. It is also called blue flower in our country, from the blue color of its flowers which are used as remedy for tired eyes, but also for a few internal disease.
Similar is chicory Cichorium intybus, which I remembered from my walks in the park. Its blue-like-the-sky flowers are so beautiful! I brought one stalk in my garden, but then I thought I should have left it outside because it has a toxicity for internal parasites, in case my dogs would like to eat it. Then maybe I'll let it stay for a while, just in case. I just remembered drinking cichory instead of coffee many years ago and I loved the taste.
Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium, with its pink cute flowers was next, for its beauty. Its Romanian name is Flyer lady. I didn't know it was also an herb, used for cooking (especially sweets) and for medicinal purposes, such as inflamation of the urinary tract and more.
When I went in the field to dig the fireweed bush out, I found one more herb, which made me remember about having herbs on our field. Thyme, which everyone knows is used when cooking pork roast. It was growing next to the fireweed - some small stalks with small purple flowers on them which drew my attention. I recognized the plant from what I knew looked like when buying it from the market. I oftenly buy it fresh and let it dry at home, then chop away the leaves and flowers from the stalks and stor it in a jar. I ripped off a tip from the plant and smelled it . The scent told me I was right. Only that was another species, Thymus serpyllum, which grows in the field, but has the same healing properties and the same scent like the more common Thymus vulgaris.  My pictures aren't too pretty, but you can see a gorgeous one in PlantFiles.
Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea' was another beautiful plant I admired on the field. I had the scarlet sage with red blooms in my garden, so why not take the purple one too? I had heard about salvia used in cooking and for medicinal purposes, even took capsules with salvia oil for hot flashes, and they were very effective. So, there was another herb in my garden. My medicinal flower bed was growing more beautiful with each addition I made. But I still had a few to bring in.
Chamomile was one herb I wanted to have in my garden. At first I thought I had many, but then I realized they weren't camomile because their flowers had no scent. They weren't daisies either, like they seemed. After doing some research, I could tell which was the true chamomile Matricaria recutita, also called German chamomile; and which was the other one, the corn chamomile Anthemis arvensis, a scentless plant similar to chamomile.
The chamomile I knew is used for making the famous healing tea was growing on the field too, here and there, but it has much shorter stems and smaller flowers, with a hollow receptacle. Their scent revealed them to me, among all the wild scentless ones.
Also from the chamomile family is the yellow chamomile, Anthemis tinctoria, present on my field too, but not yet in my garden.
Hyssopus officinalis is a very beautiful plant with blue flowers, like a few others on the field. Those attracted my attention when I saw a big flower bed in the middle of the field covered in blue. I took the shovel and brought a few plants in my garden, not knowing exactly what they were. I found out it is used for several medicinal remedies, especially as an expectorant, cough supressant and in mouthwash and eyedrop formulations.
I found out about yarrow - Achillea millefolium from my Dave's Garden friends. Many have it in their gardens and I wanted to have it too. When I searched for its Romanian name I was surprised to find out that I knew about it, it was a herb! The Romanian name is funny, mouse's tail.I knew it was a very good medicinal plant, used as a remedy for many illnesses, such as hemoroids, allergies and colds.
Last, but not the least plant I brought from the field Elecampane - Inula helenium. Also called horse-heal, it is an herb with a famous name and great healing properties. It is called Helen's tears in Romanian because of the legend which says they sprouted from where Helen's of Troy tears fell. The plant has beautiful yellow flowers, aster-like and they are blooming almost all summer on the field and now in my garden too, until my real asters are starting to bloom.
This spring I had several new plants in my medicinal flower bed, probably from the seeds in the ground I brought with the other plants from the field. I let them grow and I was amazed to find out about another herb coming from the field to my garden: the mustard - Sinapis alba and brown indian mustard - Brassica juncea. Both species have beautiful small yellow flowers, but they are so invasive, I had to pull most of the plants out.
Another surprise in my garden was the Absinth wormwood Artemisia absinthium. Its whitish-green beautiful leaves told me it was a plant which should be allowed to grow in my garden. The biggest surprise occurred after being away on vacation for more than a month, when I found it in bloom. It was still beautiful, but so big! I remember my grandma making soap and adding absinth wormwood for the scent. Now I found out it's a very good stomach medicine, used for making tincture and a wine, but also for flavoring some beverages, most notably, absinthe.
Among the herbs growing in my garden are also lots of dandelions-Taraxacum officinale, which got here by themselves. No need to tell you how many are sprouting every spring, so I have to pull them off, or they would take over my garden . I know their young leaves are good for making a tasty salad, so I let them grow just enough to pick their leaves. I have a funny memory of drinking a lot of dandelion tea when I was a teenager and wanted to lose weight. Someone told me I have to eat toast and drink this tea, which has diuretic properties, among others. I started to do that, but never lost any weight, even if I was drinking tons of that bitter dandelion tea. My mom enlightened me and told me what I was doing wrong, I was eating too much toast!
Looking like dandelions, but growing higher, and hard to get rid of is the perennial sow thistle Sonchus arvensis. Although it is na herb with almost the same medicinal uses as the dandelion, it is considered a very noxious weed. I have to agree with that they seem to grow all over, even if I am pulling them out everyday. They are taking over the field starting June and only the drought might stop them a bit during all summer.
Common toadflax Linaria vulgaris grew inside the garden too from the seeds which fell through the fence. I like them because their flower is similar to the snapdragon's. As na herb, Linaria has medicinal use as diuretic and for reducing fever.
It's been great finding out more about these herbs while writing this article. Most of the herbs are used as tea in our country and I have often tried some of those teas myself, especially chamomile for healing a stomachache. It does wonders, takes the pain in an instant! Maybe I won't be needing all the herbs I have in my garden, but they sure look good when they are all blooming!