If you’re trying to up your nutrition game this spring, then look no further than your very own herb garden. Herbs are absolutely packed with important vitamins and minerals, as well as powerful plant chemicals known as phytonutrients, so incorporating these natural powerhouses into your diet is a great way to support your immune system, aid digestion and help you feel more energised.
Growing your own herbs can not only save you a significant amount of money, but it is far more eco-friendly than buying individually packaged varieties from the supermarket. In this article, the herbal experts at Pukka Herbs tell us how to grow some key ingredients for making nourishing smoothies and health shots at home.
While this herb might usually be found in savoury dishes like curries and soups, coriander can also make an excellent addition to your next smoothie. High in antioxidants, coriander can bind to free radicals and help remove them from our bodies. It can be incredibly effective at regulating blood sugar levels too (Healthline).
Coriander can be easily grown at home, using small pots placed on a cool, sunny windowsill. Simply sow the seeds in multipurpose potting compost, place the pot in a dish and continue to water your plant from below (being careful not to overwater). You can also use cuttings from shop-bought herbs to start you off, dividing the cuttings from each plant up into 8–10 pots and growing them separately. As well as coriander, versatile herbs like parsley and basil will also grow prolifically from cuttings.
These leaves have a fresh, citrus taste that works well alongside tropical fruit like pineapple, lime and banana. Try blitzing a bunch of coriander leaves with either a small banana or a slice of pineapple, the juice of half a lime, and a cup of water for a zesty drink that’s naturally packed with vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. Smoothies can be an excellent way to make sure you’re eating a colourful, balanced diet — however, don’t forget that they are best enjoyed in moderation and preferably during spring and summer when the digestive fire is stronger. This helps to support good digestion.
Mint has been found to show significant improvements to indigestion and the symptoms of IBS and even has the potential to aid cognitive function (Healthline). It’s therefore a great addition to any meal and the cool, refreshing flavour lends itself to sweet drinks like smoothies.
Mint is a good herb to grow at home as it is a prolific grower and generally quite low maintenance. It grows best from cuttings rather than seeds, so why not ask a friend or neighbour to take a cutting from their mint plant? Once you have around 5 inches of stem, stand it cut end-down in a small glass of water until new roots start to form. You can then plant this in a shallow plastic container with moist potting soil and plenty of drainage. Mint tends to grow best in warm environments with indirect sunlight.
For a refreshing summer drink, try blending a handful of your homegrown mint leaves with coconut water and fresh strawberries. Alternatively, for a cooling dessert on a hot day, you could also make an Italian granita. Gently heat coconut sugar, blended strawberries and mint leaves in a saucepan to infuse them with flavour, before straining to remove any seeds. Freeze this mixture for four hours, making sure to crush it with a fork once every hour to get the perfect consistency. Don’t forget to buy your strawberries seasonally when they’re naturally abundant and freeze them for later use.
Ginger, lemon and turmeric
As well as incorporating fresh ginger root into your smoothies and savoury dishes, there is another way to reap its anti-inflammatory benefits. Simply combine ginger with peeled green apple, lemon and turmeric root in a juicer to make a batch of nourishing, concentrated shots. These are certain to wake you up in the morning with their fiery zing and most importantly, their powerful ingredients can help to improve blood circulation, support the immune system and contribute to a healthy gut.
Wheatgrass and coconut water
High in antioxidants, essential amino acids, and vitamins A, C and E, wheatgrass has certainly earned its superfood status. It is also one of the best sources of living chlorophyll, which has been found to help oxygenate the blood more efficiently and fight chronic inflammation (Medical News Today).
To grow your own wheatgrass, start by rinsing the seeds and soaking them in water for eight hours. Drain the water and place the seeds in a sprouting jar (or basic glass jar), rinsing them with water 2–3 times a day for three days. Once they begin to sprout, sprinkle the seeds into a shallow tray filled with potting compost and cover with newspaper. Spray the newspaper with water daily, removing the paper when the sprouts reach 1–2 inches. Continue to water daily and you can harvest your homegrown wheatgrass when it reaches about five inches: simply cut the blade off near the root.
To make a round of nourishing health shots, place a handful of wheatgrass into a juicer and combine it with a cup of coconut water. Adding coconut water helps to soften the slightly bitter, earthy taste of wheatgrass with a nutty, sweet flavour (not only this, but it is incredibly hydrating due to its high levels of potassium and electrolytes).
While ginger is well-known for its powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and digestive properties, you may not know that you can grow your own supply at home. If you’re feeling adventurous and particularly green-fingered, start with a fresh root of ginger from your local farmer’s market, being sure to choose one with plenty of well-developed branches on its stem. These are growth buds, which will be the site of new shoots.
Break the ginger apart, ensuring that each piece has a growth bud on it and plant these pieces in a seed tray with moist potting compost and plenty of drainage. It’s best to start growing your ginger at the start of spring, so that the budding shoots get as much sunshine as possible (CANNA). As ginger is a tropical plant, it should be grown indoors or in a greenhouse to keep it warm. However, if growing indoors, don’t forget to mist your ginger with water so your central heating doesn’t dry the shoots out too much.
Long, grass-like leaves will start to grow from the buds quickly, but the roots themselves (the part you’ll be harvesting) will take longer to form. After around eight months they should be ready to use, but remember that the older the root, the stronger and spicier it tastes.
“Herbs are an invaluable addition to our diet and wellness routine, as they can aid in everything from soothing digestion and regulating blood sugar to supporting our overall immune system. Incorporating them into smoothies and concentrated health shots is a great way to consume these powerful herbs quickly, efficiently and deliciously!
“Growing your own herb garden can not only save you money, but it’s also a more sustainable, long-term solution than buying individually packaged varieties at the supermarket. With a few simple tips you can grow ingredients like mint, coriander, ginger and wheatgrass at home and use them to make a host of nourishing smoothies and juices all year round.”
- Jo Webber, Herbal Education Lead and Ayurvedic practitioner at Pukka Herbs
About the brand
Established in 2001 by co-founders Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell, Pukka Herbs aim to nurture healthier, happier lives through the power of organic plants. Specialising in teas and supplements that follow the holistic principles of Ayurveda, they foster mutually benevolent relationships with farmers, sourcing partners and herbal experts to keep sustainability a priority. As a result, Pukka Herbs provide products that support health, promote conservation and demonstrate the true brilliance of herbs.
For more information, visit www.pukkaherbs.com