In days past women relied on simple wisdom, common sense, and pantries well stocked with herbal remedies to help their families with common ailments. With few exceptions, these herbal remedies were made from plants and herbs that grew in the kitchen garden or were gathered in fields and woods. People are again becoming aware of the importance of returning to the use of whole foods and healthy herbs in their lives. Here you can explore the natural world of plants to help you live a simpler and healthier life.
Herb of The Month
You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautifully fragrant herb than mint. MInt is amazingly versatile and is a helpful and welcome herb in every household. Mint is right at home in an invigorating cup of tea, in an herbal extract or added to many recipes.
There are a tons of varieties of mints to savor. Peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, and orange mint are just a few in the Lamiaceae or mint family.
Perhaps most commonly known for its ability to soothe the upset tummy, this herb has found its place among the most revered of digestive soothing herbs. I use this herb often and find it to be a delicious addition to my mornig cup of tea. Not only is it soothing to the tummy, but it it is invigorating and restoritive too!
Interested in trying some mint as an addition to your herbal apothecary? Here you can buy a wide variety of mint seeds.
Mint is a calming herb that people have used for thousands of years to help soothe an upset stomach or indigestion.
Mint is known in the world of herbal medicine as a carminative and an antispasmodic agent, due to its ability to reduce stomach cramping, indigestion, pain and discomfort. Mint is very soothing for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heartburn and nausea.
2.) Soothing common cold symptoms
Mint contains menthol. This an aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel.
Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid.
A 2019 study on rats found that rosmarinic acid reduced symptoms of asthma when compared to a control group that did not receive a supplement.
The mint plant family provides a range of plant compounds that have anti-allergenic effects, according to a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
However, the content of mint extract in oils and ointments may be far stronger than dietary mint. There is very little research into the effect of dietary mint on the symptoms of allergies.
4.) Anti-microbial & anti-fungal
Mint has the ability to not only kill the bad bacteria that are in our digestive tract, but it also combats the overgrowth of fungus that is present after many of us take prescription antibiotics.
Mint is a powerful herb in the prevention and treatment of Candida Albicans (a common yeast infection).
Many varieties of mint are traditionally consumed as an anti-inflammatory for the lungs. Mint is showing to have promising effects in clinical trials of asthma treatments by extracting the active nutrient rosmarinic acid, which can block inflammation. Mint should not be used as a substitute to any asthma medication, but rather in addition to it.
Applying menthol ointments or vapor rubs may be a safe and effective treatment for children who have a common cold.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) advises that peppermint oil may cause skin irritation and redness. They recommend that the ointment not be directly applied o the chest or face of a child due to serious possible side effects after direct inhalation.
The Many Useful Properties of Mint
The tasty and vivacious mints are full of helpful properties!
Antispasmodic – eases muscle cramping
Antimicrobial – helps to fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
Carminative – plants that are rich in aromatic oils and help to relieve gas, griping, and spasms
Digestive – used by herbalists to support digestion
Diaphoretic – helps to promote perspiration by stimulating peripheral circulation
Nervine relaxant – helps to calm tension and irritability in the nervous system
Nervine stimulant – assists in stimulating the nervous system
Topical analgesic – used externally by herbalists to ease pain *The above information was taken from Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Tilgner, Healing Herbal Teas by Brigitte Mars, Mentha piperita/phudina: Peppermint by Anne McIntyre, and Peppermint in The Herbarium by the Herbal Academy.
Get the Latest Recipes! Join our newsletter.
Yield: 2 Quarts
Sun Brewed MInt Iced Tea
If you love sun tea, you will love this recipe! A delicious tea brewed by sitting in the sun for a few hours.
Prep Time2 hours10 minutes
Total Time2 hours10 minutes
2 Quarts Water
1/4 Cup Wildflower Honey
1 Large Lemon
2 Bunches Fresh Mint Leaves
Pour the water into a large 2-quart pitcher or container with a lid. Stir in honey until dissolved.
Zest the lemon, being careful not to include any white pith, and juice the lemon. Combine the zest and juice with the honey-water mixture.
Hold a bunch of mint in one hand; use your other hand to twist and squeeze the leaves, slightly bruising them to release their fragrance and oils. Immerse the bunches in the water mixture.
Cover the container and place it in direct sunlight for two hours. Remove the mint leaves, shake, and serve over ice in tall glasses, garnished with a mint sprig.
When is the right time for sowing seeds in my garden?
Spring is in full swing here in the northeast and it’s time to start your garden. But when to start sowing seeds? The answer depends upon your zone. Zones are determined by the United States Department of Agriculture. They separate parts of the United States into zones according to temperature. It’s important to know the proper times for starting plants from seed. This will enhance germination and help ensure healthy vigorous plants.
Another important aspect of sowing seed that must be considered is using your average last frost date. You’ll discover that sowing seed based on your average last frost date is best because it’s based on your own garden’s climate. This date is identified as the first day of the year when there is less than a 50% chance a frost will occur.
If you don’t already know your average last frost date, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great resource for this information. Frost dates are calculated based on data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. It’s also helpful to know your average first frost date at the end of the season so you can determine the number of days in your growing season as well as plan your summer and fall sowings.
When in doubt, always check your seed packets for instructions, as they’re a valuable source of information for learning when to set out your seeds, what kind of soil they like, how deeply to sow them, and how long they take to germinate and grow.
Should I start my seeds indoors or outdoors?
Indoor Seed Starting
The Good: Indoor seed starting gives you the most control over your seedlings. You can easily track the germination rate of your seeds, and give them more moisture or more warmth as needed. In a contained environment, seedlings are less prone to pests and diseases.
The Bad: Indoor seed starting requires a decent amount of space in a fairly warm room and, at the very least, a sunny window that’s preferably south-facing. If all you have is a cold, dark basement, which necessitates the need for an indoor grow light system, you’re probably better off buying seedling plugs or starter plants, or waiting until you can sow your seeds outside.
How to Start Seeds Indoors
Make sure you clear some space in front of a sunny window that receives at least eight hours of light per day for your seed starting pots. If this is not possible, then it would be advised to invest in a few grow lights that can simulate the sun for your seedlings.
Purchase your seeds from a trusted source.
Fresher, higher quality seeds will have a higher germination rate (meaning more will sprout), and will give you a head-start in growing delicious, nutritious vegetables. (Check out SeedsNow and their line of heritage and heirloom vegetable seeds!)
Plastic plant tray, baking sheet, or other suitable “saucer” for drainage
Fine-mist spray bottle
Pour your seed starting mix into the large container and wet it thoroughly. You want all the water to be absorbed and the mix to be moist before you start.
Scoop the seed starting mix into each of your small containers, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top, and place the small containers in your plant tray.
Sprinkle a few seeds over the seed starting mix (about three to four if they’re large, or a hefty pinch if they’re small). Repeat with the remaining containers and seeds. Don’t forget to label each container!
Following the seed packet instructions, cover the seeds with seed starting mix. As a general rule of thumb, seeds should be covered with a thin layer equal to their height, anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch or more. Some seeds don’t need to be covered at all, as they need light in order to germinate, so simply press them into the seed starting mix.
Tamp down gently on the seed starting mix with your fingers (or the back of a spoon) and thoroughly mist the surface with your spray bottle.
Place the plant tray, with all of your newly seeded containers, in a sunny window in a warm location. Keep the seed starting mix evenly moist until you’re ready to transplant the seedlings into your garden. Use the spray bottle to avoid dislodging the seeds or damaging your seedlings as they grow.
Hardening Off Your Seedlings
Young, tender seedlings that were grown either indoors or in a greenhouse will need an adjustment period to acclimate to outdoor conditions prior to being planted in the garden. This transition period is called “hardening off.”
Hardening off seedlings gradually exposes the tender plants to the wind, sun, and rain. toughening them up by thickening the cuticle on the leaves so they lose less water when exposed to the elements. This helps prevent transplant shock, the term used for seedlings that languish, become stunted, or die from sudden changes in temperature.
The length of time a seedling requires to harden off depends on the type of plants being grown and the temperature. Be flexible when hardening off your seedlings and prepare to whisk them indoors or cover them if there is a late freeze or snow.
There are three approaches to hardening off plants:
About 7 to 10 days before your seedlings are ready to be transplanted, take them outside and leave them in the shade for a few hours in the morning or afternoon. Bring them inside before nightfall. Repeat for the next day or two. If the weather is exceptionally windy or cold, wait until it clears up before attempting to harden off your seedlings.
After their two- to three-day introduction to the outside world, place the seedlings in dappled sunlight for a few hours in the morning or afternoon. Bring them inside before nightfall. Repeat for the next day or two.
Next, leave them outside all day in direct sun and bring them inside before nightfall. Repeat the next day. If the weather is exceptionally hot, shelter your seedlings during the harshest part of the day or move them into partial shade.
Finally, let your seedlings live outside all day and all night until they move into the garden.
Starting Your Garden Outdoors
Nature sows directly outdoors. It’s often the easiest for you, as well. Many times, plants sown directly outdoors are more vigorous and healthier than transplants. Direct-sow tap-rooted vegetables, such as carrots or radishes, that don’t transplant well as seedlings. Beets transplant well, but they prefer growing in cool soil so there’s no reason to start them indoors.
Heat-loving crops that need a long season to produce, such as tomato, pepper or eggplant, don’t yield as strong a performance when they’re direct-sown, especially in regions with short growing seasons. Start these seeds indoors. Other heat-loving crops, such as pumpkin, squash, cucumber, beans and melons, thrive when direct-sown after all danger of frost is past.
Your soil may be very different from soil that’s in a neighboring yard. A soil test can help you determine what type of soil you have and provide suggestions for improving it. You will want to use a soil thermometer to determine the temperature of the soil before sowing, as optimal seed germination temperatures vary by variety. Contact your local university or Cooperative Extension Service. for information about soil testing, to see if your soil need improvement to grow healthy, productive plants.
Prepare Soil – Use a rake or hand fork to loosen soil. Break apart large soil clumps, and remove debris, such as sticks, rocks and roots. Add amendments to soil, such as fertilizer and organic matter, to create the most ideal growing situation. Finish by creating a level surface.
Dig In – Most seed packets describe planting depth. The rule of thumb is to plant at a depth equal to three times the seed diameter. There are exceptions. Some seeds require light to germinate and should rest on top of soil. Press such seeds firmly against soil using a board or trowel to ensure that moisture cradles the seeds.
Follow these other seed-sowing tips:
If your soil has a high clay content and tends to crust over as it dries, cover seeds with commercial seed-starting mix.
When sowing extremely small seeds, such as carrots or nicotiana, mix seeds with sand to aid in dispersal.
When sowing larger seeds, including peas and beans, create a long furrow and dribble seeds at the proper spacing. Alternatively, use a bamboo stake, dibber or pencil to form individual planting holes.
After sowing seed, soil should be kept moist, but not soggy, making sure the top layer of soil where the seed is growing stays moist. Dip a finger in the soil below the seed depth to check for moisture. Depending on your garden’s climate, you may need to water more than once a day to keep the seed and soil moist. Too little moisture can prevent the seed from germinating, while too much water can contribute to seed rot.
Sunlight is essential for plant growth. Most flowers and vegetables need “full sun”, which means at least 6 hours of direct sun during the day. “Part shade” plants do best in 4 to 6 hours of unfiltered sun each day. A few types of plants will be happy in “shade”, which is less than 4 hours of sun or day-long filtered sun.
What types of plants should be started outdoors?
Plants that don’t transplant well (weakened by root disturbance).
Plants that require very warm temperatures to sprout and get established.
The cullinary and medicinal uses of dandelions are many as is their Incredible health benefits. Over the years I have learned to appreciate this common lawn pest. In fact, now when I see them spring up in my lawn, I welcome the sight. This “weed” is one of the most nutritious wild edible foods you could forage. Beyond its cullinary uses, it has many medicinal uses as well.
Victory gardens are trending again due to Coronavirus—Here’s what you need to know to get started on creating your own victory garden.
Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II.
In response to promotional posters, “3 million new garden plots were planted in 1917 and more than 5.2 million were cultivated in 1918” and up to 20 million victory gardens were planted between 1942-44. (History.com) 20 million victory gardens! Can you imagine all those gardens, all that potential and growth–in yards, containers, schoolyards, the company green space? The promotional effort was so popular they turned to educating people on how to preserve their harvests by canning and drying crops. Numbers like that strengthened local food security, garden by garden.
Why Should You Start a Victory Garden?
I’m sure like many Americans right now, you’re feeling a little insecure about your food sources. You may be wondering if we might even see food shortages or economic changes that would impact our food purchasing power. Growing a garden could nurture confidence and a greater sense of food security, as well as a source of healthy fresh food. In the immediate moment, planting, planning and implimenting a garden can be a welcome distraction from the news and media.
Gardening can be a very healing and satisfying way to spend your social distancing time. There is also something very therapudic in knowing that you can be self-reliant and provide food for you and your family.
How much space do you need for a victory garden?
If you are starting a garden for the first time, you’ll need to evaluate your space determine whether you want to plant in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. Window boxes and even rooftops can be utilized with great success. Are you short on space? Consider working in edible plants around your existing flowers and shrubs.
There is an overwhelming amount of resources out there to help you. Find one you like and go for it! An excellent first garden resource is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.
Planning Your Victory Garden
With a bit of planning and preparing, you can grow a garden that your family can feast off.
You’ll want to pay attention to where the sun hits, prepare your soil or raised garden bed, and plant your vegetables and other edibles when the timing is right. Use a frost date calendar to know the best timing for your area, and pay attention to plant tags and seed packets for further guidance.
If you’re a small-space gardener, read about growing vertically as a space saving option.
Plan for Your Zone
The USDA hardiness zones provide a guide for what will grow in different climates. You will find the appropriate growing zone(s) listed on seeds, seedlings, and plants. So once you know your zone, this will allow you to choose plants that are suited to your specific growing conditions and increase your chance of success.
What to Plant in Your Victory Garden
Focus on the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you eat regularly to make the biggest impact on your grocery bill. If you are completely new to gardening I would recommend that you start with plants that are easy to grow like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, green beans, zucchini and pumpkin.
Do you like to keep things low maintenance? Then, include lots of perennial foods, so you’ll have less to plant next year. Some perennials I like are rhubarb, asparagus, horseradish, mint, raspberries and apples.
I do most of my plants from seed with the exception of tomato, eggplant and peppers. Whether you choose seeds or young plants comes down to your preference, as long as they’re suitable for your growing zone.
Enjoy Your Victory Garden!
The biggest thing to remember is that gardening is a learning experience. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t turn out the way you want the first time. Be patient and keep trying. I’ve been gardening my whole life and am still learning new and better ways to do things. It’s all part of the journey…enjoy!
Downpour Mountain is all about weathering life’s storms and learning how to become more self reliant. Inside you will find helpful tips on cooking from scratch, wine making, soap-making, homesteading, gardening, and using herbs so you can be as self sufficient as possible.