GROWING HERBS WITH CHILDREN
Planting an herb garden with children is an empowering activity filled with numerous rewards. The transformation from a seed to an aromatic herb with beautiful flowers is miracle that captivates children, and also has positive affects on their physical, mental, and spiritual well being. Many culinary herbs, such as basil, parsley, and chives, are very easy to grow and add extra flavor to food. Other easily grown herbs, such as chamomile, calendula and mints make tasty teas and simple healing remedies.
Chamomile seeds are tiny and need to be only covered lightly with soil. By early summer these seeds will be two feet tall and covered with heavenly scented, little white-petaled flowers. Pick the flowers as they bloom. The more you pick, the more they will bloom! Pick them one by one, or run your fingers through them like a rake. It is an aromatic meditation. Dry the flowers on screens, in baskets or on plain undyed paper away from direct sunlight.
Chamomile is an excellent, gentle tea for children. Pour one cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried herb (double the amount of herb if used fresh). Steep five minutes and strain. Its calming effect relaxes children to sleep. Or make a small pillow stuffed with the dried flowers for a wonderful sleep inducer. Drink chamomile tea to relieve indigestion, gas, and diarrhea. Wash it on sores, sunburn, and windburn. Although an annual, chamomile blooms are so plentiful that it easily reseeds itself year after year.
Calendula's large, unusual curlycue seeds are fun to plant, and they sprout quickly. It is a beautiful addition to any garden with its continuous bright yellow and orange blossoms. The fresh flower petals may be placed directly on a bee sting to take away the pain, or put on a cut to stop the bleeding. The edible petals add color to a salad, or make a beautiful table bouquet.
Calendula makes an excellent all-purpose salve. Both people and pets can use this salve on cuts, chapped skin, rashes, eczema, boils and bug bites. Fill a jar with the dried flowers covered in olive oil. Keep it in a warm place (a sunny window sill will work) for two weeks or heat the flowers and oil in a crock pot set on low for 4-6 hours. Keep the lid off while cooking as the oil can go rancid if it gets too hot. Strain the oil with herbs through a white cotton cloth and melt1 oz. of grated beeswax per cup of the strained oil. Stir well to create a uniform consistency. It will thicken when cool.
Lemon balm and catnip are two varieties in the mint family. The best way to start a patch of mint is to buy a small plant or transplant a clump from an existing patch. These perenniels easily spread, so your patch will continue to grow year after year. Lemon balm is a tall, sprawling mint with bright green leaves and a delightful, lemony scent and taste. Harvest the leaves throughout the summer, and dry the extra ones for year round use. Lemon balm makes a great tasting sun tea. Put a big handful of the dried leaves in a ½ gallon jar and fill with cold water. Set the jar outside on a sunny day, and in a few hours your tea will be brewed. Besides being a delightful summer drink, the tea can reduce a fever, relieve headaches, and give an uplifting boost for "the blues".
Catnip is a tall mint with soft, green leaves on sturdy square stems. It has a calming effect like chamomile with mint's digestive relief, but with a more bitter taste, so you may want to add honey to the tea. If you live with cats you will find them rolling in your catnip patch. And they will love a small pillow stuffed with the dried leaves!
In addition to good exercise and lots of fun, growing herbs gives children an active role in personal and planetary well being. With this garden children will learn another "3 R's". Reconnection with the earth every time they plant a seed which grows to fruition. Responsibility which gives a harvest of herbs to nourish and sooothe the body and senses, along with seeds to replant. And reverence, for the creator and the miracle of creation, as they witness the cycle of life and rebirth, and gain an greater awareness of the importance that plants are to our very survival.
Written by: EcoMall
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