HOME&GARDEN: 5 herbs to grow indoors

Wednesday September 13 2017

Natural plants not only provide health benefits

Natural plants not only provide health benefits but also add beauty and life to a space. PHOTO| FILE 

By SYOVATA NDAMBUKI

As age sets in, we begin to yearn for natural solutions. You will find yourself wanting to drink herbal tea straight from your garden, or cook with natural fresh spices rather than processed products in plastic containers. Natural plants not only provide health benefits but also add beauty and life to a space. Simon Ngata, a former chef and a skilled landscaping artist, understands and appreciates the benefits of plants.

Having worked as a chef, he highly recommends the use of natural plants as spices or for medicinal use. As we walk around his botanical haven right opposite Safari Park Hotel, five herbs stand out. You can also add glamour to your kitchen while living a healthy lifestyle by growing these five herbs indoors:

PEPPERMINT

his herb is effective in treating common colds

his herb is effective in treating common colds and pain and its sweet smell plays a therapeutic role if inhaled. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

With an astounding resemblance to common weeds, peppermint is one of the sweetest smelling herbs in the market. You would recognise it with ease if your favourite candy or toothpaste has the “mint” flavour. Simon recalls using it as an additive in pineapple juice to mute the slightly bitter taste in pineapple pulp, during his time as a chef.

This herb is effective in treating common colds and pain and its sweet smell plays a therapeutic role if inhaled. He recommends peppermint spice in rice, juice and smoothies. When it comes to planting, all you need is adequate lighting and an ample supply of water. It also survives well alongside other common spices like rosemary as seen in Ngata’s garden.

STRAWBERRY

The most amazing bit about strawberries as

The most amazing bit about strawberries as Simon explains is their productivity. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Strawberry is mostly famed for flavouring yogurt, ice cream and cake varieties, but there is more to this plant than we are told. The strawberry plant produces small fruits which can be eaten or used to flavour different pastries. They have numerous health benefits such as boosting the immune system and improving eyesight.

The most amazing bit about strawberries as Simon explains is their productivity. The produce their fruits at a very early stage thus limiting the time one has to tend to the plant before reaping. If you fancy vanilla rather than strawberry flavour, there’s nor harm ib havinf the latter in your kitchen, if only for its aesthetic appeal.

LEMONGRASS

Lemongrass can be used for painful joints and

Lemongrass can be used for painful joints and to ease symptoms of indigestion. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

This is one of the most common yet timeless herbs in African culture. It is what we would call a survivor plant since it needs very little attention to survive indoors as well as outdoors. Instead of adorning the house with plastic grass, lemongrass would be a great addition. It is commonly used to spice up tea and it comes with countless health benefits.

Lemongrass can be used for painful joints and to ease symptoms of indigestion. To cap it all, it makes great tea. Who would say no to a sizzling cup of tea that calms the nerves after a long day at work? Lemongrass produces circuses, which are easier to plant and maintain and it also grows at an almost alarming speed with little to no special attention, according to Simon.

ALOE VERA

You will find numerous cosmetic products in the

You will find numerous cosmetic products in the market using the name ‘Aloe Vera’ to attract clients. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

If you’ve ever tasted aloe vera, you probably cringed a little at the sight of this. Despite its popularity as a health aid for numerous ailments, aloe vera has an almost annoying bitter taste. Nevertheless, it stands tall in Simon’s garden.

“We never prune this herb, but our customers always carry a leaf or two,” he says.

His aloe vera shrub has been visibly pruned numerous times by discerning customers who understand the true value of this traditional herb. Its useful properties are best displayed in the marketing strategies used by different players in the cosmetic industry. You will find numerous cosmetic products in the market using the name ‘Aloe Vera’ to attract clients. For a more affordable and everpresent fix, why not spruce up your home with aloe vera, especially because it’s so easy to plant and maintain. This magical herb has such a high survival rate that it thrives in very dry areas. According to Simon, if an aloe vera leaf falls on wet soil, it automatically germinates and grows over time; mainly because it reserves a lot of water, as a semi-desert plant.

ROSEMARY

Rosemary is commonly used to spice up chicken

Rosemary is commonly used to spice up chicken recipes and as a tea additive. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Though not so much of an indoor plant, rosemary should be a guest in every home. It has a pleasant smell and it grows in a style that naturally adds beauty to the home. Rosemary is commonly used to spice up chicken recipes and as a tea additive. There is something pleasant about sipping a rosemary flavoured cup for tea while sharing stories with friends or family.

It also has nutrients such as calcium which are essential for good health. Simon however recommends that this plant be placed strategically at the corridor on in the kitchen garden, where there is adequate lighting to ensure survival.

HERB SURVIVAL TIPS

When planting these five herbs, the following tips are important in ensuring the survival of each plant.

First, herbs thrive well under composed soil. This is the type of soil that requires additions such as dry grass, leaves and manure.

Second, when planting, you can use a big durable jar or trough that is easy to clean. A trough is more suitable for peppermint as its spreads fast and also allows you to plant several spices in one jar.

When it comes to watering your plants, the size of your jar or trough should determine the amount of water to use.

A big jar holds more liquid thus minimising the number of times you have to water your plants in a week.

A small jar, on the other hand, holds very little liquid and therefore requires you to water the plant at least twice a week.

You can always touch the soil to feel if there is moisture in it every once in a while before watering.

Lastly, all these plants may have the ability to survive indoors, but they require adequate light. Plants generally need light to process their food.

Therefore, Simon says that indoor plants placed on the kitchen window, corridor or balcony have higher chances of survival.