Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Growing food is one of those things that we somehow collectivelly forgot. Not only our farmworkers have been undervalued since the world got industrialized, but we also had delegate the power of cultivating and preparing our food to big monoculture farms and food processing companies. We now know that these were all unsustainable choices. Our food got intoxicated with pesticides and chemicals, loosing great part of its nutritional value during trasportation, processing, conservation, transportation again for distribution, and so on. By the time that the food arrives to our plates, none of its vitality and hability to provide our cells with prana (vital energy) is left. Not to mention the environmental desaster resulting from this choice: water pollution and soil degeneration, and so much waste of energy and unnecessary packaging.
Time has come for us to rember how to cultivate herbs in our gardens and specially to learn how to use them to support our health and wellness.
1. Connect with a local farmer or gardener
This is tip number one to those wishing to start a garden! Somewhere close to you, someone is sprouting and growing food. I personnally have been fascinated for the work of Ready-to-grow Gardens for many years now. From simply providing small edible plants to completely design, install and maintain edible gardens in Miami, this is a wonderful edible plant provider from who source your plants. If you never sprouted a plant from a seed, starting with small plants is easier and will get you learning and curious about the next levels. Herbs like mint, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, coriander, aloe vera, and lemongrass are all good otions to start, and most of them will be readily available to add flavors to your food. To connect with Ready-to-grow Gardens, visit their website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or 786-436-7703.
2. Plant what is spontaneously sprouting in your kitchen
When Spring season begins, and if you usually buy organic food, you may see your potatos, ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, and some other veggies spontaneously sprouting in your kitchen. At this point, the prana of the plant is fully focused in growing a new plant, and not so much into feeding you... So, as it has other plans, plant it! This is the perfect time to put it in good quality soil and let Nature effortlesly do the job while you will only assist with providing water and enjoying the show.
5. Sprout micro-greens and wheat grass
Perfect for those with little or no patience to wait for the full cycle of growth to enjoy their production, micro-greens are an entertaining way to learn the art of growing things from seeds. This is also a very nice way to teach kids how plants grow from basically water, a thin layer of soil, and sun light. Producing food this way will allow you to harvest in as short as just a week. These little sprouts are powerful in nutrients and plenty of flavors.
6. Start with what is really easy to grow from seeds
Some seeds sprout easily, and it is fun to follow their cycle: butternut squash, okra, corn, and sunflower are great exemples. They sprout quickly, they grow fast and in the space of a couple of months will give you some flowers and/or fruits, which translates into great joy and a beautiful sense of accomplishment and gratitude!
Other plants require more work, specially depending on the climate conditions from where you live. The following videos show how to grow large veggetables in containers and how to sprout the seeds in colder cimates. In Florida we can mostly sprout the seeds in room temperature in the kitchen or outside the house without too much effort.
7. Collect the seeds from the juiciest fruits you eat
Although my garden is too small to cultivate fruits besides a small lime tree in a clay pot that has been providing some juicy fruits to us for over 5 year now, during Summer, when fruits are usually more abundant, full of flavors and harvested at maturity, I use to plant the seeds of the juiciest mangos we get, those perfect avocados, the sweetest papayas, etc. Any pot with a little space is enough, then I forget about it until the day that there is a new plant in the pot. I allow it to grow for a while, then donate the plant to a friend or someone with more space in a garden.
Of course, our lime tree does not provide all the limes we consume along the year, but those few ones from our tree are very precious to us and a great reminder of the time, the environmental conditions, and the work involved in making a lime land in my kitchen.
8. Compost what is left from your veggies
Compost teaches us to have a completly different approach to our food. When you start giving back to Earth what you can't use from your veggies, you reconnect to the cycle of giving an receiving. A compost bin is a source of life for multiple organisms, if feeds worms, lezards, some insects, and your future garden. In my house, the compost bin is simply a big clay pot where all raw plant-based left-overs are placed and allowed to decompose into soil overtime. I use the content of these pots to cultivate new plants.
Get to know the people from whom I've been learning...
I did not learn this overnight, and some years I'm more consistent with these practices than others. It depends on what life is bringing up. Many of the lessons are rooted in my childhood while seeing (and eventually helping out) my parents cultivate an edible garden that became so abundant that my dad started selling what was beyond our needs to a restaurant in our town. Other lessons came much later, and from different teachers, my best souvenirs going to the time I took gardening classes in Paris as a pretext to learn French back in 2001. Following are some links to people with vast knowledge who have influenced my practice:
I'm a fan of Sergei Boutenko, who's work I came across a few years ago through one of his interviews with Cate Stillman. Those familiar with my wellness coaching work have undoubtedly heard of Cate, an Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the book Body Thrive which I use as one of the guiding threads in my 10-week Thriving Wellness Coaching Program. In this video, Sergei explains how plant-based diet reversed his family diagnosis for conditions like diabetes and asthma.
You maybe also want to check-out Sergei Boutenko showing how to forage for wild edibles. I personally have not ventured to this level yet. Although I'm very curious about it and love learning, I believe that foraging requires to be very knwledgeble about recognizing plants and most people I know can't differenciate parsley from coriander. Consider foraging as an advanced level of gardening and the common sense advice to absolutelly don't eat something if you don't know what is is!
It shocks me when even at a farmers market, vendors have to check a label to differenciate parsley from coriander, that's how far from real connection to our food we've got! An attentive observer will perceive that the smell, the touch and the shape of the leaves in both of these plants are very different.
For edible flowers, here is a video from Dr. John Douillard, one of my most inspiring teachers to whom I'm deeply grateful for most of what I know about circadian medicine and for his teachings on the use of home remedies and Ayurvedic compounds to reverse early signs of colds and respiratory ailments.
The full article is available at the LifeSpa website: Edible flowers annual guide
To learn more on home gardening, I recommended the following books: Raised Bed Gardening and/or Organic Gardening for Everyone: Homegrown Vegetables Made Easy
To order seeds for medicinal herbs and organic vegetables you can check out Amazon or varied other sources online. Just make sure to look for organic and non-GMO sources and to make sure your soil is also organic.
To conclude this article, my best tips for those wanting to learn how to grow food and herbs are to stay curious, to trust the process, to study deeply, to never give up and to be willing to eventually fail and start over again.
About the Author: Carol Jamault is a Certified Health & Life Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Registered Yoga Instructor (RYT-200) with a solid background in design and branding. She supports her clients in stress management and self-care through an integrative approach to wellness by providing bodywork services, consultations, and curated information and products to restore balance, improve individual wellness, and to boost vitality. Carol has been studying alternative healing, ethnobotany, circadian medicine, and Ayurveda since 2001. She is the founder of Hridayam Bodywork & Apothecary.