By this time of year our gardens have long since been put to bed. The light begins to fade and the days get shorter and shorter. Winter brings an expanding and all-encompassing stillness that enfolds the world around us. Brightness and greenery wane and the dark time of the year takes its place.
A lot of people have trouble hunkering down during these winter months. It’s hard to slow down allow this time of year to help us rest up. Harder still is letting go of summer’s vibrant colors and as a result many experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
For those of us who garden, don’t you just miss those shades of green? I can’t wait for Spring so I can grow more herbs and enjoy the bees. So as I wait for those months of abundance, I turn to a little cheat of mine to help hold on to the colors of summer.
How to Cheat Winter and Stay Well
Ginger and Horseradish
One of the first things I do once winter starts to settle in is go to my local health food store and peruse the produce aisle. Organic produce offers excellent sources for starting your own medicinal plants. As I walk down the aisle, already I see fresh ginger root and horseradish. When I get home, I’ll put each of these in a broad planter covering each with an inch of soil. Soon, both roots will sprout. The ginger will shoot up a few green stalks that mark where new knobs of ginger have formed. The horseradish sprouts beautiful frilly leaves that add much needed color to winter’s bleak surroundings. Both roots can be carefully lifted out and pieces can be broken off for cooking. You can then put what’s left back in the pot and they will grow again.
I often use ginger root as a warming addition to teas, soups, and marinades. It makes an excellent remedy for cough and thick phlegm and mucus that refuses to loosen.
Horseradish is fantastic in dips this time of year. It also makes an important appearance in my homemade fire cider and other infused herbal vinegars this time of year. It’s perfect for salad dressings, marinades, and as a simple flavor enhancer for beans and greens.
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Another amazing herb to add to your year-round kitchen garden is lemongrass. I always try to find the freshest stalks available as they grow the best when fresh. I’ll bring home a few stalks, rinse them clean, and then put then in a mason jar with water. After a week or two the stalks begin producing really lovely roots. You can then add them to a little pot of soil and harvest the leaves fresh all winter long.
Lemon grass is flavorful and warming, perfect for this time of year. Its uplifting aromatic qualities are perfect for the winter blues and feelings of depression. I love adding fresh lemon grass to homemade tom kha gai, teas, and stir frys all winter long.
As I walk further down the aisle I see heads of fresh garlic. Garlic is always a welcome addition to my kitchen and is surprisingly easy to grow. Just remove a few healthy looking cloves and pop them into a small pot of soil. Garlic greens are super flavorful and I love adding the freshly snipped greens to salads and sprinkling them over baked potatoes, chili, and hearty soups. Garlic’s warming qualities help stave off colds and flu by cutting through stuck mucus and boosting immunity.
If you fertilize the planted cloves twice a month you will be able to harvest a whole new bulb this time next year!
For more on garlic check out these articles:
Having fresh herbs on the window sill is a must during they grey months of winter. I often enjoy experimenting with different seeds like coriander, anise, fennel, and caraway. And while I may not often use the shoots for cooking they all lend a pleasant fragrance to the kitchen.
Of course I have popular staples like rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, mint, basil, chives, chamomile, lavender, and oregano growing happily in the kitchen as well. Their vibrant green color always brightens my kitchen and their fragrance reminds me of sunnier days. you can get most of these in this awesome seed pack and this seed pack.
All of these herbs do very well indoors and are perfect additions to most warming winter recipes. They also boost immunity and keep you well throughout the winter months.
A Few Quick and Simple Remedies
Have a terrible cough? Steep some fresh thyme in a cup of boiling water, covered, and sip slowly 2-3 a day.
Have a nasty sore throat? Steep some fresh sage tea and sip to soothe pain and discomfort.
Feeling overly stressed? Sniff a few fresh sprigs of rosemary to help lower your cortisol levels.
Trouble sleeping? Make a tea from fresh lavender or chamomile blossoms and drink and hour before bedtime.
You can even make a thieves vinegar that you can drizzle on pretty much everything to help brighten your days while keeping you healthy all winter long.
What have been some of your favorite winter cheats?
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