As we enter the long and often brutal New England winter season, many of us begin our countdown towards spring. We bemoan the cold and gray and what we see as a dreary landscape. We long for the warmth of the sun and the light of longer days and impatiently watch for that first sprout of green to erupt from the slowly thawing earth. There is an antidote however, that is good for both body and soul – creating an indoor herb garden. It is still possible – even when the outside temperatures dip below freezing and the darkness lingers in the morning and steals our afternoons- to grow herbs as plentiful and pleasing as summer.
There is a wide variety of ways to grow herbs during the winter months. You can begin simply with some pots, soil, seeds, and an LED light. There are many starter kits available that are foolproof for the inexperienced gardener. The expense is minimal, and the rewards are immeasurable.
Watching an herb garden grow generates the hope of spring, bringing a measure of both emotional and spiritual comfort. A winter herb garden is a wonderful experience for children. Daily watering and pruning, observing the growing process, teaches them patience and reinforces the concept that work does not always bring immediate rewards.
If you are not yet convinced of the benefits of an indoor herb garden, consider the following. Consumer reports recently published an article regarding the dangers of heavy metals and arsenic in many commercially bottled spices. The article (https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/your-herbs-and-spices-might-contain-arsenic-cadmium-and-lead/) brings into question the safety of many spices that may currently reside in your kitchen! Even those herbs that are free of contamination are far less beneficial than using those that are fresh. Much of the nutritional value of herbs is lost in the drying and storage process. While using fresh herbs and spices serve to enhance the taste of our foods, they have amazing nutritional value. For instance, an ounce of fresh basil contains 8% of your daily requirement for Vitamin C, 30% for Vitamin A and an astonishing 145% of Vitamin K. Many herbs that are easily grown in an indoor garden have medicinal value – peppermint can be used to treat nausea, sage aids in brain function and memory, oregano has anti-viral properties. Rosemary and parsley as well as many other herbs are antiseptic, antibacterial and provide immune support. Regularly consuming fresh herbs is shown to reduce inflammation and expedite healing. Growing an indoor garden and reaping the benefits might even make the long frigid winter just a bit more palatable.