While Florida’s main growing season is October through May, there are still some herbs you can start nurturing now that may help improve your health and prevent certain ailments. Abacoa Community Garden member and core planter David Traupman offers some guidance.
Benefits: Rich in antioxidants, rosemary can strengthen the immune system, improve blood circulation, and fight inflammation.
Expert says: “Rosemary loves the heat and does well in Mediterranean coastal areas, so it can grow well in South Florida this time of year.”
Benefits: Similar to cilantro, culantro can be used to fight colds and flus. Plus, the leaves can act as an appetite stimulant when added to a chutney. It is also rich in calcium, iron, and riboflavin.
Expert says: “Cilantro, which is very leafy, doesn’t grow well during the summer—but culantro is an herb that is broader-leafed, tastes like cilantro, and thrives year-round.”
Benefits: One tablespoon of dried tarragon has 7 percent of the recommended daily value of manganese, an element that is good for brain health, growth, and metabolism. It also helps with insomnia, digestion, and inflammation.
Expert says: “A lot of the really tender herbs like parsley, dill, and thyme—things that grow really fast and are really soft—don’t do well in the summer months. But tarragon is a perennial herb that is tougher and can take the heat.”
Benefits: Stevia leaf is sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and doesn’t affect blood sugar levels (making it a good alternative for diabetics). Pulse dried leaves into a powder for simple storage.
Expert says: “Stevia is a wonderful herb. Its leaves taste like sugar, so people use it as a sweetener.” (About two tablespoons of Stevia equals a cup of sugar.)
Benefits: Ginger root is known to reduce gas, improve digestion, and help alleviate nausea. It is also packed with antioxidants.
Expert says: “Ginger is very tropical and loves the summertime. Plant the tubers right below ground level in well-draining, sandy soil, and they will shoot up this time of year. Organic ginger is best because it isn’t treated to stop germinating like non-organic produce is.”
• Growing from seedlings results in fresh herbs faster than seeds.
• If starting herbs from seeds (rather than pre-started seedlings), do it inside. Outdoor soil gets too hot for seeds to germinate properly.
• If planting seedlings outside in the ground, do it in a shaded area. Use an herb pot or a strawberry guard on a porch or a windowsill.
Call (305) 323-1575 to have your gardening questions answered on Saturdays between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.