COLLECT AND PROPERLY PRESERVE YOUR MEDICINAL AND AROMATIC PLANTS
Once we have planted our garden, orchard or balcony of medicinal and aromatic plants , we water it, we can and we maintain the ideal conditions for its optimal growth and it is time to collect them. As we are not going to use them at the same time, conserving them is the best way to use their properties.
WHAT MEDICINAL PLANTS DO I PLANT?… WHERE AND HOW? HERE WE TELL YOU
As we complete information about each medicinal and aromatic plant individually , we realize that perhaps some practical advice is missing that in general are very useful when planting a selection of medicinal and aromatic plants. Location, plants for sunny places, protections, associations between aromatics and some other considerations that can come in handy.
Having individual information on each plant is the best way to learn the species that is planted. Knowing their climatic, soil, irrigation and fertilizer needs are the 4 basic pillars that we must take into account so that they develop with vigor and give us what we are looking for from them. On the other hand, it is also necessary to know where to plant them, how to condition the place and how to combine them to get the maximum benefit from each one of them and the group they form . There are hundreds of ways to combine, condition and care for them. We will try to highlight the most important. Let us begin.
DO I NEED A VEGETABLE GARDEN OR GARDEN?
Obviously not. The convenience of having the grocery store in the supermarket has diminished our ability to grow our own aromatics, even in the city. Having a vegetable garden, a garden, even if it is 2 m 2 of space is always the ideal and easiest. Even so, medicinal and aromatic plants have a great rusticity (the vast majority of them) that allow them to be cultivated in many places. One of them are the pots and planters on urban balconies , which every house has. Therefore, the difficulty of cultivation is reduced to your desire to try it.
BALCONY ORIENTATIONS AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE SUN
We did not discover anything new by saying that the orientation of the balcony determines the type and amount of direct light that aromatic plants receive. For this reason, we consider those facing south to be sunny, those facing East and West semi-shaded, and those facing North as shady. In shady areas (north facing) we will not have many possibilities of developing a good balcony with medicinal and aromatic plants, but you can always try some semi-shady environments and see what happens.
SOME MEDICINAL PLANTS FOR SUNNY ENVIRONMENTS
SOME MEDICINAL PLANTS FOR SEMI-SHADED ENVIRONMENTS
MODIFICATIONS OF THE ENVIRONMENT TO ADAPT THE CONDITIONS
Obviously, we do not usually have a balcony for each orientation, so if we want variety, we must try to modify the conditions of the place with protections against excess sun or excess cold depending on the orientation, the climate and the plants that we have.
PROTECTIONS AGAINST THE SUN
In warm areas with south-facing balconies, heat and radiation will be maximum. If the space of the balcony allows it, we can limit these excesses somewhat to be able to try cultivating plants that are more used to semi-shaded areas. The easy and comfortable option is to have a top canopy or side tarp that provides some shade on a part of the balcony or
There are options that take longer but are more pleasant in the end: Lattices or trellises with climbers that like the sun, are a perfect light sieve as well as pleasant to the eye and fresh. Climbing plants such as Bougainvillea , Jasmine or Climbing Rose are options for climates with high radiation and temperatures.
PROTECTION AGAINST FROST
This is a bit more difficult to achieve. In cold climates, even with the balcony to the south, winter usually takes its toll on some of the medicinal plants. The most recommended option is to have a balcony / gallery (in the north it is not difficult for this to happen), so that the radiation enters and the temperature remains at levels above 0ºC.
If there is one thing that many medicinal and aromatic plants are characteristic for, it is their rusticity and resistance to extreme climates. We have many options of plants resistant to strong cold although we can help with these tips:
- Gather the pots and planters together as much as possible.
- Protect them from the wind with side screens (wood, methacrylate, etc.)
- Fill the gaps between pots with soil, straw, and soft material.
- Cover the aerial part with branches.
THE SUBSTRATE OF AROMATIC PLANTS
Another important point when making aromatic plant mixtures on the balcony is the substrate. The balcony is a place with limited space and it is necessary to optimize planters and flowerpots.
Therefore, it is essential to know which substrates each prefer to make suitable combinations in the same pot. We also have to take into account two golden rules:
- In many of the medicinal and aromatic plants, the high contribution of nutrients causes a decrease in the concentration of active principles.
- The Good drainage is necessary in the vast majority of medicinal and aromatic plants that consume
We distinguish two types of substrate:
- Limestone substrates with low organic matter : Typical of Mediterranean coastal areas. The medicinal and aromatic plants that these soils prefer are for example thyme, lavender, sage, rosemary, wormwood, hyssop,
- Very nutritious and more neutral substrates: Typical of wooded areas and continental or mountain climates. Examples such as parsley, levistive or chives prefer these soils.
We hope that with these tips, it will be easier for you to plan and start your garden or balcony with medicinal and aromatic plants.
COLLECTION OF MEDICINAL AND AROMATIC PLANTS
Once we have planted a large selection of medicinal and aromatic plants, we have to know how we should operate to collect them and make the most of their properties. Each plant, of whatever type, fulfills a physiological cycle , which we determine in phases according to its states, be it vegetative state, flowering, fruiting, winter rest, etc. These states of the plant not only entail appreciable external changes but also internal ones. The activity and metabolic processes in the plant are not the same or with the same intensity according to the physiological state. The compositions change and we have to know what is the optimal time of harvest according to what purpose it is intended (aroma, active ingredients …).
We therefore distinguish the collections according to the part of the plant that interests us:
- Leaves: In the vast majority of aromatic plants, it is the leaves that are collected and in this case the best time is usually before flowering . There are exceptions such as thyme, hyssop or lavender for example whose best harvest time is after flowering.
- Flowers: It is obvious that if we want flowers, it will be in bloom. Still, there are small variations that make a difference. A basic recommendation is to collect in the morning, not too early or too late . Too early in the morning the moisture content is high (dew) and this makes storage difficult. At noon the heat is too much and the perspiration of the plant is greater.
- Fruits: The point of maturity will be the time of harvest for the vast majority of fruits.
- Roots, tubers …: The roots, tubers or bulbs are usually collected in autumn or early winter .
Having a little of everything (fruits, roots, leaves, plants, flowers …) and a very large aromatic garden, we could get to this!
In aromatic plants, unlike medicinal plants, we look for the aroma, not so much the active principle and the optimal harvest time is somewhat more flexible in time, although we can follow the same recommendations because after all, the aroma is another active principle. . Basil or mint leaves, I pick them throughout the year and they always have an aroma.
HOW MUCH, WHERE AND HOW FAR DO I CUT?
This is another question you ask yourself when you go out onto the balcony with your razor (in my case). Some common sense is not to deplete the plant or we will run out of it. As general recommendations we could say:
- cut off the tips of shoots and loose leaves for the vast majority of plants. This sprouting also generates more leafiness to the plant in the new shoots.
- Plants such as chives, mint, or lemon balm, the cut should be from the bottom. In these, special care must be taken not to cut too much so as not to weaken the plant.
- The plants that we can use all year round, we do not have to worry in excess of the amount to be collected because we will cut according to the needs and the capacity to generate shoots is usually higher. Those that are collected “en masse” for their conservation we must take into account what we leave planted for later regeneration.
For the proper drying of medicinal and aromatic plants domestically there are several options. Two of the most famous and common are the following:
- Tie bouquets and hang them upside down in a dark, dry and warm room with a temperature not to exceed 35ºC . At higher temperatures, active ingredients may begin to be lost
- Using the oven: If the oven has a temperature control, do not rise above 35ºC or control it with a thermometer. We will leave a small block or a wooden spoon to prevent it from closing completely so that moisture can escape . The process will end when the leaves are crisp and we will store it if possible in airtight glass jars.
There are aromatics that in the drying process lose all their aroma and properties. These are the ones that we should consume fresh and at most we can freeze them. Examples can be parsley, chives, or tarragon.
Below you have a table with conservation recommendations for a few medicinal and aromatic plants. The table is somewhat indicative as to the best form of conservation for each plant. Almost all or all of them can be frozen and dried. The best way to find out is to try!
Oils and vinegars
This is another very good way to maintain the aromas in the case of those that are going to be used as a condiment. All the compounds will pass into the oil that we will later use to flavor salads and various dishes.