Herbs in the garden

Thyme plant

Nigeria is native to many natural resources including herbs that are rich in flavor, nutrients and medicinal values that have positive effects on our health. Other applications include topical ointments and cosmetics, to fight diseases such as diabetes thrush and cancers.

Lots of these plants have been well researched but due to the fact that most people don’t know the local/foreign names, the information is lost in translation. As the saying goes knowledge is power. So we look at some these herbs to understand why they were so popular in the traditional culinary dishes and herbal prescriptions.

Since the climate in Nigeria usually features distinct wet and dry periods Nigeria can grow herbs that grow in drought tolerant climate or a xeriscape garden.

There are many culinary herbs but not all of them tolerate drought or low water condition. That said, many of the most commonly utilized for food preparation are drought tolerant. Scientist assures us that the earth is just going to keep getting warmer and all evidence point to this fact. With this in mind, many gardeners are looking for solutions to minimize water usage by looking for plants that thrive with less water. Growing a drought tolerant herb garden is ideal.

How to grow Drought Hardy Herbs
The good news about growing drought tolerant herb garden is that most of these herbs, which are in the Labietae family, have Mediterranean origin, a region of inhospitable rocky land that is hot and dry. Over time these plants have evolved into sturdy heat lovers that require minimal irrigation for survival. These include Partminger (Ocimum Canum) “curry leaf’ Tea bush (Ocimum gratissimum) Yoruba Efirin, Ibo nchaawa, thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, sage, rosemary Lavenders and others. These are pungent herbs, which are popular in Nigeria.

Additionally, herbs require no fertilization, especially if the garden plot has been properly prepared prior to planting making them the perfect useful, yet unfussy, choice for a low water garden. To ensure the success of a garden of drought resistant herbs, a little soil amendment goes a long way. Drought tolerant herbs are by necessity tough resistant to most diseases and pets, but as with most plants that will dumbest in soil Laden with micronutrients.

Adding compost to the soil will ensure that the plants are able to uptake valuable nutrition as well as providing well draining soil. Even with global warming, there are times of heavy rains and herbs do not typically like “wet feet”. Dig in 30-50 percent organic compost, sand and other amendments into the soil especially if it is clay, to allow for root aeration and drainage.

If you live in an area that regardless has frequent wet weather for high humidity levels growing a drought tolerant herb garden may be a bit more challenging. Raise the beds to facilitate drainage along with amending the soil. Also space the herbs out when planting them. This will help avoid root rot, powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that prevail in damp conditions.

Mulch the bed after you plant, mulching will prevent water from collecting on the leaves as well as aiding in weed retardation.

Culinary Herbs that Resists Drought and pottages (like yam pottage).Some use it as natural blood tonic for those suffering from anemia. The leaves are boiled slightly with water, and then squeezed; the juice is mixed with mil or any malt drink. It works faster than folic acid.

Bitter leaf (Vernonia Amygdalina), Efo ewuro-Yoruba, Shakwa shuwaka-Hausa, Onuigbo-Ibo, Etido-Efik.Bitter leaf is a Nigerian herb that grows only in the tropics and is related to Lettuce, chicory and daisies. Many Nigerians use the herb as a medicinal component to their diet. There are several species, some large-leafed, some with smaller leaves. As the name implies the plant is bitter. You can reduce or eliminate the bitterness by crushing it and washing the leaves well or boiling before the leaves are cooked as bitter leaf soup or added as garnish to enhance the flavor of stews made with other vegetables, sometimes with egusi (ground melon seeds).

It adds a mildly astringent bitter aftertaste to a dish akin to the tannins in wine. Traditionally it is also used as medicine to treat fever, malaria, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery and cough. The leaves also used as medicine for stomachache, headache, scabies, and gastro intestinal disorders.

It is rich in vitamins and minerals. Bitter leaf also reduces blood sugar level of the body drastically and repairs the pancreas and kidney, which is great news for diabetic patients.

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), Kooko-oba Yoruba, achara ehi, alewakwo Ibo, Ikonti-Efik.
Easily cultivated, used to make herbal tea and in making pepper soup, porridge. It is also used as a deterrent to tsetse fly and snakes. It is also used medicinally, to relieve thrush, a yeast infection in the, mouth and throat. In toiletries, it is a key ingredient in black soap products, a line of facial and body cleanser that can help alleviate acne and eczema.

Labietae The botanical family Labietae includes many Nigerian herbs. Some are of Meditteranean origin now spread to other warm dry regions. It includes herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, lavender and others.These are pungent herbs, several of which are popular use that can be cultivated.

Oregano- Greek oregano as the name suggests is native to the Greek isles and a great choice for a low water garden. The name means “joy of the mountain” from Greek oros (mountain) and ganos (joy). It is wonderful used fresh or dried in culinary dishes. Oregano has medicinal qualities used as an antiseptic, an antibacterial and antifungal.

Rosemary- Rosemary is nearly indestructible and can grow quite large if not restrained by pruning. It can also make an aromatic hedge and does very well in rocky soils. It is perfect in a drought tolerant garden.

Sage- Sage is another good candidate. Salivia officinalis is a hardly perennial sub-shrub. There are many varieties all of which can be used fresh or dried. Many have lovely blossoms as well.

Thyme – Thyme is another good choice with some varieties excellent ground covers. A fragrant herb used as seasoning for a wide range of dishes fresh or dried. Dry soil actually concentrates the aromatic oils in thyme and it thrives in rocky conditions.

Partiminger (Ocimum canum) Common Nigerian name “curry leaves”.A fragrant herb was also introduced many years ago. It is related to the Basil family. It is mainly used in seasoning culinary dishes dried or fresh. Also in Marinade for meat, chicken, and fish. It can be used in salads and drinks and almost everything.

Clove basil (Ocimum grastissium) Scent leaf (Yoruba efirin, Edo Ihiri aramogbo, efik Mfang, amana, Ibo nchaawu, Kalabari ekeni, Kolokuma furuegena, Hausa daidoya.

Like Partminger “curry leaves”, the fresh leaves of clove basil (scent leaves) are used in a variety of ways. In the Delta region it is an ingredient in pepper soups and pottages, in Kwara for egusi sauce, Igalla as vegetable and many other cuisines in other areas and raw in salads. The leaves are widely believed to aid digestion. Incase of nose bleed, apply crushed leaves made into a paste into the nostrils to stop nose bleeds.

Sring Onions (Allium ascalonicum) shallot, scallion, Yoruba- alubosa elewe, hausa lawashi/ ganyen albasa.A scallion is one of the various Allium species, all of which have hollow green leaves (like the common onion) but lack a fully developed root bulb. It is fragrant; the flavor is a cross between an onion and garlic, but milder to taste. It is used as a vegetable with raw or cooked. Chopped, it is used also for marinades, for poaching seafood, in stir-fries, and salads.

Allium Chives : Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) are an excellent choice for the low water garden. They have a slight garlic flavor and are delicious in almost everything. They also have lovely lilac coloured blooms. If you allow them to bloom keep in mind they self sow at the drop of a hat.

Roselle or Sorrel (Hausa -yakwa leaves)
This Leaf is really popular with the Hausas and is used to prepare Miyan taushe. They come in two flowering varieties, the red and white. The white flowers are sour and used to make soups in some parts of the country. The yakwa leaves themselves are used in different kinds of soups including groundnut soup. The red flowers are used in making hibiscus tea, our popular zobo.

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