The garden can be a source of nourishment for the soul and the body. Here’s how to get creative by adding plants brimming with nutrients to a backyard patch of dirt or balcony pots.
Wellness benefits: “Burdock root has been used for centuries as a blood purifier or detoxifier,’’ b+s naturopath Mim Beim says. “These are all terms to describe the action of a plant to cleanse the body from within via the organs of elimination, which include the liver, kidneys, bowel, lungs and skin.”
Best served: Chop up the root and use it in stir-fries and curries. Or make a burdock root tea by bringing 1 tbs dried burdock root to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
Vegie patch tips: Plant seeds close together, and harvest in autumn. Roots can be 45cm long, so they’re best suited to a vegie patch rather than a pot.
Wellness benefits: “This is high in vitamin C and various bioflavonoids and it’s also antibacterial,” Beim says. “Hibiscus is recommended for coughs and colds and boosting the immune system.” A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed hibiscus flowers lowered blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic readings.
Best served: Soak petals in water, add some lime and drink hot or cold as a tea. The petals can also be used in salads.
Vegie patch tips: Plant hibiscus at any time of the year in full sun in rich, well-drained soil. Harvest in autumn and summer.
Wellness benefits: “This is great for osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis,” nutritionist Michelle Brown says.
A study published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolism showed barley grass juice supplements boosted the cardiovasular system.
Best served: In a juice, similar to a wheatgrass shot.
Vegie patch tips: Grow from seeds in a tray in the cooler months with plenty of water and nutrient-rich soil. Harvest at 10-15cm.
Wellness benefits: “Rocket is at the top of my list of bitter plants which are really important for liver detoxification,’’ nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill says. “It’s high in folic acid and low in a compound called oxalates, which block the absorption of other minerals in the body.”
Best served: Use rocket as the base for a leafy green side salad served with a protein, or to pepper up your green smoothie.
Vegie patch tips: Plant in spring in direct sunlight. Grow in a pot or garden bed, and start picking the leaves when plants are 10cm tall.
Wellness benefits: “Basil has a beautiful supply of phytochemicals which are found in leafy greens, particularly flavonoids, which protect against cellular damage caused by stress,” Alwill says.
Best served: Blend with almonds, kale and parmesan to make pesto, or team with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella for a Caprese salad.
Vegie patch tips: Cultivate basil in a pot or in the ground in spring and summer and harvest after 10-12 weeks.
Wellness benefits: “The leaves contain a bonanza of nutrients – calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B – and are a rich source of betacarotene provitamin A,” Beim says.
Best served: Add fresh, young leaves to salads and juices. Steam or boil older leaves. Make tea from the roots by drying then roasting in an oven until they reach a dark brown, then grind.
Vegie patch tips: Dandelion roots grow deeply. Harvest in autumn after flowering.
Wellness benefits: “It’s one of the oldest and most frequently used healing and medicinal roots used in Chinese and Indian medicine,’’ Alwill says. “It’s used for digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s disease [a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines] and it’s known as a pretty potent anti-inflammatory.”
Best served: Grate turmeric root into an omelette with chilli and other green veg, or use it in a soothing tea of coconut milk, cinnamon and honey.
Vegie patch tips: Plant seeds in spring 5-7cm beneath the soil. Or plant store-bought roots 10-15cm deep during spring. Harvest 9-10 months after planting.
Wellness benefits: “People pull it out [of their gardens], they get stung and experience pain, which is interesting because it’s often used to reduce pain and inflammation. Its properties reduce the pain in the area by overriding the pain receptors,’’ Alwill says. “We also often use it in a tea to treat urinary problems whether it’s a urinary tract infection or an enlarged prostate.” Nettle also has antihistamine properties, which can help during hay fever season.
Best served: As a tea, or try blanching (which removes the stingers) and use it in salads.
Vegie patch tips: The nettle is a great companion plant as it improves the health of most fruit trees and vegie plants. Plant in a protected corner of the garden in spring. The flowers bloom later that season and over summer and into early autumn.
Wellness benefits: “The flower has the same benefits as lavender oil,” Beim says. “It treats headaches, depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, colic and flatulence.”
Best served: Dried and infused as a tea.
Vegie patch tips: Grow in well-drained soil. Plant in late spring or early summer and harvest on the bloom.