Monday, March 7, 2011

AgBC's: H is for Herbs

The first written record of herbs dates all the way back to 3000 BC...but herbs were used long before that. It was probably the aroma of herbal plants (sweet, spicy, strong...you name it) that led early people to believe these plants has some serious special powers.

Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations believed some herbs were gifts from the gods to help cure illness or take away their worries. In fact, sweet smelling herbs were often burned as incense in the hope that their sweet-smelling smoke would make the gods happy...and it was a rare household that didn't use herbs on a daily basis. With no refrigeration, for example, food spoiled quickly. Aromatic herbs helped mask the smell. With limited water, daily bathing was not an option...perfumes from herbs helped hide people smells, too!

Soon scholars began to study herbs, listing possible medicinal, household, magic or even religious uses. Eventually, dispensing medicinal herbs became a business. Apothecaries began planting herbs near their homes to make gathering them more efficient, and soon they became used for decoration as well as practical purposes. These became the first plants used for garden landscaping!

When the colonists first came to the Americas, they found that Native Americans also used many herbs to flavor food as well as to prevent and cure diseases.

Today, nearly every grocery store carries herbs. Fresh herbs can be found int he produce section and dried in the seasonings section. Herbs are not generally used today for medicinal purposes, because scientists have discovered proven, effective cures for many disorders. However, many people still believe in the beneficial health properties of certain herbs.

Windowsill herb gardens are easy and fin to grow and require very little space. Try planting one of your own to learn more about these plants and how they grow and develop!

Check out Ohioline for more information on growing herbs. And for more fun information on the history and uses of herbs, check out Garden Wizardry for Kids by L. Patricia Kite.

This series is inspired by the book The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.

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