Gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae) has been a legendary herb in India and China for over two thousand years, where it’s considered to be one of the best herbs for promoting clarity, focus, and a peaceful, calm nature.
Most culinary herbs double as medicinal allies, and the ones on this list are no exception. Plants that serve as both food and medicine are among my most reached-for herbs. Here, we’re rolling out the green carpet for ten of our most essential culinary/medicinal herbs—all of which can be grown in pots and other containers with ease.
When I first began foraging my own food and medicine, I focused on a particular array of plentiful, generous, and nourishing plants—the wild weeds, the common flora, and the invasives. These plants are some of our most superb medicinal allies and nutrient-dense wild foods. And these feral botanicals continue to be my main squeezes: non-native, “weedy” medicinals and wild foods are the most sustainable options out there.
Before we jump into the best herbs for small spaces, let’s talk about how you can turn your garden into a productive medicinal paradise! Not everyone has a field or lawn they are able to transform into their dream herb garden. If you only have a patio or a balcony or tend a limited outdoor space, here are some tips to help you reap the most from your plantings.
As you peer into the future, imagine how you might interact with your dream garden. Take a moment to write down all the reasons you wish to grow herbs, and how you might incorporate their medicine and beauty into your life. Then, think about how your garden will evolve with time, and which needs are the most important. Will it be a place of refuge, with secret nooks, replete with peaceful statues and comfortable seating nestled under verdant arbors? Do you envision your gardens as an inspirational educational setting, with wide paths and ample signage for visitors? Is your goal to grow herbs for your own apothecary and kitchen or do you have an herbal products business?
In an ideal world, we would each have our personal list of top ten garden herbs, tailored to our particular climate and health concerns. My hope is that this information inspires you, as jumping board of sorts, in creating your own unique dream medicinal herb garden.
The reasons for growing plants in containers are many: it often provides the sole means for growing herbs or vegetables when tending a garden is simply not possible, or when the available ground is contaminated. Containers can also help to create a mini-microclimate, such as: well-drained soil, moist soil or even a water garden.
No matter how many years I plant seeds and watch them grow into mature plants, I am still awed. I feel an utter child-like excitement when I see the first sign of a sprouting seed poking out of the soil. Germinating seeds are a universal symbol of hope and renewal, ushering in the joy and promise of spring.
I am a discerning flower-picker, with an understanding of what is native or invasive, abundant or rare. For example, I would perhaps cut tiger lilies I cultivated but not the wild species.
I try not to foster any regrets in life. But I must confess that I waited too many years to plant hibiscus, thinking the temperate climate unsuitable for its success, and for that, I am sorry. It is, in fact, easy to grow and harvest if you have the right variety and get a head start on the season.