My enthusiasm for gardening normally peaks right about now for the year. It's triggered by the first prematurely warm days of spring and the stack of colorful seed and garden catalogs stockpiled on the nightstand for my bedtime reading. I fall asleep dreaming of my perfect garden: one filled with eggplants bigger than my head and bordered by neatly spaced rows of zinnias in every color of the Crayola 64 pack.
But it's always all downhill from here. When I actually stick the spade in the ground for the first time every year, I'm reminded that my clay soil isn't nearly as easily tilled as the pillow-soft-loamy-stuff they always picture in the catalogs. Then, when things finally start to sprout, The Great Rabbit Wars begin. I start dreaming less about my forthcoming meals of braised carrots, and more about braised rabbit, served with carrot stubs.
By the 100-degree days of July when the weeds have officially overpowered everything I so carefully planted in neat little string-lined rows with the seed packets stuck on sticks to mark them I've pretty much had my fill of gardening for the year. Yep, I'm at best a recreational user when it comes to gardening.
But this year my gardening enthusiasm is really revved-up by a terrific new book I just read called Grow Your Own Drugs , by James Wong. Wong was trained at the Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew, England) in "Ethnobotany" -- that's the study of "plant lore and customs."
Wong writes in the introduction to his book:
"... this perception of plants as purely ornamental objects is a strange cultural anomaly that has existed in only one civilization in history our own (i.e. modern day western culture). In every other culture, the plants that surround us are a living supermarket, pharmacy, a home improvement center, and even a liquor store all rolled into one."
That was enough to hook me. Wong gives practical advice and all-natural recipes for tapping the health benefit of plants many of which you can easily grow yourself -- for everything from curing athlete's foot and cold sores to preventing bad breath and flatulence (how's that for beginning to end?) I particularly appreciate the final chapter, an authoritative (and colorful) guide to the "Top 100 Medicinal Plants" you should consider growing to make herbal remedies from your own garden.
Even though affordable healthcare is apparently (finally!) on its way here in the U.S., I'm going to hedge my bets this summer and plant a few containers filled with Wong's "Top 10 Medicinal Herbs": chamomille (indigestion), echinacea (colds/flu), johnny-jump-up (anti-inflammatory), lavender (pain), lemon balm (anxiety), marigold (sunburn), peppermint (headaches), rosemary (memory), sage (coughs/congestion), St. John's wort (antidepressant).
With the help of Grow Your Own Drugs , I'm hoping that my gardening high will survive even the Cutworm Invasion this year and make it all the way to the first frost of fall.
Jeff Yeager is the author of:
> The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less, and
> The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means
> Find more of Jeff at www.UltimateCheapskate.com, Twitter and Facebook
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