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It’s mint to be

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The first Saturday in May is celebrated as a day for small things with big flavor. The HerbDay Coalition, an organization of five nonprofit groups, started National Herb Day to raise awareness about the useful properties and importance of herbs in daily life. They also encourage people to learn more about herbs and provide a better understanding of the extensive uses of herbs in daily life.

Herbs are extensively used in food, medicines and cosmetics. They also served as the first medicines ever used by humans to cure various ailments. So why not celebrate them?

Today, we’re going to focus on some lesser known herbs that deserve some attention. We all know about mint and basil and rosemary, but what about bloodflower, epazote or sneezewort? They have some really fun names and they have some really cool properties too.

Bloodflower can also be known as scarlet milkweed or wild ipecac. An evergreen shrub, bloodflower grows to around three feet tall with vibrant deep red and orange blossoms that attract butterflies. It was once used as an emetic and its white stem sap was used to remove corns and warts.

Another goodie from south of the border is epazote, an herb commonly found in Mexican cuisine. It’s a hardy plant whose flavor is said to be both peppery and mint-like. It’s been used to treat flatulence. Take what you will from that fact.

In addition to being pretty, sneezewort will grow in almost any soil type. It’s also drought and frost resistant. A hardy perennial herb, it is also known as wildfire or adder’s tongue and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. Its double white blossoms on two-foot-long stems are great for cut flowers for fresh or dried arrangements. And chewing on its leaves is said to relieve toothaches.

Fairywand, photographed at Lorance Creek Natural Area, Pulaski County, AR, by Eric Hunt (courtesy of Wikipedia)

One of our personal favorites, though, has the most whimsical names – fairywand or false unicorn. This herb grows in rich, moist soil in USDA Zones 4 – 9. This perennial grows to around four feet tall and is adorned with white flower spikes in mid-spring. Native Americans chewed on fairywand rhizomes to calm pregnancy and other female reproductive issues.

And, for a bit of a throwback, consider horehound. Your grandma (or great-grandma) might have had candies with this flavor in her fancy glass candy dish back in the day. It’s still a great flavor today! It’s full of vitamins A, B, C and E – and if you’d like to try your hand at making your own horehound candy, check out this recipe from Nitty Gritty Life.

Herbs are often full of vitamins and nutrients that are not only good for you but make whatever you’re seasoning a little better too. This weekend, experiment a little. Try out some new herbs. You may find a new favorite you’ll want to cultivate in your garden.

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