My Open Secret Garden 我的公開秘密花園 >

Since 1994 I have been a 'Sunday' farmer working at the organic farm patch in Fanling. Digging, ploughing, de-weeding, fertilizing and irrigating …. There are a lot of works to be done but the satisfaction is endless. You'll be amazed at how a tiny seed sprouts and grows to a shrub bearing a man's height in a matter of months. Every year I try different species and I think I've probably grown nearly 200 different kinds of herbs and aromatic plants.

One can never experience the true life force and energy of plants unless one is a farmer, hands-on.

The rain and sun and wind, the four seasons, the natural rhythm, life and death. The Tao…

Bay 月桂 Laurus nobilis
Even an amateur cook would use a leaf or two to make Russian Borscht Hong Kong Style. Used to make wreaths for ancient Olympic winners. It is certainly a 'noble' plant as it symbolizes glory and wisdom. Either the fresh or dried leaves can be used for culinary purposes. Perennial evergreen tree. Easier to grow from cuttings. Slow. Like full sun and well-drained soil. (This is my first try and I don't know if it survives the high heat of summer.)

Borage 琉璃苣 Borago officinalis
Seed oil contains high concentrations of GLA. Used to treat eczema, PMS and rheumatism. The flowers and fresh young leaves are added to salads, soups and yoghurt. Caution: Small doses only. The fresh leaves may cause contact dermatitis.

Calendula 金盞花 Calendula officinalis
I keep growing Calendula year after year because of its versatility. Their orangy-yellow flowers symbolize energy and cheerful spirits. The mild anti-inflammatory and soothing properties make a nice cuppa tea even for children (use flower petals). Macerated oil important in personal care. Annual. Easy germination from seeds. Love well-drained soil. Sow seeds in autumn. Good pests repellent. A nice companion plant with other herbs.

Catnip 貓穗草 Nepeta cataria
Cat lovers should plant some, as it makes the cats feel 'high'. For adults and children. It is effective against colds, flu, fever, upset stomach and insomnia. The dried leaf is a deterrent to cockroaches. It is a rat repellent too. Cut back hard after flowering, to encourage new growth.

Dill 蒔蘿 Anethum graveolens
Used to treat colic, gas & indigestion. It dislikes being transplanted. Do not plant dill near fennel because they may across-pollinate. Seeds, leaves and flowers can be used to flavour food.

Fennel 茴香 Foeniculum vulgare
Again, nearly all parts of the plant are used for culinary purposes - leaves, stem, seeds, bulb. The seeds have the best medicinal properties.

Gotu Kola 雷公根 Centella asiatica
Grow well in sub-tropical or tropical climates all year round. Traditionally used to help wound healing. A skin rejuvenator. It stimulates collagen production and reduces inflammation.


Lemon Verbena 檸檬防臭木 Aloysia triphylla
Cheerful and uplifting aroma. Used sparingly (3-5 leaves) can help digestion and insomnia.

Melissa (Lemon Balm) 香蜂草 Melissa officinalis
The aroma is a mild-antidepressant. Great for fevers, nervousness, insomnia, flatulence, colic and chronic bronchial catarrh etc. One of the safest and best herbs for treating simple, acute children's diseases.

Use the fresh leaves in salads. Go well with fresh fruit. Flowers have a sweet lemon flavour.

Motherwort 益母草 Leonorus cardiaca
Used to treat menstrual disorder like delayed or stopped menses, menopause, nervous heart problem, cramps, gas, swollen thyroid etc. According to Chinese medicine, it seems the 'white flower' species is a chi tonic while the 'mauve flower' species is a blood tonic.

Mulberry 桑葉 Morus alba

Myrtle 香桃木 Myrtus communis
Venus is often portraited rising from the sea carrying a sprig of myrtle. It is a symbol of love and constancy. The small, oval dark green leaves are a good substitute for bay leaf in culinary dishes. Grow in well-drained but relatively poor soil in sunny locations, preferably against a wall. It has expectorant, skin tonic and hormone qualities.

Pelargonium 天竺葵屬
Over 200 species. Scented-leaved pelargoniums can be used for pillows and cooking, eg. adding to teas, jams and puddings. Rose Geranium is one of the species used in essential oil distillation.

Peppermint 薄荷 Mentha piperita
Considered more 'medicinal' than spearmint by some herbalists. Aids digestion, eases headaches. A decongestant for colds and catarrh. Peppermint oil is found in toothpaste, indigestion tablets and confectionary. The oil is highly irritating to the skin.

Polygonum chinese 火炭母

Common Sage 常見鼠尾草 Salvia officinalis

Pineapple Sage 菠蘿鼠尾草 Salvia elegans ( Scarlet pineapple )

Salad burnet 地榆 Sanguisorba minor

Shiso 紫蘇 Perilla frutescens
Important in Japanese cooking. The leaves of the purple variety ( var. purpurascens ) is used as a natural dye for prickling vegetables and as flavouring in tea. The green leaf variety ( var. crispa ) is used as a vegetable in Japan - for wrapping rice, in salads, and tempura.


Spearmint 薄荷(香花菜) Mentha spicata
Introduced to Europe by the Roman. Used in cooking, tea and very invasive. Numerous hybrids. Never plant two different mints together.

Thyme 百里香 Thymus vulgaris
Infusion good for sore throats and hangovers, Aids digestion.

Vervain 馬鞭草 Verbena officinalis
Nervous exhaustion, headaches anxiety, liver & urinary infection.

Vietnamese Coriander 越南芫荽 Rau Ram Persicaria dorata
Reminds me of having pho (noodle soups) in little alleys in Hanoi. The green leaves are narrow and pointed with a brown-maroon v-shaped marking near the base. Strong peppery flavour. Use as a fresh leaf condiment at the end of cooking.

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