This is the second article in my Herbalist's countdown of edible herbs. All the herbs I list are common herbs readily found in many parts of the country, or easily grown in the garden. As an herbalist, wild foods forager, and women's nourishment coach, I encourage you to use these delights of Nature to add variety, color, and nutrition to your daily diet.

Lemon balm’s cousin, mint, is well-known, beloved as an edible all over the world, and is second on our Top Ten Edibles List. Called herba buena in Mexico, and used all the way across the world in Moroccan green teas, as well as everywhere in between, mint is a versatile, welcome addition to many world cuisines. Southern U.S. custom has us sipping mint juleps, but there are other wonderful ways to use this culinary (and did I mention medicinal?) herb. Chopped or sliced, the fresh leaves are the traditional garnish for tabouleh, and many grain dishes enjoy the addition of mint and/or lemony herb leaves.

Mint comes in all flavors and sizes. When I was the head gardener at the historic Mast Farm Inn in the lovely Valle Crucis, North Carolina, I routinely harvested bouquets of fluffy apple mint from the sides of the creek that ran by the centuries-old cabin. Many gardeners grow chocolate mint, or pineapple mint, but my favorites for medicine and eating are plain old peppermint (Mentha piperta) and spearmint (Mentha spicata).

These two mints are noticeably different: peppermint usually has larger leaves and a more pungent, sharp flavor. Spearmint has smaller, more petite leaves, and a much sweeter flavor. When preparing sparkly sun beverages with children, use spearmint, as it is generally tolerated better by picky eaters, and when making a summer blend with zingy flowers such as hibiscus, combine both peppermint and spearmint for a well-bodied beverage.

Mint is known to increase blood circulation and can be helpful when you’re feeling sluggish; this is why it’s often included in hot chocolate concoctions and given in the depths of a cold winter.

And on to Top Ten Edible Herb #3: our beloved Solomon’s Seal shoots. If you’re prone to wandering around in the woods for hours at a time and nibbling on anything that looks half-way tender, you might have come across young Solomon’s Seal shoots (Polygonatum bi-florum). These poke through the forest-floor mast in early, early spring and look less like asparagus than they do little slender whorls of green. They tend to have a greenish/bluish/grayish cast about them, and are usually smaller than the diameter of your finger.

Solomon’s seal leaves themselves are not edible, but the shoot is. That is, the stem growing south of the leaves that heads down into the rich, shady soil. Grasp carefully at the soil level with the fingers and thumb, and slowly pull straight up. The entire root will come up (which is exactly why you need to practice restraint and only pull up 1 for every 10 you see). Wipe off the dirt and you have an edible, crunchy, sweet, juicy hors-d’oerve, ready to enjoy immediately.

Enjoy, look for the next herbs in the following articles, and here’s to your health and happiness!

Author's Bio: 

Holly Bellebuono is speaker and an award-winning herbalist with www.vineyardherbs.com, an author with Shambhala Publishers, and creator of Healing Across 6 Continents--a fascinating documentary exploring the heritage of medicinal plants and the women who use them. She will open her educational training school for medicinal plants in the spring 2012, "Heritage & Healing Herbal Studies Program." To learn more or to schedule her to speak at your event, email her at holly@vineyardherbs.com