Guascas is an aromatic, pungent herb known for its traditional medicinal properties. You just can’t miss spotting the vibrant green Guascas plants growing wild in the mountains when you travel on vacation to an exotic place.
Due to its unique flavor and aroma profile, Guascas herbs have been used for centuries to add zest to cooking. Whether you want to grow your Guascas seeds or use it to liven up your meals, this article will tell you everything from how to grow Guascas at home, and how it’s used in cooking.
- What is Guascas?
- Guascas Care
- Common Problems
What is Guascas?
Guascas is an herbaceous perennial plant previously used as an essential ingredient in traditional medicine. Originating in South America, it is known as Gallant Soldier in English-speaking countries and is best known for its use in ajiaco, a chicken and potato soup that hails from the capital city of Bogota.
Wondering how to grow this exotic herb? Here is what you need to know to take care of your plants in the best way:
– Water Requirements
When it comes to watering these herbs, Guascas herbs need to be watered thoroughly about once a week. However, in the case of extremely hot weather or drought conditions, a second watering may be required. Like most plants and herbs, Guascas prefers for the soil to be dried out in between the waterings.
Here is a helpful tip: Water your herbs preferably in the cooler hours of the morning to allow the water to soak to the deep roots and also to prevent the evaporation of water.
– Light Requirements
Herbs need the sun for their growth and lots of it! Growers need to make sure that their plants are receiving plenty of sunlight during the span of their growth. In general, Guascas herbs require a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. They can grow in light woodlands with semi-shades or even in areas with no shade at all.
However, if you are growing these herbs where natural sunlight is not available, like indoors in an artificial environment, you can easily substitute them with artificial lights such as LEDs or HID lights.
– Soil Requirements
When growing any plant or herb, the soil factor plays an important role in its growth and development. For Guascas herbs, suitable soils are either sandy (light), clay (heavy), or loamy (medium) soils. Additionally, investigations have shown that slightly moist soils also contribute well to their healthy growth.
Besides this, these herbs have no certain requirements regarding the pH of the soil that they grow in. Consequently, they grow just fine in all types of soil pH ranges, from mildly acidic, and neutral to alkaline.
– Temperature Requirements
Given that Guascas herbs originated in South American rainforests, their optimal climate conditions are rather simple. These herbs grow in tropical regions with warm temperatures and relatively high humidity levels. Typically, these regions are about 1500 to 3000 meters above sea level.
Nevertheless, if you have planted these herbs yourself, you need to be aware of their accurate temperature requirements. Guascas herbs require a mild to warm climate for germination, around 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Accordingly, these herbs flower from May through October.
– Humidity Requirements
As stated above, Guascas herbs are native to the rainforests of South America. As a result, this variety of herbs is well-suited for growing in areas with relatively high humidity.
– Fertilizing Requirements
While growing any plants or herbs, their heavy nutrient requirements need to be managed. For this purpose, suitable fertilizers are essential as they will provide all the important nutrients the plants need for healthy growth.
For Guascas herbs, all-natural organic, water-soluble fertilizers are ideal. An added tip is to apply fish emulsion too, an organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen content. This will stimulate the fast growth of your herbs and provide them with an extra boost. Note that f your garden has sandy soil, it is better to use a slow-release fertilizer as the nutrients will wash out quickly.
There is a perfect time for harvesting every wild plant to acquire the best yield and flavor. With Guascas herbs, this period is the one after mid-October, just before the first frost falls. Here’s how you do it:
– How to Harvest?
This herb is usually harvested in a way that is known commonly as the “cut and come again” model. This growing practice consists of cutting the plant off at the base of the stem. This in turn allows the leaves to grow back with each cutting.
– How to Store?
Once you have harvested your herbs, you will need to rinse the herbs quickly in cold water, shake off the excess and then chop them coarsely. The best way to keep your herbs fresh for a time is to freeze them. For this purpose, you can transfer your herbs into clear zip-lock bags or even air-tight plastic containers that you can then place into your refrigerators.
You can also store dried Guascas in a jar for sometime. For this simply dry it in dry air for a couple of days and then store it in a jar.
Given that you grow them in well-drained soil, allow them to have a good amount of sunlight, and provide them with sufficient water, these herbs will have healthy growth and development. However, they are a few key issues that can damage your herbs. Let’s take a closer look at each of these problems so you can be better prepared to deal with them:
– Over-watering and Wet Soil
In general, this her is usually much easier to grow than several other plant and herb varieties. However, recent reports have shown over-watering of the herbs as a common problem, leading to low yields.
Along with the primary factor of wilting, over-watering also causes stunted growth of the herbs with yellowing leaves. If this standing water continues, it can lead to blisters, lesions, or even indentations on the leaves. Moreover, it can rot the roots of the plant and cause increasing problems with bacteria, pests, and fungus.
– Dry Air
If you are growing your herbs indoors, then there is also a problem of dry air affecting the growth of the herbs. Growers need to be careful of the dry air coming from radiators and forced air vents as they can cause the leaves to turn brown and the tips to curve.
The damaged sections of the plan will eventually wither and fall off. Hence, to avoid this problem, try to place your herbs in an area that is protected from hot gushes of wind.
– Spider Mites
Spider mites are tiny insects that are commonly found in hot, dry conditions. They can cause the leaves of your plants to turn yellow and die.
If left unchecked, spider mites can spread quickly and kill your entire plant. Examine your plants carefully, especially the underside of leaves for these tiny pests.
– Has Guascas Been Used for a Long Time?
Throughout its spread, there was a time where Europeans refused to consume this herb and it developed into a minor weed. Eventually, however, it found its way back to soups and stews.
– What Does Guascas Taste Like?
These herbs have a savory and slightly minty flavor which they lend to a variety of dishes including stews, soups, vegetable dishes, and even beverages
– What Are Guascas’s Other Uses?
Apart from its usage as a spice, Guascas has several medicinal properties that have been known for centuries. Recent studies have demonstrated it provides relief from stress, exhaustion, low energy levels, and also hypertension associated with type 2 diabetes.
– How Do You Cook With Guascas?
Guascas herbs can be cooked like any other leafy green, however, they will have a bit more texture. Guascas are generally used to add an herbal sense of flavor to soups, stews, and other vegetable dishes. Herbal teas and various beverage blends also sometimes make use of this ingredient, partly because of its minty flavor.
The most popular use of Guascas, however, is in the preparation of the Colombian soup, Ajiaco. This is a hearty soup containing chicken, cream, capers, cilantro, and three different kinds of potatoes! It is one of the many regional, flavor-bomb, Colombian dishes that you just have to try!
Overall, Guascas is a wonderful ingredient to have for an interesting herbal flavor.
Here is a short and fresh recap of what we learned today:
- Guascas herb is an annual plant that has a long history of use in traditional medicine but is also known for its popular use in Colombian cuisine.
- They are low-maintenance plants and only need mild to warm climates to survive.
- Guascas herbs are harvested using the famous ‘cut and come again model.
- These herbs are best stored fresh in the freezer in a zip-lock bag or an air-tight container.
- Guascas herbs leaves are susceptible to wilting due to overwatering and browning due to exposure to dry air.
Hope this explanation was helpful to you and inspired you to try out this herb. Grow, and cook this delicious herb now and instantly fall in love with its flavor!
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