When we moved into this house four summers ago the only herb I’d ever grown was a small pot of basil. I knew that had to change, so the very first thing we did that next spring was install a raised bed specifically for growing herbs.
Since that time I’ve really developed a love of herb gardening and especially a love of cooking with herbs. I can’t even imagine NOT having herbs now. Food would not be the same.
This year I’m looking for even more ways to use my herbs. Since eating them is such a delight the natural next step would be drinking herbs. This past week my kids picked chamomile flowers for me so I could preserve them for chamomile tea. The process was simple.
After soaking them in some salt water for 10 minutes to get the bugs off, I laid them out to dry on a towel. Once the water had evaporated off, it was time for the oven.
I preheated the oven to 200 degrees then turned it off. I place the chamomile on a parchment lined baking sheet and put it in the oven for a few hours. When the oven was completely cooled again I took the sheet out, preheated again to 200 degrees, turned the oven off once more and put the sheet back in for a few more hours. In all, it took about 4 hours to dry the chamomile.
Then, all I had to do was put it in a jar with a nice tight lid and store it for a cool fall evening in the future. I do love time traveling food.
As chamomile flowers continue to blossom on my plant I’ll continue the process and hopefully fill up my jar.
The lavender was looking equally inviting this week so I decided to use it in a simple syrup recipe.
Lavender buds are best harvested just as they open. I carefully selected which stems looked the best and clipped those off with my kitchen scissors. Once in the house I used the same bug removing process that I did with the chamomile.
The next day, when the lavender was dry, I removed all the purple buds from the stems.
To make simple syrup I combine equal parts granulated sugar with water and bring to a boil. To make a flavored syrup, I toss in whatever herb I’m using before I turn the heat on. This time it was the lavender buds that I put in. Once the syrup comes to a nice rolling boil, I turned it off and let the lavender steep until the syrup was no longer hot but just warm. At this point I take a coffee filter lined strainer and putting that over a container I pour the syrup through it so that the lavender buds are left behind and syrup drips through.
The result is a nice clear lavender-scented simple syrup perfect for a cup of tea or a classy cocktail!
I used mine with some rum and club soda for a refreshing summer drink. Yum!
This process works great with all herbs. I’ve tried it with mint and the results were delicious. Makes a potent mojito or mint julep.
My next herbal beverage project will be drying mint for mint tea. I have a very healthy chocolate mint plant that is ready to be harvested. The best time to harvest mint (and most leafy herbs) is just before it bolts and produces flowers.
It’s nice to use a large quantity of mint too because cutting the mint actually keeps the plant healthy. And I’d much rather use the mint to make tea than toss it in my compost.
These are just a few ideas, there are so many ways to use herbs. Can’t wait to hear YOUR ideas! If you’ve got a good one, please leave a comment.