Tag: herbs

Herb Crafts

An herb can be defined as a plant that is valued for its medicinal properties, flavor, scent or cosmetic use.  However, as a young garden designer I often focused more on an herb’s visual merits than how it could be used.  Age and experience taught me that this narrow approach results in bushel baskets of a few select herbs with no plan for how to use them.

Now when selecting herbs for my garden I also think about the ways I would like to put them to use indoors.  My herb garden is not only beautiful, but practical.

GROWING HERBS

If I were to encourage you to try your hand at growing something this summer, it would be herbs. The plants are the perfect combination of beauty and function so you can plant herbs anywhere in the garden. Mix them with flowers, grow them along paths, by the kitchen door, or plant them in containers both indoors or out. They are also extremely easy to grow. Really all they need are average soil, good drainage, consistent moisture and sunlight. The beauty of growing herbs is the more you harvest the leaves, the more the plant grows!

COMMON HERBS and THEIR USES

BasilBasil (Ocimum basilicum) – In my mind there is no better companion to home grown tomatoes than fresh basil.  The leaves dry well for saving for winter use.  Clip and dry the flowers for use in potpourri. The scent of basil is said to be restorative and warming.  The leaves, stems, flowers and seeds can be used.  Annual.

ChamomileGerman Chamomile (Matricaria redutita) and Roman (Chamomile) –German and Roman Chamomile are useful herbs that have similar properties.  German chamomile has a milder flavor making it better for tea, while Roman Chamomile has a stronger aroma.  Both can be used to make a hair rinse for blonds, infused in oil to soften skin and alleviate aches.  and a cup of chamomile tea will help you sleep. The flowers are best used fresh as the volatile oils degrade quickly.  Annual. 

LavenderLavender (Lavandula spp.) – I recommend planting lavender in abundance because it is so useful.  It can be used in recipes, potpourri, sachets and as an infusion with vinegar that works as a facial toner, hair rinse and all-purpose cleaner for your home.  A bath scented with the flowers and leaves of lavender will help sooth nerves and treat insomnia.  Harvest in early morning.  Perennial.

Lemon VerbenaLemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) – The only way to describe the scent of this herb is lemon perfume.  Dried leaves will retain their scent for several years.  Lemon verbena can be used to make lemon sugar and invigorating sachets.  Leaves are used fresh or dried.  Tender perennial.  

RosemaryRosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) – Rosemary will sooth aching muscles, relax stressed nerves and makes an ordinary roasted chicken extraordinary. Rosemary infused oils can be used as a lotion to relieve joint pain or as a hair treatment to condition and add shine. 


HERB USES

Ways to Use Herbs

There is a lot that you can do with herbs beyond cooking.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Lemon and Lavender Bath Sachet

Scarlet O’Hara described her mother as smelling of lemon verbena.  What a wonderfully clean and comforting scent.  You can smell like Mrs. O’Hara too with this bath sachet.
 
Materials:
Muslin
Fresh Lavender
Fresh Lemon Verbena
Ground Oatmeal 
Muslin
String

Directions:

Place herbs and oatmeal in the center of a piece of muslin.  Fold the sides up and tie with string.  Hang from the faucet as you fill your bath tub.

Stale Air Freshener

These little baking soda tablets are perfect for freshening up garbage cans, musty hampers and stuffy spaces.  You can also drop one in the washer to add fragrance to your laundry.
 
Materials:
Baking soda
Muffin Tin
Water
Your Favorite Essential Oil

Directions:
Make a paste with baking soda, a few drops of essential oil and water.  Scoop into a muffin tin and set aside to dry.

Chamomile Hand Oil

This chamomile oil will soften cracked cuticles and rough hands that can be a byproduct of gardening.

Materials:
1 Cup Sweet Almond Oil
1/4 Cup Fresh Chamomile Blooms
2 Sterile Glass Jars with Screw-On Lids

Directions:
Combine the sweet almond oil and chamomile blooms in the jar, screw the top on the jar.  Place in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight for 3 weeks.  Shake the jar daily.  After the oil is infused with chamomile, strain the oil into another clean jar.  Use to moisturize your hands.

Lavender Vinegar

Lavender vinegar can be used as a fragrant fabric softener, a bath fragrance, glass cleaner or when diluted in water (8 parts water to 1 part vinegar) as a facial toner, hair rinse or deodorizing body splash.

Materials:
Enough lavender leaves and flowers to fill a one quart jar half full.
White Vinegar
Sterile, Glass One Quart Jar with a Screw-On PLASTIC Lid

Directions
Place the lavender in the jar and fill with vinegar. 

Screw on the lid.  Vinegar will react with metal so use a plastic lid. If your lid is metal, cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap before screwing on the lid.  

Place the jar is a dark place for 4 weeks, shaking occasionally. 

5-Step Herbal Tincture

One thing I wish I knew more about is using herbs for lotions, potions, tonics and such. Talk about connecting to our agrarian past. I suppose I get stymied by some of the ingredients needed to make these herbal helpers. Lanolin, beeswax, and benzoin are so easy to come by these days. Recently I’ve discovered that tinctures are actually fairly simple to prepare from fresh or dried herbs.

What is a Tincture?

A tincture is a liquid made from steeping herbs in a 50% alcohol (100 proof) solution. You
can also use herbs to make infusions by steeping them in water. Infusions are best
used immediately; tinctures will keep when stored in a sterile, amber colored glass
bottle.

Basic Materials

Unlike some herbal preparations, tinctures can be made with items that are readily
available at the grocery store. Keep these materials on hand and you’ll be ready to
make a tonic whenever the mood hits.

  • Fresh or dried herbs. If you purchase herbs be sure they are organic. Even though these mixtures are topical, you don’t want chemicals.
  • Cheese cloth
  • Sieve
  • Sterile glass jar with lid
  • Funnel
  • Amber bottles with screw-tops for storage.
  • 100-proof vodka

Basic Recipe for an Herbal Tincture

It is best to research the herb you are planning to use to discover a suitable recipe,
but this one will give you a jumping off point. Use 50% alcohol, in other words a
product that is 50% alcohol and 50% water. 100-proof vodka works well. A good ratio
for dried material is about 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol and with fresh material 1
part herb to 3 parts alcohol.

  • 1 ounce fresh herbs, chopped fine
  • 3 ounces 100-proof vodka

OR

  • 1 ounce dried herbs
  • 5 ounces 100-proof vodka

Instructions

  1. Place herbs in a Mason jar and pour in vodka. Make sure the vodka covers the herbs.
    Screw on the lid and give it a good shake. Label the jar with the date and type of herbs.
    Place it in a cool, dry, dark place.
  2. Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks.
  3. After two weeks strain the liquid by pouring through a sieve lined with cheese cloth into
    a bowl.
  4. Bundle up the cheese cloth and squeeze remaining liquid into the bowl.
  5. Using a funnel, pour the tincture into a sterile amber bottle, screw on the cap and store in a
    cool, dry cupboard. During hot weather, it’s nice to keep a tincture in the refrigerator for
    applying after working in the garden.
  6. A tincture should keep indefinitely, but it’s a good idea to do a smell check periodically. If
    it smells off, toss it.

Herbs for Topical Use

For this article I’m focusing on the topical use of herbal tinctures, but you can prepare tinctures
to take internally too. Just be sure to do the research and talk with your physician before adding
an herbal tincture to your diet.

Here are just a few of the herbs you can use for tinctures.

  • Basil

    Apply to insect bites to draw out irritants.

  • Lavender

    Skin tonic for minor bumps and scratches. The fragrance soothes frayed nerves.

  • Lemon Balm

    Astringent for minor skin irritations.

  • Mint

    Good for refreshing the skin. The scent is said to help with headaches.

  • Rosemary

    Hair rinse, sore muscle relief.

  • Rose Petals

    Moisturizing skin tonic. Use as an antidepressant in aromatherapy.

Herbal Moth Repellent

With spring transitioning into summer it is time to start packing away my sweaters, coats, hats and scarves. This is one of two occasions that I think about that household pest, the clothes moth.

The other occasion is when I pull out my winter wear and find holes in my favorite sweater or a chewed out depression running down the arm of my coat – sure signs that I did not take care to protect my clothing from this tiny but destructive pest.

It is actually the larvae of the clothes moth that does the damage. The female moth settles in your closet and deposits eggs among your woolens. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin eating their way through your wardrobe, growing to their mature size to begin the cycle all over again.

Herbal Moth RepellentThe traditional defense against moths is to scatter moth balls among your clothes. But some people find the odor too strong for their liking and have concerns about the ingredients used to make them.

An alternative method of dealing with these pests is with herbs. We have been using herbs since ancient times to battle moths and I have found that it works quite well.

Not only are many herbs insecticidal, but the aroma of an herbal mixture will also repel the moth. Moths rely on their sense of smell to find the wool where they lay their eggs. Rather than smelling wool the female moth will smell herbs and be on her way.

So how about a recipe that blends the leaves and flowers of herbs with essential oils to keep moths on the run? It’s an inexpensive and safe alternative to mothballs because the mixture is all-natural.

In a large bowl combine the following dried herbs:

  • 1 ounce wormwood or artemisia
  • 4 ounces lavender flowers
  • 2 ounces rosemary leaves
  • Handful of cedar shavings

Then add:

  • 30 drops of lavender oil
  • 5 drops of rosemary oil
  • 5 drops of vetiver (grass extract)
  • Toss the essential oils gently with dried herbs. Fill sachets or a bowl with the mixture and place in your closet, wardrobe or drawers.

Moth Proofing Tips:
Clean your clothes before you store them. Moths are even more attracted to material with food stains, body oils, etc.

If you haven’t worn a garment, scarf or hat in a while, give it to a charity. This will remove potential moth havens from your closet.

Keep your closet clean. Vacuum the corners and shake out the blankets.

When you bring clothing in purchased from a resale shop or garage sale, send it to the dry cleaners or pop it in the dryer. This will kill any eggs or larvae that may come with the garment.

Learn more about natural repellants in the video below!

Herbal Bath Salt

A long soak in the tub is a nice treat after working outdoors. It’s even better with homemade bath salts made with herbs harvested from the garden.

Materials

  • 1 cup fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup coarse sea salt
  • ¼ cup dried herbs (lavender, mint, and lemon balm are good choices)
  • ¼ cup baking soda

Directions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the mix is powdery, about one minute will do.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add 1/4 cup baking soda. Whisk to combine all the ingredients.
  3. Transfer the bath blend to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.

Teacup Herb Garden

Brew a cup of herbal tea with herbs harvested from these teacup gardens. You can grow these little herb gardens on a sunny windowsill indoors.

Materials

  • Potting Soil
  • All-purpose Liquid Plant Food
  • Electric Drill
  • 1/8-inch Ceramic Tile Bit
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Lemon Thyme
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Stevia
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Scented Geranium
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Lemon Balm
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Thyme
  • (1) 3-inch Pot Peppermint

Instructions

Teacup Herb Planters
Drill a hole through the bottom of each teacup for drainage.

Fill the cups 2/3 full with potting soil.

Plant the lemon thyme, stevia and scented geranium in one pot and the lemon balm, thyme and pepper mint in the other pot.

Fill between the plants with more soil, firmly pressing it in.

Water the container with a mixture of water and an all-purpose fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Place in a sunny location.

Choose decorative teacups at least 6 inches in diameter. Look for these at craft, discount, or home décor stores.

Herb-Filled Hibachi

Here’s a clever way to use that old hibachi you have stored away. Fill the grill with soil and plant up some of your favorite herbs to keep next to your barbecue.

Materials

  • Hibachi Grill
  • Potting Soil
  • Slow-Release Fertilizer
  • Electric Drill
  • Drill Bit
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Basil
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Rosemary
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Flatleaf Parsley
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Dill
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Lemon Thyme
  • (1) 4-inch Pot Golden Sage

Steps

Plant Herbs in a Hibachi
Clean the hibachi to remove charcoal residue. If the vent holes are on the sides of the hibachi, drill additional holes in the bottom for drainage.

Fill hibachi three-quarters full with soil.

Mix slow-release fertilizer into the soil. Check package instructions for application rate.

Remove the herbs from the pots and gently loosen the roots.

Arrange the herbs in the hibachi. Place the tall dill and basil at the back; parsley, sage and rosemary in the center; and thyme at the edge where it can spill over.

Fill in with soil. Water. Add more soil if needed.

Place your herb-filled hibachi in full sun and within easy reach of your grill.

Herb Windowsill Garden

There is a joy to growing edible plants that goes beyond freshness, good flavor and knowing where your
food comes from. Tending to plants, especially those that provide food reconnects us to nature in a way
that is very satisfying. The sentiment may sound lofty but the practice is very simple particularly when
the plants are herbs.

Why Grow Herbs

Herbs are incredibly easy to care for. Most just need plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil and water.
In addition to being attractive herbs offer fragrance, flavor, and in some cases health benefits. Have you
checked the price of herbs lately? You can purchase a pot of live herbs to grow for the same cost as a
bundle of cut herbs at the store and have a fresh supply at your fingertips.

Why Grow Herbs Indoors

So all this sounds good, right? But why grow herbs indoors? My answer to this question is, “Because you
can.” Don’t let cold weather or lack of a garden keep you from growing herbs. A sunny window lined with
herbs or even a single pot of rosemary will liven up your home and help satisfy your need to “get to
growing” when the garden is dormant.

How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Some herbs are better suited for growing indoors than others. Rosemary, scented geraniums, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, mint and chives are good candidates for your indoor herb garden.

Whichever herb you’re dealing with, you’ll want to make sure that it gets plenty of light – but not direct sunlight. And when it comes to water, keep your plants consistently moist. You never want to over water or let the soil dry out.

You’ll find that it’s not necessary to fertilize as much when the days become shorter. Unless of course you are growing them under a grow light and they still think it’s summer.

One of the hardest things on herbs in our homes is the hot, dry air. So you might try growing them in a place that has higher humidity, like the kitchen or bathroom.

Now if they begin to get a little leggy and out of hand, just prune them back. The more you harvest, the more the plants will produce.

If you have a problem with pests, I recommend you use an insecticidal soap. It is effective and safe. And this is something to keep in mind if you’re planning on using your herbs to spice up some of your favorite recipes.

Herbs planted in head-shaped pots for growing indoors.

Windowsill Herb Garden

These head-shaped containers are a fun way to display your herbs. I found these at a local store and similar planters are easy to find online.

Add some gravel to the bottom of the planter for drainage and then fill halfway full with potting soil.

Remove the herbs from their nursery pot and plant.

Fill in with soil, tamping down to firm and water.

Adding gravel to herb pot for drainage.Planting the herbs.

 

Herb Hanging Basket

Here’s an idea that allows you to grow herbs literally above ground. A hanging basket in a sunny spot makes use of the vertical spaces in your garden, patio or balcony.

Materials for an Herb Hanging Basket

  • Herbs with a cascading form such as thyme, oregano, sage and parsley
  • Hanging basket
  • Coco liner
  • Potting soil

Directions for Planting an Herb Hanging Basket

Line the wire basket with a coco liner. These will be available wherever you can purchase wire baskets or through online retailers. The coco liner holds the soil in place, while allowing water to drain through.

Fill the basket half-full with potting soil and use potting soil, not garden soil. Not only will the basket be lighter, but potting soil drains better than garden soil.

Plant your herbs and back fill with soil. Leave about 1 inch of space between the soil line and the lip of the basket. This will keep water from spilling over the sides.

Water well and hang in a place that receives at least six hours of sunlight.

Now you are all set to have fresh herbs at your fingertips all summer!

123 Done: Citrus Herb Container

Citrus Herb Container GardenI’m always looking for ways to bring unique flavors into the kitchen, and let me tell you, citrus herbs do just that. I like to use herbs like pineapple sage, orange mint and lemon thyme to get creative with both entrées and desserts.

To create a citrus herb container for your home, just start with a 20-inch terra cotta pot and fill it about 1 inch from the top with potting soil.

Next, dig a hole slightly larger than the biodegradable peat pot the pineapple sage comes in. Tear off the bottom, and top edge of the pot and place them into the soil. Plant the pineapple sage, and fill in with the potting soil.

Repeat this process with the orange mint, you’ll notice the fragrance immediately just while working with the plants.

Then, plant lemon thyme to complete the set. Be sure the plants are equal distance apart in the container.

Finally, water the plants thoroughly. Within a few weeks, you’ll have a beautiful container that can add new flavors to your kitchen!