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PART 1: Your Bounty of Fresh Herbs Has Arrived in Your Garden, Now What?

by Kristie Nackord (Spirit Horse Herbals)

Lavender_drying.large
Lavender Drying

The bounty of your medicinal herbal garden has emerged. Now what?

These are just a few of the ways of enjoying your delightful and powerfully medicinal bounty from your garden this year. If you would like to share how you work with the plants, please feel free to comment below! Or, if there are specific questions you have, please feel free to ask!

Calendula (calendula officinalis)

 

Parts used: flowers

Enjoy the fresh petals on your salad, baked in cookies, or your favorite tasty (or savory) treat. A very popular way to enjoy calendula is in herbal tea or in your favorite salve, balm or infused oil preparation.

Harvesting:

Harvest the whole flower just after it opens in the morning and it is free and clear of morning dew or water. I use only my hands, fingertips to be exact, to harvest the flower heads as they are very easy to remove.

Drying:

If you would like to dry calendula, lay the flower buds on a screen where they aren’t touching each other or anything else, to air dry in a cool, dry, place out of direct sunlight where they receive adequate ventilation.

Storing:

Store your calendula flowers in a clean, dry mason-type jar with a good fitting lid. If kept within optimal conditions, your calendula flowers will retain most of their medicinal potency for 6 months.

Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis)

 

Parts used: Leaves

Lemon balm is delicious in your favorite culinary dishes where you would like some lemon zing or infused as an herbal tea such as Spirit Horse Herbals Dreamtime Tea. It’s also highly medicinal in tincture format as well.

Harvesting:

You can harvest lemon balm all year long and it will grow back with vigor, just like all trustworthy mints do! I use clippers to harvest my lemon balm and will cut the plant back until 1/3 of the plant is remaining. I do use my little hand clippers for this enjoyable task!

Drying:

Lemon balm stores well as it is loaded with volatile oils. Just crush a leaf and you will see! Bundle your harvested clippings by their stems with a rubber band and hang them upside down to dry in a cool, well ventilated room. Or, lay the stems out on a screen or upside down in a paper bag.

Storing:

I store my lemon balm intact and on the stem. If you need to conserve space you can remove the leaves and place them in a clean, dry glass mason-type jar with a good fitting lid. Try to keep the leaves whole and uncrushed until you want to use them. This helps retain their medicine.

Mint: Spearmint, Peppermint, and all of those other tasty mints! Apple, banana, chocolate, etc!

Parts used: Leaves

If you are like me, you welcome the garden 'take over' by your mint! Or, if you planned well, you planted your mint in an area where it could take over the world and no one else would mind. That is SO NOT me! With that said, nothing rivals the flavor of mint in a soothing cup of tea like Spirit Horse Herbals Morning Boost Tea. Mint is delicious as a culinary complement to any of your kitchen festivities including ice cream, jellies, baked goodies, and more.

Harvesting

Clip, clip, clip away! Your mint will grow back with gusto! Leave at least a 1/3 of the plant if you choose to harvest in abundance. Plucking a few fresh leaves at a time works as well! Enjoy harvesting mint all season long.

Drying

Similar to your lemon balm, dry your mint in bundles, bound by a rubber band, hanging in a cool, well ventilated room out of direct sunlight. Or, lay your mint out on screens well spread out where they will receive proper ventilation. You know your mint is completely dry when it flakes apart when you crush it between your fingers.

Storing

Store in a brown paper bag out of direct sunlight whole and on the stem, or remove the leaves and place them in a clean, dry mason-type jar with a good fitting lid.

English Lavender (lavandula angustifolias)

Lavender_drying.detail

Parts used: flower

This is one of my most favorite flowers in arrangements. Heck, I don’t even make ‘arrangements’, I just enjoy bundles of lavender! Lavender has been used for millennia and is widely used in crafting, however medicinally it is incredibly potent and delicious when brewed into tea. It is used in culinary delights such as cookies, ice cream and other sweet treats. It also blends well with other herbs like rosemary, sage, and oregano. The essential oil of lavender is highly prized as well and is also powerful when used in a bath or perfumes or topically in ointments and salves. There are many different types of lavender and I only have experience with lavandula angustifolias.

Harvesting:

Sadly, the best time to harvest lavender is when it is in full bloom, vibrant with color, and smells so wonderful! The very thing we wait for all season long from our beloved lavender plants. Harvest in the morning as soon as the flower buds appear when it is dry.

Drying:

I bundle my lavender with a rubber band and hang to dry. Place a clean sheet or piece of paper underneath your bundles you hang to catch any of the flower buds that may fall out. Waste not want not!

To remove the flower buds, I place the stems in a paper bag and gentle roll the lavender stems around to loosen the buds out of the flower heads. Or, I gently swirl the flower heads between my fingers to loosen the buds and onto a sheet or clean piece of paper, bowl or plate.

Storing:

Store the flowers in a clean mason-type jar, or the stems with the flower buds still intact in a brown bag.

Happy Harvesting! Remember--be sure to compost all plant parts not used!

If you want to learn more about the medicinal uses and properties about some of the plants mentioned in this post, please view previous blog posts found here on Dig the Dirt by Spirit Horse Herbals! And, please be sure to comment with your uses, feedback, or questions!

Tags

drying herbs, herb, how to use herbs, lavender, Mint, calendula, herbal tea

comments

I use lavender in tea and a friend of mine uses some of my harvest to sew into little pillows that smell SO great. I also grow lemon grass and make tea out of it... and Thai Coconut Milk Soup!
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nematode commented on 05/28/10
Thanks for the ideas! I look forward to trying the lavender in tea!
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gardengirl replied: on 05/30/10
Thank you so much! My lavender is just going into full bloom now and I was wondering how to harvest it! After you harvest it, what do you do with it? I also have lemon verbena - any suggestions on harvesting and use? Thanks for all your information! <br/> <br/>
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gardengirl commented on 05/27/10
You are so very welcome! I just love 'plant talk'! When you say 'what do you do with it', what do you mean exactly? How to dry? Uses? Lavender is delicious and very medicinal in teas. You don't need a lot to flavor your tea, just a pinch or dash. It also is delicious baked in cookies or other sweet treats. It makes an incredible herbal addition to your eye/dream pillow creations, or you can create lavender wands, wreaths, and so much more! I've never grown lemon verbena myself, so I hesistate to give any recommendations on harvesting, but I imagine it to be fairly easy to harvest. Harvest leaves and flowering tops only. Here is a good link to check out: http://www.superbherbs.net/Lemonverbena.htm I have used it in my herbal tea brews and it is delicious! Great to cook with as well as it adds a lemon zing just like lemon balm. I grow lemon balm instead as it does well here in zone 4, plus I just have a nice connection with l. balm. L. verbena stores well dried as it has plenty of oils. Use sparingly as it has a stong flavor!
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Spirit Horse Herbals replied: on 05/27/10
Perfect response! I was wondering how to use the lavender. I will try it with tea. I would love to know more about baking with it - have you ever tried making cookies with the lavender? Sounds very interesting! I really appreciate all your information! I will check out the lemon verbena site. I love that herb - but I don't do much with it - just brush past it in the garden and enjoy the scent! I will try it in my tea as well. While we are herb talking - have you used lemon basil? I planted it for the first time in the garden this year. Smells wonderful, but not sure how to use it.
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gardengirl replied: on 05/27/10
Thank you thank you! I am so excited to have this information as I have planted ALL of these herbs, and yes I was feeling a little confused as to what in the world am I going to do with it all?? <br/> <br/>I am really excited to try doing this with my herbs... I&#x27;ll leave pressing the oil out of calendula to you :)
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FigTree commented on 05/26/10
Actually, you infuse the plant in the oil which is different the pressing! And you can absolutely do this, if you had the time! So easy! Literally you fill a mason jar full of your calendula flowers. Fill up the jar with your favorite oil such as olive, almond, apricot, jojoba, etc, and place a well fitted lid on the jar. Put a piece of saran wrap in between the lid and the jar, helps with the leakage that will occur. Every day sing songs, do a little twirl, tell the flowers how awesome they are, and 2-6 weeks later you will have calendula/kaarina infused oil. Your energy around the plants will 'infuse' in the oil as well. That is how you create medicine together with a plant. Listen to any messages that may come through, too! When your time is up, strain off the herbs through a cheese cloth and compost them and keep the oil! That simple! Happy brewing!
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Spirit Horse Herbals replied: on 05/27/10
you're amazing... thanks for all this info, but I think I'll stick to your oil... somehow I get the Kristie medicine from it and it works perfectly!!
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FigTree replied: on 05/27/10

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