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What To Do With All Those Herbs?

A photo of Vickie MorganThis past summer has been my first year growing a herb garden and I've dried a lot of herbs. Without more knowledge though, of what to do with them, I fear a lot would have gone to waste. So when a community education class came up called, a Spice of Life, I couldn't wait to go. The class has been taught by a very knowledgeable lady from our county's herb society.

I thought you might want to know some of the things I have learned about herbs.

Did you know?

  • Herbs only have a shelf life of one year. After that the flavor is just not as good. Some in our class confessed that they needed to take a trip to the compost bin.
  • Freezing your herbs is better than drying them: If you have the freezer space, freeze your herbs because it's easier to do and you can use them the same as fresh.
  • You should add your herbs the last 20-30 minutes of cooking because they lose their flavor with longer cooking. I am definitely guilty of this one.
  • Wrapped in wet paper towel, fresh herbs will last in the refrigerator about a week.

The instructor passed around many herbs for us to look at that I never thought about growing, but will next year. The lemon thyme had just an unbelievable lemon smell. You can use it in place of lemons in any recipe. Another one I would love to try would be winter savory. My herb garden is not that big so I'm really not sure how I will get another herb plant in there but I'll give it a try. 

Herb garden 

Some more good hints:

  • After you strip the dried leaves off the stems don't throw them away, make them into fire starters. Just tie them in a bundle with raffia and keep in a basket by the fireplace. I'm sure the smell it produces will be wonderful. It kind of upsets me that I didn't think of this about two months ago.
  • Make an herbal wreath. Take a grapevine wreath and put fresh sage all around it. You can hang it in your kitchen and when the steam from cooking warms it up the aroma flows through the kitchen. I hope it's not raining tomorrow because I know there have to be more grape vines that need to be taken down in my neighbor's yard and I have plenty of sage.

The instructor brought in rosemary sugar cookies (I loved them) and lavender sugar cookies (they were OK).

Not everything was about cooking there were some great things you could do with herbs for you and your home. Here are some great recipes:

Lavender Bubble Bath

1 bunch of Lavender
Cean wide-necked jar with screw top (can be canning jar, pickle jar, peanut butter jar)
1 large bottle of clear shampoo (you can use cheap shampoo just has to be clear)
5 drops of Lavender oil

Mix and place jar in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks, then strain the liquid and re-bottle. (I'll be going to our Farmer's Market tomorrow to get the oil – it needs to be 100 percent pure essential oil)

Linen Spray

1/4 cup vodka (buy the cheapest)
8 drops of lavender or Bergamot oil
2 cups of distilled water

Let sit for a week in a sunny window. Place in empty spray bottles and spray on your linens, carpet, etc. We made this last night I can't wait till next week to spray it on my linens.

Headache Pillow

Headaches that are caused from stress or sinus problems can be relieved by making a headache pillow.

You can make a small pillow or make one that you wrap around your neck from cloth and fill it with one of the following mixtures:

For a calming effect: Lavender and rice or buckwheat
To help open your sinuses: Rosemary and rice or buckwheat

Put in the microwave for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes then place on your forehead or around your neck.

I have been having a lot of sinus headaches (probably due to the amount of rain we are having here), so I came home and made a neck wrap in a matter of ten minutes and it works really well.

Neck wrap and sewing machine

She had a lovely idea of making these all up and putting them in baskets and giving them as gifts for Christmas. Now there is an idea.

You can visit my garden at Gardening in Lower MI.

11/9/2009 11:55:31 AM

Shannon, Thanks -it was a Mother's day present my husband made it for me and my daughter bought the plants. Herbs are so easy to grow and it's fun. I have a couple indoors now -that would be a good way to start. Sorry about the comment that was published three times I didn't think that the submit button was working. It was! vickie

s.m.r. saia
11/9/2009 9:05:36 AM

I love the pretty little herb garden! I didn't do too much with herbs this year, I'm toying with the idea of making that a winter, in-house project....Thanks for the informative post!

11/8/2009 10:07:05 AM

Cindy, You'd laugh but grandbaby came over yesterday and I never did get to rake the leaves --maybe today! I read your post and I think it was a great one, you explained it all very well. The pictures are just beautiful --we usually don't travel by the lakes in the winter months except for last March and we went to an Elk ranch for our anniversary. They had large chunks of ice that had piled up on shore -because of a big wind that had occurred. A man had big ice blocks in his house. Do you remember that? Even though it was a bad thing it was amazing seeing all that ice. With the sun shining on it -it was a very pretty sight. vickie

cindy murphy
11/8/2009 8:45:02 AM

Get to half of them?! I'd be excited just to get to a quarter of what I want to get done! I don't know if it made a great post, but I did blog about the Lake Effect last winter. Scroll down to check out the beach; the pictures don't do it justice, but seeing it in person is truly amazing!

11/7/2009 12:06:33 PM

Cindy, It's a beautiful day -I too have to finish the leaves that I didn't get to yesterday. It funny how we line up all the things to do and then only get to half of them You know I find that very interesting about living off the lake and the weather --it would probably make a great post and beautiful pictures! vickie

cindy murphy
11/7/2009 10:39:53 AM

Vickie - the Lake Effect is an amazing thing. It keeps us temperate here which means our temperature fluctuations ours are less drastic than yours. In summer we stay cooler than much of the state as the wind blows over the lake water; the water temperature is colder than the air temperature. In fall and early winter, it's the opposite - the water is warmer than the air. This is the reason we haven't had a killing frost yet, while in the next town inland they've already had a dusting of snow. Just wait 'til winter though - that wind off the lake turns absolutely bitter! Not yet though, and we've got another gorgeous day in store...maybe this'll be the day I get to the parsley. I didn't get a chance to yesterday.

11/6/2009 12:40:30 PM

Cindy, Oh it got so cold last night -Heavy frost on the windshields this morning. See I would have thought by the lake you would be colder -I learn something every day. I tried to dry my chives this last summer -with terrible results- I wish I knew this about freezing when I was harvesting mine. Freezing is definetly the way to go. But I did pot one of mine up to bring indoors for the winter. So that's where one of my chives are now by the kitchen window. I need to finish raking leaves also.. I hate it when the pretty snow mixes with the leaves. vickie

cindy murphy
11/6/2009 10:23:14 AM

Hi, Vickie. Just in, taking a break from working in the yard, trying to get everything done before the snow flies. Oh, there's still so much to do! We haven't had a heavy frost yet, (the Lake keeps us a bit temperate here, more so than even just a few miles inland), so my chives and parsley still look good. I thought about drying them, but I've still got plenty dried of both from earlier in the season. Ah-ha! I'll freeze them - something I never thought about until I read this blog! I checked on-line, and both are easy to freeze, so it looks like that's what I'll be doing today... ....after I finish with the yard work. Break's over! Enjoy your day.