Recently we shared in our second official make it/take it class at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program.  The theme around this event was “Using Fresh Herbs”.  We spent most of a Friday afternoon collecting various fresh herbs from our healing garden and processing them together.  As we harvested each plant we discussed traditional uses for it and spent a bit of time with identification through sight, smell and taste.

Once we had filled our baskets with lemon balm, thyme, sage, stevia, mint, chamomile, lavender, holy basil, anise hyssop, oregano, and calendula (along with other culinary and medicinal herbs) we brought them all inside for processing. We had a pretty good size group  of women and children for this event and as we stripped and clipped the herbs we all sat around a big table chattering and playing with recipe ideas.


Our first concoctions were a couple of different herbal teas we brewed up using lemon balm, mint, anise hyssop, holy basil, lavender, hibiscus, red raspberry leaf and stevia.  To prepare these fresh teas, we simply coursely chopped our tea herbs and poured boiling water over them.   We let them steep for about 30 minutes and strained them adding some ice for some refreshing herbal ice tea…. I have to say, I love it when the kiddos are willing to try herbal tea.  I think that one of the keys to getting them interested is to use hibiscus flowers. These flowers turn the infusion a beautiful, fuschia color and make it a bit more visually stimulating.  This flower also provides a good deal of iron so it is a lovely additon for several reasons!  We used dried hibiscus flowers purchased from the Co-op for our tea.

While our tea was steeping we chopped up some lavender and lemon balm to infuse into honey.  This was prepared via a wam infusion method on a double boiler over the stove…..Luscious!

Next we prepared some different flowers and herbs for a cold oil infusion. A cold infusion is made by simply pouring some sort of oil over coursely chopped plants (making sure there are no big air bubbles) and allowing the oil to infuse at room temp. over time.  We made this infusion with the intention of making a home-made body scrub in the coming weeks.  Calendula, lavender, chamomile, and a little bit of rosemary and holy basil are currently infusing in a jar of safflower oil in my office.  It is important to remember that these oils need to be strained within a certain time frame to prevent mold.  With flower infusions, I typically allow the infusion to sit for about a week while, I allow herbal infusions to sit for several weeks.  These are very easy to prepare using fresh herbs from the home garden.

Some of our fresh herbs

There are so many great resources for working with fresh herbs on-line.  I like to watch videos on you-tube of an herbalist named Susun Weed.  She often posts videos of herself… and her grandaughter making herbal oils and infusions….very cute and very informative.
Below are just a few of her videos that I like…. The violets are gone by for the spring but, this video just gives an idea about making flower honeys. Black Raspberries are really rocking right now and the leaf of this plant and the leaves of  red raspberries can be used throughout the season.  This is one of my all-time favorite teas as it is particularly good for women. I generally dry a whole bunch of this to use for the winter… and to share with my lady friends!

Rainbow Connection
Our last herbal recipe of the afternoon was a serious crowd pleaser!  We made garlic herb butter and slathered it all over some fresh artisan bread donated form a local bakery! We combined softened butter, olive oil, and fresh herbs in a food processor with fresh garlic and green onions.  This recipe is super flexible ( as many herb recipes are) and can be used on breads, meats, vegetables, crackers….anything, really.  I like to make a big batch of this goodness and freeze a bit for later as it retains a great flavor for a long time.  You can prepare an herbal butter with pretty much any herbs you have and garlic is pretty much always a great addition.  You can also process these sam ingredients with olive oil for those who are not in favor of lactose.
Some of my favorite herbal oil and butter combos include:
Garlic and Dill
Parsley, Oregano, Thyme an Sage… with garlic
Basil, Thyme and Oregano
Parsley, Tarragon and Lemon
Fresh plants for cold infusion

Oil infusion
Donna checks out our infusion
Butter made with Fresh herbs and garlic from the garden

During our class I really just wanted to let folks know that herbs can be a fun and inexpensive way to
create a gourmet treat for yourself.  Using fresh herbs can be intimidating if you haven’t used them before but, they can really be quite forgiving to work with. 

I am known for generally toting around a mason jar full of some kind of herbal brew.  Often the first question I receive about my mystery beverage is ” What IS that?” When I explain that it is just tea that as not been strained folks are mystified.  The assumption is that tea has to be bought from a store in a little box that was shipped from way far away.  The reality is that most of the same herbs in those fancy teas are easy to grow at home.  I hope that our little herbal event may have given a few of our ladies some confidence to just get out there and play with herbs and flowers…. treat themselves to a nice cup of freshly harvested, home-brewed herbal tea or make a bit of gourmet garlic butter to share with friends…. or maybe…just pick a sprig of thyme, sage or lavender and just enjoy how lovely that smell can make you feel 🙂