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|
|Fresh plants for cold 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 🙂