In the spring and summer, as some of my herbs and flowers grow lush and full, I snip a little sprig here, a few blooms there, and I bring them inside. I don’t like anything going to waste, but there’s no way I can work oregano or mint into every meal while it’s in season. So I save them to dry for when I do need them. I’ll brew some for tea and toss pinches of this or that into a soup or stew. However, this past summer, I also had something else in mind when I was drying herbs and flowers from the garden: gifts.
I fancy myself to be a pretty crafty person. I love to knit and sew and embroider, and whip out my glue gun when the mood strikes. But I had never really considered packaging up my dried garden bounty to give to someone as spices, or natural beauty products, or tea.
I’ve become more interested in growing herbs and flowers specifically to dry. Some of my favorites include sage, chamomile, oregano, lavender, and calendula.
Drying herbs and flowers
There are a few ways to dry herbs. You want to make sure your drying area gets lots of air circulation. Since I garden organically, I don’t wash the herbs before hanging, but I do give them a thorough inspection and a good shake to make sure I’m not bringing any bugs indoors.
The best time to trim herbs (using herb scissors or snips) is first thing in the morning after the dew has dried. There are a few drying options. There are these lovely hanging racks with hooks you can use to hang the plants. I’ve also seen screens that stack on a shelf. Some people use their dehydrator. I hang mine in bunches tied with twine on a curtain rod in the dining room, so there is a possibility if you drink my chamomile tea, you might be drinking a bit of brewed dust, as well. Some gardeners will cover their herbs with a ventilated paper bag to keep the dust off. I like the 19th century apothecary look.
I leave my bunches hanging for a few weeks. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re crunchy to the touch. I save tea tins or use mason jars to store mine in a dark cupboard.
Here are some of the herbs and flowers I like to dry:
- Thyme (especially lemon thyme)
- Mint: Chocolate mint, spearmint, etc.
- Lemon balm
- Bachelor’s buttons
Drying herbs and flowers to make gifts from the garden
My various varieties of dried mint and chamomile are destined for tea bags and tins, my oregano is crushed and ready for a spice jar, and my lavender has been blended into a blissful bathtime soak.
Drying herbs and flowers for herbal tea
I drink a lot of tea, especially in the winter. For some of the herbal teas I drink, it’s very satisfying not having to buy tea at the store. I grow it myself in the garden. Chamomile is a favorite, as well as different varieties of mint—chocolate, apple, spearmint—there are some really fun flavours. Blending a few together can be fun, too. A favorite blend includes 30 grams of Matricaria recutita (German chamomile), 20 grams of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), and 10 grams of Mentha piperita (peppermint). Anyone who has mentioned they have an upset stomach has gotten a few teabags of this herbal tea and it works like a charm.
When I snip fresh chamomile for drying, I tie the stems with twine and hang them from a curtain rod. Once dry, I’ll snip the flowers off and store them in a sealed jar for tea.
There are a few ways to package your tea. Clear ornaments are a great way to gift some of your dried herbs and/or flowers. You can also make your own tea bags from unbleached, biodegradable paper tea bags. Then, create your own tags listing your magic blend and sew to the end of the bag.
Drying herbs for the spice rack
I really don’t like having to buy spices I can grow myself, especially herbs I consistently grow, like oregano, thyme, and basil. In the summer, I snip them fresh. For winter, I dry some and squirrel them away. Oregano is a favourite. It tends to be in a lot of ingredients lists for hearty winter soups and stews.
Speaking of soups and stews, you could create your own spice blend—perhaps oregano, thyme, parsley, and a couple of bay leaves for turkey or chicken soup! You might even consider adding a recipe card.
Over a bowl, I just crumble the herbs by gently running my fingers up and down the stem, so the leaves come away. I then use a funnel to put them in jars.
Lavender bath salts
I thought I’d start with the inspiration for this post. It’s excerpted with permission from Stephanie Rose’s book Home Apothecary: Easy Ideas for Making & Packaging Bath Bombs, Salts, Scrubs & More.
If you know someone who enjoys a before-bed bath routine, lavender bath salts would make a nice gift. Rose packaged hers in these sweet little test tubes with cork stoppers. I found a similar bottle that I thought I’d try.
- 270 grams Epsom salt (which is a bit more than a cup)
- 1/4 to 3/4 cup dried lavender buds (I used just over a quarter)
- 30 drops of lavender essential oil
Mixing it all together
- Place the Epsom salt in a bowl and add the dried lavender.
- Using a dropper, add the essential oil and mix well.
- Use a funnel or rolled paper and fill your container with the Epsom salt, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top. This recipe makes 3 test tubes.
- There are some other great recipes in this book that I intend to try, including lotion bars and lip balm.