There are many ways to dry and preserve the flowers and herbs
from your garden. You may want to make wreaths or other
crafts, or simply save a certain flower for sentimental reasons.
And, of course, dried herbs are delicious in cooking.
First we will talk about flowers. The best time to pick a flower
for preserving is right after it has opened. You don?'t want to
wait until it has set seed because it will then be too fragile.
You can choose the natural method of drying for flowers
such as hydrangeas and delphiniums. Cut off the flowers with
some stem attached, and tie in small bunches. Hang them
upside down in a dark, well ventilated place. It may take
several months for them to completely dry. Be sure to pick
quite a few hydrangeas too, because this may not work on
all flowers. Moisture content, humidity, and the type of
soil the flower was grown in tends to affect the drying.
Dense flowers such as roses need another method for successful
drying. You can use clean, dry, fine sand (found at your local
garden center) or silica gel. Silica gel is what comes in those
little packets that say ?"Do Not Eat!?" in your box of new
shoes. It is not really a gel, but rather a powder. You can buy it
in bulk at craft stores. It is expensive, but can be used over and
over. It starts out blue in color, and turns pink when it has
absorbed water. You can put it in a 250 degree over for 30
minutes to dry it again.
Using a strong container (that shoebox will work), make a layer
of sand or silica gel about 2 or 3 inches deep. Carefully place
your flowers in the box, face up. Do not put too many in one
box, and don?'t let them touch each other. I like to use a flour
sifter to put the mix on top. Cover the flower heads completely.
Put the box (open) in a warm, dry place. It will take about 3-6
weeks for them to dry.
And now on to drying herbs. Of course you don?'t want to use
the aforementioned method of using silica gel, unless you are
going to use the herbs for non-edible purposes. Choose herbs
that are at their peak, right before or right after flowering. Let
the morning dew dry, but be sure to pick them before the hot sun
releases their oils.
The most common way of drying herbs is the natural drying
method above; tie in bunches and hang upside down in a cool,
dry place. You can also lay the stems on a clean window screen
(horizontally of course) and put in a dry, dark place. The leaves
will be dry in a few days. You can also use a conventional oven,
set to a low temperature (125 degrees) until dry, or a microwave.
Place the stems between 2 paper towels, and , using the lowest
setting, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until dry. Drying time
will vary depending on the moisture content. Store the herbs in a
glass container with a tight fitting lid, out of the sun. Be sure to
use them within a year, because they lose their potency after that.
I wish you lots of success in this fun and productive way of using
the harvests from your garden!
There are many herbal preparations that claim to keep mosquitoes away but how effective are they? The gold standard of mosquito repellants is DEET, a chemical many people want to avoid. There are some plants that do have mosquito repellant properties and in this article we will discuss them.
Chamomile has been used as a remedy for calming the nerves and the stomach, and easing sleep, since herbal remedies were recorded. Chamomile is one of those herbs that even beginners can grow and it is hardy through much of the United States. Chamomile is also used in a variety of beauty products currently on the market from shampoo to skin cream.
Lemon Balm is another herb that anyone can grow in the garden. With its lovely lemony flavor it complements many dishes. It has many medicinal uses and is currently being studied for use in suppressing tumors, and in HIV, Herpes, and Alzheimer's treatment. Lemon Balm is so easy to grow that many people consider it invasive.
Chives is a hardy perennial with round pink or purple flowers at the tips of tube-like long green stems. They grow in clumps 10 to 12" tall. Chives have a mild onion flavor.
Tarragon is tall and deep green, growing 2 to 3 feet tall with an anise-peppery flavor.