We’re blessed with a bounty of medicinal herbs in the Westgarden, and in addition to enjoying their fragrance and blooming presence in the garden, we love to preserve some of the harvest by turning them into herbal medicine.
There are many ways to transform herbal flowers, leaves and roots into medicine. One of most simplest ways is to make tea with fresh or dried herbs. Above are a few of the Community Gardening and Leadership Apprentices drying rose petals for tea.
Another herbal process we engage in, in the Westgarden is making Oil Infusions. Our herb oils are usually later turned into salves, so we tend to use herbs that are meant to be used topically, such as Calendula or St. Johns’ Wort. St. John’s Wort is a particularly fun one to use because although the flower is yellow, the oil is deep red!
To make an infusion simply harvest the herbs on a sunny day so that there is little moisture on the plant, fill a jar with the herbs, cover with olive oil, close the jar with a piece of cloth as shown above so that moisture can evaporate, and place in a sunny window. Allow the herbs to infuse for two weeks, strain out the used plant material and use!
This summer, Maggie also made an astringent herbal concoction called “Queen of Hungary’s Water” from many of the herbs found in the Westgarden. To make the herbal facial toner you simply infuse Apple Cider Vinegar with a collection of flowers and herbs for 2-6 weeks. Once complete, you strain out the herbs and you’re left with a toning and cleansing herbal infusion. Some of the herbs you can use are Calendula, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Rosemary or Sage.
Another favorite herb project of ours is Herb Salt! It is very simple to make and is an incredibly delicious addition to any soup, stir fry, or salad dressing. We use it on just about everything! All you have to do is harvest an assortment of fresh herbs and combine them with salt in a food processor at a ratio of 1 to 1. Once the mixture is ground down to a thick paste, lay it out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven on the lowest temperature possible for a few hours until it is completely dehydrated. Store in a jar and enjoy!
Some herbs that we used this season were: Rosemary, Sage, Basil, Lovage, Dill, Garlic Scapes, Chives, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, and Parsley. You can use these or any others you have growing in your garden!