Inspired by the self-care ideas shared last winter, I made an effort to save and dry some extra herbs during last year’s harvest season. Versatile, healing and full of aroma, the herb gardens at Stearns Farm are treasure troves that keep on giving long after the last leaves of autumn fall.
While last year’s DIY herb projects were centered around the home spa experience, this year I wanted to share some creative ways to use dried plants in the kitchen. Each project requires minimal experience and equipment and may be a great way to pass the time solo or as a group project.
Honey is a precious gift from our busy bee friends – it sweetens, soothes sore throats and moisturizes skin, among countless other uses. And when stored properly, it never spoils! Below is a recipe to infuse your honey of choice with some favorite dried herbs without losing any of the honey’s beneficial properties. You can reuse the strained herbs after the infusion is done by adding them to hot teas, mulled wine, toddies or other warm beverages.
No Heat Method
Yields 1 quart (32 ounces)
- Dried organic herbs and spices of your choice
- Raw, local honey
- Fill a clean quart jar a little less than halfway with dried herbs and spices.
- Pour in your honey and watch as it slowly finds its way to the bottom. Be sure that your herbs are fully submerged. Using a clean chopstick to push the honey to the jar bottom saves some time.
- Put a lid on the jar and place in a sunny windowsill. Keeping it warm will allow the herbs to infuse better and also makes the liquid more pourable.
- Turn the jar over at least once per day. Make sure to check the levels and add as needed, since the honey will move down and fill in all available space.
- You will want to allow this mixture to infuse for at least one week, though I prefer to infuse for 3 to 4 weeks. The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavor will be.
- When the honey has infused to your taste, strain out the herbs.
- Store your herb-infused honey in a cool, dark place in a tightly sealed jar to help maintain optimal freshness.
For more tips and to try the heat method of infusing honey (it works better if using fresh herbs), check out Mountain Rose Herbs.
Many of us use salt on a daily basis, so why not take a few minutes and spice it up? Simply mix a good quality sea salt with a combination of any of the following: basil, bay leaf, cilantro, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, Thai basil and thyme. As you may notice, virtually all of these plants are lovingly grown in the Stearns gardens! The following recipe from Montana Happy includes a few of most commonly used herbs.
- 1 cup unrefined sea salt
- 1/4 cup dried parsley
- 2 Tablespoons dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Blend all ingredients with a mortar and pestle until combined (remember to remove the stems) .The original recipe said to combine ingredients in a food processor, but I prefer manual control over the “look” of the infused salt.
- Add salt mixture to a clean glass jar and store in a dark, cool place (like your kitchen cupboard).
Nourishing Herbal Soup Seasoning Mix
Sourced from the Herbal Academy, this nutrient-packed combination is the perfect addition to soups, sauces and stews or sprinkled over veggies and eggs, especially when our immune systems need an extra boost.
Yields 3.5 cups (keeps for months when stored in a dry and dark place in a tightly sealed container)
- 1 cup dried nettle, aerial part
- ½ cup seaweed flakes (dulse, wakame, kombu, nori)
- ½ cup astragalus root powder
- 1 cup shiitake powder
- ½ cup dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (or more if you like it spicy)
- Grind the nettle, seaweed and thyme, if desired.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir well.
- Transfer the mixture to a jar.
- Cover and label.
All of these ideas make for great-looking and useful gifts, whether it’s a Valentine’s Day surprise, a thank you present or a get-well-soon care package. For useful information about the different ways to dry herbs, head over to Mother Earth News for all the methods and storage tips.