Summer’s bountiful flowers and herbs will soon be a thing of the past — unless you take some time now to dry them for further use. Dried flowers will give your home added cheer during snowy days, and make graceful presents. Dried herbs can contribute to flower bouquets — but their primary focus will go to flavoring the soups and stews you concoct all fall and winter.
It’s not hard to dry this greenery. Start in morning, when the dew has evaporated and the flowers are still fresh. Clip and bind them in large bundles — these can stand upright in a jar, or be hung face-down from hooks. Colonial-era cooks hung their herbs from the ceiling beams in the kitchen, keeping them conveniently nearby for plucking a leaf now and then for flavoring.
Another Method: Silica Gel
This sand-like gritty material is poured on and over blooms until covered, then the mixture is left alone until the flower is dry. This works well for stronger flowers, preserving their color and shape. Delicate flowers, however, can be crushed.
Once your flowers are dry, arrange them in a basket, bowl or vase. (Wire can be used to reinforce the blooms and keep them from breaking off.) Flowers and petals can be mixed into potpourris, or used in sachets. (Instructions are here. For sachet potpourri bags, a la Martha Stewart, go here.)
Herbs can be stripped off the stems, crumbled, then stored in jars for use in cooking. Try mixing several for unusual herb blends, or adding a little salt. (Some good ideas are here.) Or just include a jar’s worth in your favorite person’s holiday package. What mom or grandma wouldn’t be thrilled to include some of your homegrown sage in their Thanksgiving turkey!
Flower Candidates For Drying
Look for flowers with lower water content. Full-blown flowers tend to drop their petals more than half-open blooms. Pick them early, and keep the drying bundles away from wind and heat. Possibilities include roses, strawflower and statice (the traditional dried-flower bouquet items), baby’s breath, delphinium, starflower, yarrow, cornflowers and African marigolds. (Daisies, zinnias and marigolds also hold up well in silica gel.) If you’re attending a wedding, snag any unused blooms, dry them — and you’ve got an especially meaningful present for the bride in the future.
Herbs For Drying
Practically any herb dries well– and most mix decoratively with flowers. Lavender, sage and bay leaves are excellent, and keep their shapes well. Juicier herbs like basil dry well, but are not that attractive in display.
Herbs and flowers can also be mixed in wreaths and swags. They’ll look beautiful, and provide welcome memories all season long.