Drying Herbs & Flowers

flowersSummer’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.

Indoor Gardening

Gardening can be done anywhere. You can pick up a ‘green’ light at the local hardware store and set up an area for yourself somewhere in the home. It’s not really conducive to growing traditionally huge plants like cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash, but there are several advantages to growing your own microgreens, mushrooms, and herbs.

All you really need is some water, some reasonably nutritious soil, some seeds, and good light. Mother Nature takes care of the rest – the plants themselves know how to grow. All of these things, when combined, yield a whole lot more in food for less than you’d pay for fruits, vegetables, and herbs at the supermarket. That, and the fun of getting to play in dirt is quite compelling.

Herbs
Here at Penny Thots, there was an article about how your seasoning mixes are wasting you money, and that’s definitely true. You don’t get to control what goes into the herbs and spice packs, nor do you get to control the added fillers. Growing your own herbs is a time investment – one that all you have to do is watch them grow.

Basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, and tarragon are all excellent herbs for growing indoors. These herbs want to live, and so they’ll work very hard to make sure that happens. Drying your herbs doesn’t take that much effort, either; you can do it in the oven or naturally by setting them in the sun. Either way, for the price of some seeds and a little setup, you can start a great indoor garden in your apartment or other small living space.

Microgreens and Mushrooms
Every week, I spend about $3 on mushrooms. I am madly in love with most mushrooms, as they are so versatile and have an amazing array of varieties. There’s nothing that makes a hamburger sing so well as having a side of succulent buttered mushrooms on the side. These can be grown at home with minimum investment.

You see, growing things with small root systems is the name of the game when doing it indoors. For both microgreens and mushrooms, you need a light source and a paste of seeds and nutrients spread over a cooking tray. That’s pretty much it. I mean – it’s not that hard – look at chia pets!

The secret to indoor gardening is leaving things alone. Once you give the plants a little water, a little sun, and some nutrients, you’re good to go. For a small investment of time and under $50, you can have enough greens, mushrooms, and herbs to last you all year round. Good luck, and happy gardening!

This post is by Emily Hunter  who blogs at Million Ways to Save.

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