Essential Oils

What to do with all of that delightful Mint!

 By Bobbi Henkel - WRHS Garden Chair

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Peppermint is one of the easiest to grow and most versatile of the common kitchen herbs.  It gives back to your effort with its lovely green appearance and pretty little tufts of terminal racemes of flower spikes.   But, the fragrance and the taste potential give its most sought after delights.

Ease of growing:   Mint grows in full or partial sun, and can easily be started in pots on your patio, or placed into soil directly in places where you wouldn’t care if it spreads like wildfire.

It attracts pollinators and grows in lousy clay soil like my Ohio backyard,  but even better in some cultivated lovely loamy humus.  Even Miracle Grow.  Don’t let it dry out.  It loves moisture and is a frost-hardy perennial in zones 3-12.   And, if you’re worried and want it to produce even longer, bring it into your garage or porch over the winter.  My pots stay outdoors in Northern Ohio Winters and are about 5 years old so far.

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Fresh cut for flower bouquets:  The leaves are a pretty deep green growing off square stems that hold their shape easily.   You can mix them into black eyed Susans  and you have a sensual treat because of the fragrance and the colors.   The blooms appear at the terminus of the stems in little tufts of white or light pink or lavender.

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To use Peppermint freshly picked:  Choose small tender bright green leaves and pick whole stems.  Wash it under cold water and pat it dry with a towel.

Add a sprig to garnish a glass of lemonade or iced tea

Add small leaves to fruit salads:  cantaloupe, watermelon, berries with a squirt of lemon over them all.  Chill and serve. Also? Why don't you mix up fresh Arnold Palmers:  1/2 lemonade with 1/2 cold tea and add 2 tablespoons of minced fresh peppermint.    Allow to stand for an hour then strain and serve over ice. This allows a subtle hint of mint.   Longer steeping yields stronger flavor.

Freeze finely chopped peppermint (2 tsps) into ice cube tray compartments.  Add water or lemonade to fill the cube compartments and freeze.  Use the cubes in beverages immediately or up to two months later if kept in plastic bags in the freezer.  You are ready for mojitos anytime  or you can add them to spice up steamed veggies:  baby carrots, new potatoes are the ones I do with a little butter and lemon or lime juice.

 Another of my favorite uses for chopped peppermint is to combine it with parsley, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make your own tabbouleh salads

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Dried:   wash your fresh peppermint under cold water and pat it dry.  Then allow it to dry for a few days in a warm dry not at all humid place.  You can hang several stems upside down in paper bags for a few days until the leaves are crispy.

Add it to summer beverages and allow to sit overnight.  Strain, and serve over ice.  Dried mint is stronger than fresh so this makes a minty lemonade for those of us who love that menthol flavor in tea or ginger ale or lemonade. 

Slip a few leaves into your facial mask for a subtle pleasant minty lift that distracts you from thoughts of pandemics.

Steep dried mint into boiling water and add honey for a soothing mint tea great for sore throats.

Make the dried leaves into a “Mint Potpourri” and house them in little fabric pockets to ward off spiders and add fragrance to closets or drawers.

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Mint Jelly: This recipe from Simply Recipes is one of or favorites because it uses tart Granny Smith Apples as its base so it needs no added pectin! This delicious jelly will always add a little zip to your roast lamb, fish dishes, or chicken.

The  oils in mints are strongest when picked from mid summer leaves when the plants are receiving 14 hours of sunshine a day.   Pinch off blooms to retain tenderness in new leaves and bushier plants.   Older tougher leaves are stronger tasting and less pleasant, but still make great dried preparations for potpourri’s that are said to repel spiders.

Growing mints in your garden allows a fragrant green colony of plants that are pleasant to humans but not to deer, squirrels, mice, or ants.    If you don’t mind their love of life and desire to take over the adjacent spaces, they are terrific 2 to 3 foot high covers serving to hide in front of air conditioner boxes.   If you mind their spreading tendencies, sink pots into the soil that impede the roots from trespassing beyond the container limits.  I just create “peppermint pots” that offer free aromatherapy when I water them in the evening.

Sigh.   Bliss, bliss. 

Love,

Bobbi 

 

We are still in the middle of our month of fundraising, and if you would care to support our “No Fair Herb Fair” with a tax exempt donation of any size it will always be greatly appreciated.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
To make a donation in honor of the “No Fair Herb Fair!” please go to https://www.westernreserveherbsociety.org/support-our.../
Thank you so much!

 

 


Making Luscious Herb and Fruit Infused Waters & Teas

By Beth Schreibman Gehring, Education Chair for the Western Reserve Herb Society 

 

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“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” 

― Muriel Barbery,

 

 

Drinking enough water, especially on these hot summer days is so very important , but not always easy to do. Truthfully it’s important to hydrate all year round, for in the winter we may not be battling the summer heat but instead the skin drying environments that our furnaces produce. Enjoying a tall glass or two of  lemon and herb water daily will help to hydrate the skin, balance alkalinity, and make you glow from within all year long.

 

I love to infuse filtered water with any number of herbs, spices, edible flowers, fruit and even vegetables! Infused water is delicious, refreshing and needs no added sugar. On occasion I’ll add a pinch of Himalayan salt and some honey or maple syrup for added energy! I’ve included my recipe for honey syrup below. It’s so much better for you than sugar!

 

Not only is it wonderful mixed into these infusions, it’s a terrific sweetener for iced tea or coffee because It will sweeten the tea and you won’t have any trouble stirring it in! Untitled design - 2019-08-04T174935.825

Here are some quick and easy tips for making Your Own Fruit and Herbal Infusions and teas!

 

Don't be afraid to mix and combine herbs. If the scents mingle well, the flavors probably will too!

 

The longer you steep your herbs in the water, the stronger the flavor will be. However sometimes long steeping makes the infusion bitter, so experiment and figure out when your infusion  is just the way you like it. There are no strict brewing rules.

 

Add a squirt or splash of fruit juice to the infusion and transform it into an herbal punch. You can stir in homemade jams or jellies. You can create these with sparkling water as well as still water.

 

 

Basic herb/fruit  Infusion recipe

A pitcher or container of filtered water

Your herbs, washed and rinsed

Fruits, vegetables and spices- cut and prepared

Mix everything together in a container of water and stir. I love to use a cocktail muddler, but you may want to use a wooden spoon. Refrigerate for an hour, add ice and stir. If you wish , you can make an individual serving, using a mason jar. It’s up to you!

 

 

Here are some suggestions to flavor your infused waters- Choose as many as you want!

 

Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Holy Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Anise Hyssop, Dill, Lavender, Rose Geranium

 

Edible flowers: Rose, Lavender, Citrus Blossoms, Hibiscus, Pansies, Violets, Nasturtiums

 

Fruit: Berries (Fresh or Frozen),Peaches and Nectarines,  Melon, Tropical Fruits, Citrus, Apples, Pears

 

Spices: Cinnamon Sticks, Cardamom Pods, Fresh Ginger, Cloves, Vanilla Bean, Star Anise, Pink Peppercorns

 

Vegetables: Cucumber, Celery, Fennel, Carrots, Beets, Asparagus

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Making Honey Syrup

 

To make a simple honey syrup just take equal parts honey and water, place them into a saucepan and heat them until the honey has melted into the water. You can make stronger flavored and thicker syrup by using two parts honey to one-part water. Honey syrup will keep for up to two weeks in a capped jar.

 

You can also add fresh lemon and orange peel,  lemon thyme, cinnamon basil , lemongrass , cinnamon stick, pink pepper, ginger , star anise or other herbs to the syrup while it is heating and allow it to infuse for about an hour. Then strain the syrup while it’s still warm and refrigerate.

 

I like to always remind people that historically, herbs were the original medicines. So many of them are very safe when used correctly, but if you are taking any prescription medications at all, don’t use herb teas for medicinal purposes until you’ve spoken with your Doctor.

 

Even more helpful is your local pharmacist who is the absolute authority on what herbs can contraindicate with the medicines that you are taking. For example, the simple cranberry is the go-to fruit to stave off a urinary tract infection.  It can be very effective in that capacity, but if you are taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin, it can also be very dangerous, causing your blood to thin more than it is supposed to.

 

Just a reminder although I know that it’s become very fashionable to do so, I and most experienced aromatherapists do not ever recommend that you   use essential oils internally, especially mixed in water for flavoring . Essential oils can be very caustic and many of us have seen our fair share of esophageal injury from their ingestion.

 

If you, like me, are tired of cane sugar sweetened soda drinks, or simply longing for a refreshing and healthy beverage that’s fun and different,  I hope that you’ll try to make your own refreshing herb and fruit waters. Two of my favorite combinations are watermelon, basil and blackberry with honey syrup and In the fall I really enjoy fresh apple slices muddled with cinnamon basil, maple syrup and muscadine grapes!  

 

I’d love to know some of your favorite combinations! Why don’t you leave them for me in the comments!

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk.