Finding Peace in the Garden

By Karen Kennedy
HSA Education Coordinator

LemonBalmClose200911The lazy days of summer quickly transition to the more scheduled and hurried days of autumn. While glorious hues are found in changing leaf color and late season blooms like goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed, the pace of our world undeniably quickens during this season. Add the additional stress and worry about the Covid-19 pandemic and the message is clear–take time to personally cultivate peace and manage stress.

Research by environmental psychologists like Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, as well as landscape architects like Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi Sachs and others, points to the overall positive impact of plant-rich environments and contact with nature on reducing mental fatigue and increasing feelings of restoration, recovery from stress, and improved mood (Haller, Kennedy and Capra, 2019).

Gardeners, without knowledge of the research, often say they find peace and solace in the garden. The act of gardening, tending plants, and focusing on their care and growth, is a peaceful and mentally renewing activity for the gardener. Does fragrance have a role in the enjoyment and satisfaction of gardening? 

Passionflowerincarnata2019.2NervinesSedativesOne of the most enjoyable aspects of the garden is fragrance. The sense of smell is closely tied to our limbic system and can have a powerful impact on feelings of well-being. The fragrance of herbs such as lavender has a well-known association with relaxation and stress relief. Lavender also has a long history of having skin soothing properties, is a sleep aid, and can even relieve headaches. This favorite garden herb is now easily found in all sorts of self-care products from shampoo to body lotions. 

To have a bit of lavender to carry beyond the garden, see below for directions on how to make a roll-on lavender oil blend. This portable project is a wonderful treat to add to a self-care strategy and quite literally, add to one’s tool bag (purse, backpack or pocket)! Especially as we all grow weary of wearing a mask for many hours, putting some on the edge of your mask or on the bridge of your nose will give access to the fragrance where it is needed the most.

Author and HSA member Janice Cox, in her workbook Beautiful Lavender, A Guide and Workbook for Growing, Using, and Enjoying Lavender, shares the following recipe for making roll-on lavender scented oils. 

To make one Roll-on Lavender Bottle:

1 to 2 teaspoons almond, jojoba, argan, avocado, olive, or grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon dried lavender buds

1 to 2 drops lavender essential oil

1-ounce glass roller bottle

Add dried herbs to the bottle. Top with oils and secure the top.

To use, roll a small amount behind your ears, on your wrists, temples or even on the edge of your face mask. Inhale and let the lavender aroma soothe your spirit.IMG_0584

Experiment with other herb combinations such as:

  •     Relaxing blend – lavender, chamomile, and cinnamon
  •     Energizing blend – lavender, dried citrus peel, and mint
  •     Refreshing blend – lavender, eucalyptus, and cedar

Note: use only dried plants when making scented oils. Adding a couple drops of vitamin E oil will act as a natural preservative, making the oil blends last longer.

Herbalist Maria Noel Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals Herbal Clinic and Education Center has additional information on making infused oils in her blog. You can read more about a variety of methods there: https://wintergreenbotanicals.com/2019/08/28/diy-herb-infused-oils-2/

MariaGardenCalendulaWithLogoAndBooksMaria will share other aspects of using peaceful herbs in The Herb Society’s upcoming webinar: Growing & Using Peaceful Herbs. She will talk about growing herbs that promote sleep, boost mood, quell anxiety, and encourage calm energy. She will discuss growing herbs in any size garden. The webinar will take place September 23rd at 1pm EDT.  Our webinars are free to The Herb Society of America members and $5.00 for guests. Become a member today, and enjoy all of our webinars for free along with access to the webinar library with over fifty program titles. To register, visit  www.HerbSociety.org/hsa-learn/hsa-webinars/.

Photo Credits: 1) Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) (Maria Noel Groves); 2) Passionflower and garden bouquet (Maria Noel Groves); 3) Essential oil roll-ons (Janice Cox); 4) Maria Noel Groves (Maria Noel Groves)

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.

References

Haller, R. L., and K. L. Kennedy, C. L. Capra. 2019. The profession and practice of horticultural therapy. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.


Karen Kennedy has been the Education Coordinator for The Herb Society of America since 2012. In this position she coordinates and moderates monthly educational webinars, gives presentations, manages digital education programs and produces educational materials such as the Herb of the Month program,  https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/herb-of-the-month.html. In addition, she is a registered horticultural therapist (HT) with over 30 years of HT and wellness programming experience in health care, social service organizations, and public gardens. Karen loves to garden, knit, drink tea, and is a big fan of her daughter’s soccer team. She lives in Concord Township, near Cleveland, OH, with her husband, daughter and schnoodle, Jaxson.

Herbal Hacks, Part 4: Herbs for the Home

This is our last installment of reader-submitted herbal hacks – herbs for the home. We hope they’ve inspired you to use herbs in new and creative ways. Enjoy!  

bees-insects-pollen-lavender-flowers-garden_Creative commons via Pxfuel

When your “Italian herbs” (whether store-bought or home-mixed) reach the end of their tasty usefulness, place them in the coffee grinder and pulverize. Then, mix equal parts herbs and baking soda and strew over your wool carpet. Let sit for one hour or overnight, then vacuum. It is surprisingly deodorizing and refreshing! – Lisa de Vries

20210503_162231Got a big patch of lemon balm in the garden? Freshen up your sink disposal after trimming the lemon balm leaves to use in salads! Stuff the stems down the drain and whirr away for lemony freshness. – Peg Deppe

I drop lavender essential oil on wool dryer balls for a fresh fragrance on my laundry. – Cynthia Wheeler

I fill large tea bags with lavender flowers, seal them with a curling iron, and then place them in my clothing to keep moths out…and they smell so good! – Rena Barnett

Wool dryer balls by Christine Rondeau via wikipediaHerb sprinkles for aromatherapy: I am not a very good housekeeper since I would much rather be doing other things – especially being outside in the garden. Worst of all, I do not like to vacuum – I avoid it like the plague. A way to make the task more pleasant and clean out the pantry or apothecary at the same time, is to use up your old, spent herbs. I sprinkle them around on the carpets in all the different rooms – anything from thyme to rosemary, and oregano to lemon balm, peppermint, or anise hyssop. Just liberally scatter them about with reckless abandon. Then, when you vacuum, you really notice what you are doing, and you are treating yourself to aromatherapy at the same time. Depending upon which herbs you use, inhaling the herbal fragrances can relax or stimulate you or give you a sunny disposition and helps to get the job done. – Susan Belsinger

Use a lavender-filled sachet in the dryer when drying your linens. Spray your lingerie with rose water. – Kim Labash

Use lavender buds to fill cloth bags for all closets and some drawers. You can purchase the lavender and/or the bags – but make sure there are no tiny bugs in either! – Becki Smith

Lavender sachet from PixabayProbably not a new idea, but I like to hang little bundles of fragrant herbs in my guest bathroom. If you include roses, the bundles can look attractive as well as adding fragrance. – Elizabeth Kennel

There are two herbs in my garden that are indispensable air fresheners – without the need for wicks or spray bottles. The foliage of both Tagetes lucida (winter tarragon, mint marigold) and Pycnanthemum muticum (mountain mint) will release fragrance for a very long time in a dry bouquet. The mountain mint is sharp and refreshing, especially in the winter. The marigold is simply one of my favorite scents in the world, soft and sweet like nothing else I know. Please do try it. – Ann Lamb 

Photo Credits: 1) Floral border (Pxfuel); 2) Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) (Erin Holden); 3) Dryer balls (Christine Rondeau via Creative Commons); 4) Lavender sachets (Pixabay)

Culinary Guru Shares “The Secret to Cooking with Lavender

By Jen Munson, HSA Education Chairlavender nancyLavender is as versatile in the kitchen as it is in the craft room and herbal medicine cabinet. However, use it incorrectly and you will overwhelm potential fans. To wow friends and family there are secrets you’ll want to employ before charging forward and sprinkling lavender on all your culinary creations.

On September 17th at 1pm eastern, join us in this lively, information-packed webinar. You will learn dozens of fun and creative, yet practical ways to use culinary lavender to boost flavor and fragrance while adding pizzazz to dishes. Enhanced with a wealth of eye-catching and informative images, lots of how-tos, and tips, guest speaker Nancy Baggett will cover the following:

  1. How types of lavender differ from one another, which kinds are best for culinary purposes and which should not be used in cooking
  2. Useful basic methods for taking advantage of lavender flavor and aroma
  3. A helpful discussion of “what lavender goes with”

Webinars are free to members of The Herb Society of America and non-members are charged a nominal fee of $5.00. Can’t make the date? Register anyway as recorded webinars are sent to all registrants.

Nancy Baggett is an award-winning author of nearly twenty cookbooks, most recently the The Art of Cooking with Lavender, which won a 2017 Independent Publisher “Books for Better Living” award and is sold in lavender growers’ shops all over the nation. Considered one of America’s top experts on cooking with lavender, Nancy frequently speaks and demonstrates on the topic. Her website devoted to lavender photos, recipes, and her lavender book are at: https://nancyslavenderplace.com For more biographical details and information on her other cookbooks visit: www.kitchenlane.com.

Start your lavender adventures with this recipe for Sweet Harvest Tea. Pour a cup and settle in to enjoy our September 17th webinar. Click here to register here for the webinar.

Sweet Harvest Tea

¼ cup loosely packed, fresh lemon balmlavender tea

¼ cup loosely packed, fresh peppermint leaves

1 tsp fresh or dried lavender blossoms

3” slice of orange peel (orange part only) 2 cups water

Place herbs and orange peel in a large teapot. In a small saucepan, heat water to almost boiling and pour over herbs in teapot. Cover teapot and let mixture steep for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer to serve.

Source: Herbsociety.orglavender book

Discover the Best Lavender for Cooking

Discover the Best Lavender for Cooking

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

In early July I was invited to a potluck picnic for Edible Cleveland magazine. Potlucks push my overachiever button and I wanted to impress my fellow writers. So, I challenged myself to making something apropos of the magazine — local, seasonal and organic. As the blogmaster for The Herb Society of America I thought it would be fun to reflect my passion for herbs.

20170714_191450 (2)

Lavender scones seemed like a great idea, but they just weren’t impressive enough. So, I picked up The Art of Cooking with Lavender by Nancy Baggett. There I found a recipe for lavender chicken salad.

 

(The boyfriend said he’d chose Wendy’s over lavender-spiked food, but he ate the chicken salad without notice.)

My next step was to gather significant ingredients … free-range, organic chicken from New Creation Farm in Chardon, Ohio, and lavender from Luvin’ Lavender in Madison, Ohio. That’s where I learned that not all lavender is created equal when it comes to the kitchen.

20170630_150338 (2)Luvin’ Lavender grows 19 varieties, with a seven best suited to culinary use. That’s because each variety has subtle (or even bold) taste differences. Some are sweeter or more floral; others have a stronger camphor component.

Having learned from the owner Laurie H, I turned to my friend Edgar Anderson of Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Shop & Le Petit Bistro on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin, with more questions on lavender in the kitchen. Anderson and his wife Martine operate a 21-acre farm with 14,000 plants – 10 varieties — on five acres of land. In addition to their Washington Island retail shop, they operate another retail shop in Fish Creek, WI and a bistro with a lavender-based menu.

“For cooking, it’s best to stay within the English varieties – Lavendula angustifolia,” he says.  The most commonly found L. angustifolias as retail are ‘Hidcote’, ‘Munstead’ and ‘Royal Velvet’.

“Within the English there are minute nuances. They’re usually very sweet in taste and smell. One might be more lemony or flowery, but all are easy to work with in the kitchen,” says Edgar. Fragrant Isle uses royal velvet in most of their edible products.

English lavender is usually harvested from June through July. Fragrant Isle harvests twice, once for buds and once for distilling into oil. Harvesting for dry buds – unopened flowers – is done by hand. Flower stems are cut and made into small bundles tied with rubberbands.

mediakit07The bundles hang in a barn for six weeks until they’re dry enough to separate purple flower buds from gray-green stems. While the farm mechanizes separation, home growers can gently shake or brush the crop into a bag or onto a cloth.

Leaves, stems and debris should not be part of the process . “You don’t want them because they will give a grassy scent to your cooking. We have vibrating sifting screens to remove debris. They go through three different screenings.” At home colanders and mesh sifters might be useful.

DSC_1908The culinary lavender oil is distilled from fresh lavender bundles.   The fresh lavender bundles are placed in their copper still, usually 40 pounds of fresh lavender bundles, and once the water reaches 212 degrees F, the lavender is “cooked” for 90 minutes.   Then the lavender flowers release their essential oil and hydrosol, which are captured in a glass container.   The essential oil, being lighter than water floats to the top.   Once the hydrosol is drained, the essential oil remains and is placed in a glass bottle.   Culinary essential oil is used for baking, as it is more potent than culinary lavender buds.

Once processed Fragrant Isle either uses the lavender in the bistro or packages it for sale. Home growers should put it in a sealed container – preferably glass — and store away from humidity.


AK1D2050-2Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm & Shop, is hosting its 3rd Annual “All Things Lavender” Festival Friday, July 21 – Sunday, July 23, 2017.  Festival highlights include daily seminars presented by Lavender Industry Experts, Experiences to explore one’s inner artist with painting classes, pampering with massages, Destiny Readings, Lavender U-Pick Field, Entertainment by Musical performers & Washington Island Scandinavian Folk Dancers and Food be it a taste of “lavender,” from sweet to savory, exquisite chocolates, Apple Lavender Cider, or Light Belgian style beer with bright lavender and honey tones.

Culinary Creativity: Lavender Jelly

20151101_110956I can’t stop making jelly … I’m obsessed by the alchemy of sugar and fruit. Balsamic-strawberry with pink peppercorns. Bourbon peach. Spiced cider. Lemon thyme. Mint. Lavender.

Yes, lavender. I took a basic herb jelly recipe, changing up the herb for different products.

Oh. My. God.

Lavender has been the most inspired. My friends are in for a sublime holiday gift.

Lavender jelly is such a girl thing. It begs for an intimate garden party or sophisticated high tea with shortbread or scones. It would be tasty as a glaze for ham or topping for cream cheese spread or spread between layers of pound cake.  Maybe thumbprint cookies or jelly-filled doughnuts. I’ve seen suggestions as a garnish with lamb, chicken or turkey.

My jelly started with dried culinary lavender flowers. Grow your own, source them locally or mail order from a trustworthy farm. I ordered English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, from Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon. I would have sourced the locally, but quantities were limited.

The first step in production was lavender tea. While some recipes use water, I infused lavender in apple juice. After boiling one cup of dried lavender flowers in four cups apple juice, I was supposed to steep them for 10 minutes. I was tired, so I went to bed and the flower buds soaked overnight.

Wow! When I tasted the tea in the morning, it was intense. So, I diluted it with 50 percent water.  Even then, the results were powerful. I’d say thin the tea at your discretion.

Without food coloring the product is pink-ish. With food coloring it turns a brownish-purple. With the gold of apple juice, a light lavender seems impossible. I’d suggest avoiding food coloring. For gifting a label, is important. And, in fact, should suggest uses for this culinary indulgence. My next project is developing those labels.


Know that Mountain Rose Herbs cautions, “Similar to cilantro, some individuals perceive the taste of lavender in a manner 20151101_110700that is undesirable within cuisine. An estimated 10 percent of the population interprets lavender to have a soapy and unsavory flavor. For this reason, it may be wise to exercise caution while using lavender as a flavoring agent.”


What’s your favorite herbal jelly?

Lavender Love: It’s everywhere

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

It’s synchronicity … a meaningful coincidence … that I’m finding lavender everywhere. Or perhaps a trend that I didn’t know about?

In August I ordered bulk lavender buds to make sachets for Christmas gifts.

Next thing I know my friend, travel writer Janet Podolak, posts a picture of herself in French lavender fields.Lavendar Janet

The weekend came and I was at a family gathering where the virtues of lavender essential oil became a topic.

lavender margharetaThen, at Barrio taqueria in Cleveland, the specials included a lavender margarita.  You bet that I ordered it.

A day later I was at a conference – Content Marketing World – and one of the vendors was treating us to lemon-lavender shortbread.

Back at the Willoughby (Ohio) Farmer’s Market vendor Maggie Fusco was selling aromatic, handcrafted lavender wands.Lavendar wands

Its as though the lavender gods were blessing me with my favorite herb. Now, if I could just get it to grow it without getting so spindly and sad in the limited sunshine over my Northeast Ohio parcel of clay.

P.S. After I’d written this I stumbled upon Luvin’ Lavender Farm in Madison, Ohio. I’ll hold on to their story for another blog. Watch this space!


Share your synchronous herb experience in the comments below.

Handmade: Sachets from Vintage Hankies

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Craft sachets (18)In mid-August I was at a garage sale full of 1940s and 1950s household paraphernalia. Among the milky salt shakers, bakelite jewelry and vanity sets were two tins of vintage hankies. Impressed with the old prints and even more impressed with crochet borders and embroidered designs, I wanted the colorful lot. So, $20 later, they were mine.

Unfolding my treasurers I counted forty hankies … about 50 cents each. Not a bad price in the Northeast Ohio collectible market.

Now what? I was waiting for inspiration. I, too often, buy stuff because it’s pretty and/or a bargain. Just ask me about those vintage patchwork quilts that match nothing in my home décor. But, I digress…

I washed the hankies on delicate and ironed them crisp. Folded twice, they’re smallish squares. Craft sachets (4)

I tend be OCD sometimes, so I organized them by color, then embellishment.

Eureka! Sachets!

Lavender-filled squares to scent clothing drawers. Hops-filled sachets for inducing sleep. Eucalyptus sachets for winter colds. Rose-filled sachets, well … just because. Gifts for everyone.

I decided to keep them folded, machine sew two sides, stuff them and close them. Then, overthinking I contemplated threadCraft sachets (7) color. Fortunately, I returned to my senses and went with white because it’s universal.

Finally, it was show time. The sewing went quickly.

With the first batch I was on a lavender high. I could just roll around in those. I picked the prettiest, frilliest hankies because the flowers seem so delicate despite the intense aroma.

The hops, meanwhile, had been vacuum sealed into plastic so I used my fingers to loosen the tight wads. Not long and my fingers were a bit oily-sticky from the herbaceous brewing ingredient. And, yes, smelling a bit like a bitter hoppy beer. I guess I won’t give these sachets to my lager swigging friends.

While roses haven’t been known to induce sleep, they’d make feminine drawer sachets. I could even see vintage ladies Craft sachets (14)tucking the smallest into their ample bosoms to release perfume in the summer’s heat.

Eucalyptus was a last-minute addition when all that herb sniffing left me with a stuffy head. Why not make sachets to tuck inside the pillow when you have a cold.

Forty herb packages later and I’ve started my Christmas crafting. I just might go with an aromatherapy basket for friends and family this year. Next up? Soap.

Stay tuned.

P.S. Be selective about hops. Seek out the sweetest. Those used for bitter India Pale Ales are only for the hardcore herb or beer lover. At first whiff, they smell like day-old, spilled beer. If you can hold out for 2 seconds the scent mellows into something sleep inducing. If your budget is tight, don’t bother.


What’s on your holiday crafting gift list? What are you making for friends and family. Tell us in the comments below.