This past Saturday my daughters and I took a short road trip down into Amish Country to visit one of my new favorite stores. Some ladies like to go on shopping sprees at the mall for shoes, purses, or clothes, and others like me get all dreamy-eyed when they step into a bulk herb store. Jars and jars line the shelves, each filled with one amazing dried plant or another. There are so many easy ways to use and enjoy herbs in your home, and today I want to share with you a sampling of my favorites to help you see why herbs can make my heart swoon!
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If someone were to peer into my herb cupboard, they’d see random jars and bags packed full of all sorts of dried herbs. There are roots, leaves, flowers, and mixes all ready to be enjoyed and used throughout the year.
However, if this person was unfamiliar with using bulk herbs, the obvious question might be “What do you do with all of that?” We can all figure out how to take a bag of peppermint tea and put it in hot water, but a glass jar of packed full of dried peppermint? How does that work?
Easy peasy! Let me share some ideas!
In the Yard and Garden
Herbs are simply wonderful to grow in the garden! They are often very low-maintenance, attract beneficial insects, repel unwanted pests, and supply you with an abundant supply of tea and medicine for the whole year.
I try to grow as many of the herbs that I like to use as I can and have been adding to my herb garden annually. If you want to try your hand at growing some commonly used herbs, check out my series from this past spring called Herb-Day Thursday!
Cooking and Baking
A rather obvious one, but still worth mentioning. Home-cooked food tastes so much better with fresh or dried herbs. Tonight I made a simple pot of noodles cooked in chicken broth, but adding some fresh parsley and thyme took them to a whole new level!
I’ve started to become more aware of how many beautiful forms surround me outside that would make simply lovely additions to the inside of our home! Flowers, leaves, and stems from herbs can be pressed or dried and used through the home to bring a touch of the outdoors inside. I think that lavender stems are especially suited for this!
I simply love herbal teas. They are such a delightful way to add nutrition and flavor to plain water without adding any sugar (though honey can be a nice addition).
Store shelves are lined with boxed varieties of herbal teas, but these often have extra ingredients besides the simple herbs. Rather than spend extra money on the packaging, bagging, and flavorings, I prefer to buy bulk herbs (or dry them from our garden), and brew tea with these instead. It’s less expensive, the herbs are of higher quality (no leftover chamomile dust allowed!), and the tea is so much nicer! I like to add my herbs to either a metal tea ball or reusable muslin tea bag like these.
Oil Infusions and Salves
This sounds like it might be more technical, but it truly is not.
In an herbal oil infusion, an herb or herbal mix is very gently heated with an oil, like coconut, olive, or sweet almond. Sometimes this is done in the sunlight, but it can also be done in a slower cooker, double boiler, or warm oven. I like to make herbal oils and then add enough beeswax to harden them into salves. Herbal salves can then be used as muscle rubs, rash soothers, or antibacterial ointments, depending on the herbs used.
This Skin Soother Salve is a great place to start if you are new to oil infusions and salves.
Herbal vinegars are so easy to make, but I have to admit that I have yet to do it! It’s on my list of things to do with the abundant oregano we have. This post from GNOWFGLINS shows how easy it is.
These are concentrated medicinal extracts made from herbs and usually vodka, though apple cider vinegar and glycerine are sometimes called for when making them for children or those who cannot or do not use alcohol in any form. The herbs are usually powdered or finely ground and allowed to steep in the liquid for weeks in a cool, dark place. The tinctures are then administered by drops or other similarly small doses.