July 29, 2021
Are you a gardener, watching your harvest grow this summer? I am, and since the start of the pandemic, I've really enjoyed digging (literally) into my backyard and doing more projects than I ever have before. Weekends off with my husband (for the first time in the decade we’ve known each other) provided the perfect opportunity to work outside creating quite the sanctuary in our backyard! Not only did we expand our garden (again) and build more planting areas around the yard (again), we’ve created a winding path up to a woodland area where I can sit and read. We’ve also created new areas for wildlife and pollinators, including a wildflower patch, bee hotels, and my favorite addition: a pond, complete with a winding stream, waterfall, lily pads (among other water loving plants), frogs, toads, and fish! My husband and I often sit by the pond with our morning coffee, enjoying the flowers surrounding it, typically with a cat or two by our feet or on our lap (all three love to enjoy the outdoors- with a harness on for safety!)
One area that was never a success for me before - but is now flourishing - is my herb garden. After always growing herbs in pots (and watching them fail to thrive), I created an in-ground herb garden this year and everything is flourishing, maybe a little too much! With so many herbs doing so well, I want to make sure nothing is being wasted, so I've checked out some of our library’s resources to find out the best ways of harvesting and drying all of my herbs for use in cooking and making tea in the future. Here are a few of my favorite finds:
This was the first book I found pertaining to herbs, and it was probably one of my favorites. As the title suggests, it was an easy-to-follow guide to everything you need to know about herbs and edible flowers. It was split into three sections: growing the garden, specific information about the herbs, and gathering/preserving them after they're grown (which is the part I was most excited about!). Included are also tips on seasonal maintenance, which I made sure to take note of, fertilizers, defending your plants against pests, how to grow them indoors, and more. I especially liked the chapter that had several pages devoted to each herb or edible flower and its growing tips, sowing and planting information, harvesting information, any necessary warnings, and fun tidbits, like making lavender lattes or how great lavender is to add to your hot chocolate! I was surprised at how many flowers I never knew were edible, like one of my very favorites to grow: violas. The most useful information to me was on how to dry and store herbs, as well as recipes for tea blends and dried herb blends for cooking that I’m excited to try out! The book also has resources listed in the back, including a website with a plethora of information: www.easy-growing.com.
Split between how to make your own herbal remedies and chapters on specific herbs and spices, this is another of my favorite resources. Not only did this include information on how to make teas from herbs, which is what I was looking for, but it also walks readers through making your own oils, syrups, salves, and more. I really liked that each plant section included multiple recipes for how to use it, and liked that the growing information and medicinal uses were prominent.
This was another great resource with a wealth of knowledge on just herbs specifically. It had a great section on harvesting, drying, and even freezing herbs, as well as several recipes. The book was then divided into sections delving into the 40 most popular herbs, with cultivation, propagation, harvesting, and preserving information on each, as well as cooking tips and notes.
Not only did this resource include specific growing and preparing information for each herb, it also included sections on designing an herb garden and container gardening. Recipes were included at the end as well for fresh and dry herb blends, pestos, oils, teas, and more.
If space outdoors is limited for you, this is a great resource. The book walks readers through all of the specifics, from choosing containers to where specifically to place your container gardens to tips on moving them outdoors if you want to. Part two is useful for everyone, even those who don’t use containers for their herbs, as it includes projects like making home remedies, aromatherapy products, natural beauty and cleaning products, and my favorite section: herbs for tea blending. There’s also sections on growing herbs for pollinators, propagation, harvesting, and maintenance like dealing with pests and diseases.
This started out with the medicinal benefits, harvesting information, and drying and tea-making instructions for white, black, and green tea. It then was split into chapters on specific leaves, seeds, fruits, flowers, and roots. I found this to be one of the most useful resources pertaining specifically to tea because there was more information on each specific plant than any other book I found. It also had a plethora of helpful tips, tea blends to try, and warnings if needed, and inspired me to try to make tea from a few more things than I was planning, like blueberries and raspberry leaves.
This resource was split into three sections: one with general information, one section on each of the specific herbs used, and the last section had recipes that pertained to certain ailments like headaches and nausea. The only downside to this resource that I personally found was that many of the herbs mentioned don’t seem to be easily accessible (which I was expecting), but I still found enough information in it to be useful.
This book has a small section in the back called “creating garden teas," which includes harvesting, drying, and plant information, along with a couple recipes. If you’re not just looking for information on tea, this includes instructions on how to make juice, wine, kombucha, syrups, and ciders.
If you’re just looking for a quick overview, this book is full of gorgeous photographs and a quick overview on how to grow and use each one, as well as a quick overview on harvesting and preserving herbs at the end.
This is for the reader who really wants to dive into the medicinal benefits of each herb. I found with the most extensive information on that, as well as a few recipes to try out for each herb.
Don't judge this book by the cover (or date of publication), because it packs a punch with information on medicinal herbs! Not only does each informational page of each herb include a visual chart of the parts used, applications, and cautions, there was also a large section on how to make herbal remedies through harvesting, drying, infusions, and more. The book ended with large charts on common ailments that included the herb to be used, how to use it, what combinations would work well, and any cautions on it. My only real caveat with this resource is that it is quite dated, so I would only use it in conjunction with something published more recently.
if you’re looking for a fun and informative resource about tea to share with children, this book has a rhyming story throughout that shares information on tea from different cultures, while emphasizing the magic of tea to bring people together.
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