Do you love cooking with herbs and flowers and drinking herbal teas? Then July and August are ideal months to harvest and dry them for winter storage. Hot summer days and nights on the west coast make it easy to dry them outdoors. You’ll be surprised how fast they begin to crisp in the warm summer breeze. Before you know it your pantry will be filled with colour and aroma just waiting to become teas, baked goods, soups, stews and so much more! If you don’t grow your own herbs and flowers you can find them at your local farmers or here at Culinary Blossom. There’s nothing more satisfying in the winter than curling up on the couch while sipping a steaming hot cup of tea from your pantry when it’s snowing outside!
SUMMER -TEA- HARVEST
• Before you harvest make sure you know which herbs and flowers are safe to eat
• Shop at your local farmers market for herbs and flowers you don’t grow and add them to your collection
• Choose organically grown or non-sprayed if you’re not growing them yourself
• Harvest herbs and flowers just before they burst into full bloom. That is when they will have the most intense flavor and aroma
• The best time to pick is in the early morning before herbs and flowers are kissed by the sun. That is when their fragrance and potency is the strongest
• Once you have collected your herbs and flowers give them a good shake to dislodge any unwanted hitch-hikers
• Gentry rinse under cool running water and lay on toweling to dry. Once they are dry continue on with the drying process
DRYING HERBS AND FLOWERS
• Once you have collected and washed your herbs and flowers bunch them into small handfuls and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area out of the sun
• Clothes racks, ladders or wood beams make excellent drying tools that can easily be moved indoors if the weather turns. Or string a rope across an area out of the sun and attach your bunches with clothes pegs, string or elastics
• Clothes hangers are another excellent way to dry herbs and flowers. Simply attach 2 or 3 bunches with elastics or string and hang in the shade or from a tree limb. If you have an outdoor tent they can be suspended from the ceiling inside where they will stay protected but still have good ventilation
• If you don’t have an outdoor area to dry your herbs and flowers choose a warm, dry spot inside with good air circulation. Or use an indoor fan to create a gentle breeze. This helps the bunches dry faster and prevents excess moisture which can cause rot
• Harvest herbs and flowers regularly throughout the summer season as picking encourages most plants to continue producing, resulting in a bigger harvest
STORING HERBS AND FLOWERS
• Herbs and flowers need to be fully dry and crisp before transferring to jars or containers. Any remaining moisture can cause rot once the jar is sealed
• An easy way to remove flowers and leaves from stems is to put the bunch head down into a large paper bag. Gently move them around until the leaves and flowers fall off the stems into the bag. Larger flowers and leaves can be picked off the stems by hand so the whole showy flower is kept intact
• Store in clean, dry jars and seal with a lid. Keep in a cool, dry area out of sunlight to prevent fading
• For longer storage use tins or containers that block the light
• Dried herbs and flowers will keep indefinitely however, flavour, colour and health benefits will diminish over time. They are best used in the first 6-8 months after drying. Older dried leftovers can be infused with pure essential oils and used for crafts, steeped into herbal water for plants, or recycled into compost.
TIPS FOR USING YOUR PANTRY
• Dried herbs and flowers can be used in a variety of baked goods adding delicious flavor and health benefits. Turn plain cookies, crackers and biscuits into flavourful creations by adding herbs and flowers before baking. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of coarse salt for savory crackers and serve with a variety of cheeses. For sweet cookies add a dusting of coarse sugar and serve with a pot of your favourite tea.
• Mix and blend herbs and flowers to create teas you love to drink. It’s fun to experiment with flavours!
• Steep a savory tea broth and use it instead of plain water to cook rice, noodles and veggies. The result is a wonderful savoury flavour and aroma that is absolutely delicious!
• Use your pantry to build flavor and umami into winter soups, stews or your favourite comfort foods. A pinch of ‘this’ and a dash of ‘that’ can take an ordinary recipe to the next level.
• Dried herbs and flowers can be steeped into herbal elixirs, vinegar or ground and mixed into salts and sugars to create flavoured seasonings
• Come holiday time use your pantry to make homemade lotions, bath salts, soaps or crafts for gift-giving. There’s nothing more special than a homegrown gift from the heart!