‘Tis the season to be herbal

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‘Tis the season of showing our love and gratitude with giving gifts to those we care about most.  In these commercial times it is often easy to lose sight of the message we are trying to send with our choice of present. There is still time now to make your own personalised gifts which give a little of you and send the message that the recipient is special enough for you to spend time and forethought, not just money.

Naturally my gift suggestions have all have a herbal theme. Would you expect any less of me?

Herb Oils: Add your choice of herbs to olive oil and warm over low heat for a few minutes. Transfer herbs into sterilised bottles (do not use your hands). Pour over the warm oil, enough to cover all the plant material well.  Don’t fill bottle all the way to the lid.  Wipe the rim and cover tightly with a lid, label & date. Keep in a cool place for at least 2 days before use. This will store in the fridge for a month.  If you wish to store it for longer, leave out the plan material when bottling.

Herb Vinegars: Place a sprig or two of your favourite herb into a sterilised bottle. In a non-reactive saucepan bring good quality vinegar to a boil. Using a funnel pour the hot vinegar over the herbs. Cover bottle and leave in a sunny, warm place for 2 weeks to allow the flavour to develop. Turn bottle daily.  After the 2 weeks, place fresh sprigs of herbs into a new set of sterilised bottles. Strain the vinegar, removing the old herbs. Pour vinegar into the new bottles.  Cover, label and date.  The flavoured vinegar will be ready to use in 2 weeks and unopened will last for up to a year.

You can make your own dried herb blends for friends who like to cook, Mexican,  Indian, Thai, French, Italian and whatever other cuisine you can think of. In a personalised jar, this makes a lovely gift.

Elderflower Cordial
1.5 litres/3 pints water, 2kg/4 1/2 lb raw sugar, 6 lemons – peel & juice, 30ml/1 fl oz apple cider or white wine vinegar,20 heads of elderflower (I used 20 teaspoons of dried elderflowers)
Pour boiled water into a sterilised non metal container. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Cool.  Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, vinegar and elderflowers. Cover with a muslin cloth and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Strain the cordial through the muslin and pour into glass bottles with metal levered caps. Once made, leave the cordial for 2 weeks. Then serve chilled, diluted with still or sparkling water to taste. Store in a cool, dark place and use within 3 months.

Rosehip Cordial
1kg rosehips, granulated sugar
Bring 1.75 litres/1 1/2 quart of water to the boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Meanwhile finely chop the rosehips. Add to boiling water, cover, then simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Line a sieve with muslin, drain the rosehips by leaving them overnight till it stops dripping. Measure volume of juice. For every 600mls/1 pint of juice add 350g/21 oz of granulated sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil until syrupy (approx. 5 minutes). Pour into clean bottles and store in the fridge. Will keep chilled for 3 weeks. Makes approx. 1.75 litres.

Lavender Biscuits
115g /4ozunsalted butter , 55g/2 oz caster sugar, 175g/6 oz self raising flour, 2 tbsp chopped fresh lavender leaves , 1 tsp lavender flowers, removed from stem
Cream butter and sugar. Add flour and lavender leaves and knead into dough. Roll onto a floured board, sprinkle with the flowers and press them into the dough with rolling pin. Cut into desired shapes and bake on a greased baking sheet at 230º C/445º F (preheated) for about ten minutes.

You could make personalised tinctures for a herbal wellness kit, or small bottles of different blends of massage oils.

Here is a really cute gift idea I saw on the Herb Companion website “Whether you’re looking for a miniature-sized gift to hand out at parties or earthy treats to decorate your windowsill, this herb cupcake belongs in your home.” If making your own products is still a bit too scary, putting together personalised gift baskets is a great alternative.

For the tea enthusiast, a stylish mug or tea set, with an assortment of appropriate herbal teas on a lovely tray would make an excellent and useful gift indeed. Speaking of teas, you could also put themed packs of herbal teas together. For example, for the family with small children (or any kids really) chamomile, peppermint, fennel, rosehip and linden flowers make a great selection.  There are so many themes you could follow. Make your own cold and flu pack with elderberry, elderflower, yarrow, peppermint & wild thyme. Or a detox pack with dandelion, milk thistle & nettles. What about a flower pack with elderflowers, linden flowers, lavender and chamomile?

Everyone loves a pamper pack and there are now a lot of great herbal products available that it should not be hard to put together a personalised gift. Handmade herbal soaps, skin washes, tonics, bath salts and more can be especially selected with the individual in mind.  For new mums, over worked uncle, grandma who never takes a moment for herself or your best friend who could really do with a herbal hug….anyone at all can benefit from such a thoughtful message.

So many ideas – so little time.  Hurry up, get herbal now!!!

AnkeB

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