Monday, February 13, 2012

Herbs for Fragrance

Here are a few ideas to have your home smelling sweet for Valentine's Day, and all year round!

Cinnamon Spice Simmering Potpourri
This is a great blend to use after cooking – my Mom used to use a simpler version after she fried fish or onions, to freshen the air.
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon chips
2 tsp. whole allspice
2 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. dried orange peel
1 tsp. star anise pieces

Mix all ingredients, and use 1 Tbsp. per cup of water. After simmering, you can usually strain out the potpourri and spread it on a paper towel to dry for another use. 
(If you’d rather not make your own, I do offer a similar blend at my craft shows. For my out-of-town friends - feel free to contact me for prices and shipping information.)

Simple Lavender Sachets
Lavender has been used for centuries as a “closet herb”, to repel insects and scent linens. To make a simple sachet:
  • Fill a muslin drawstring tea bag (or “bouquet garni” bag) with lavender buds and tie securely. For a decorative touch, you can stamp or paint designs on the bag before you fill it. With this type of sachet, I tie a triple knot and throw one in the dryer with wet towels or sheets.
  • Use wide, wire-edged ribbon to sew a sachet:  Cut about a 6-inch length of wide ribbon. Fold one third of the ribbon up, and hand or machine stitch the sides to make a pocket. Fill the pocket with lavender buds, fold the other third of the ribbon down, tuck raw edge under, and stitch it closed.
  • Pretty art paper makes a great sachet – cut two 3” x 3” squares (or whatever size you’d like), put them together with the right sides facing out, and sew up three sides with a sewing machine. Fill with lavender, sew the last side. Finish edges by trimming with a pair of fancy-edged scissors (I use a “deckle-edged” rotary cutter for mine).
  • Organza drawstring bags – these are widely available at craft and party stores (check in the wedding supplies area)
  • Handkerchief sachet  - just pour some lavender or other herbs in the middle of a pretty vintage handkerchief, bandana, or other square of fabric. Gather in the edges, and tie with a ribbon.

You can get as fancy as you’d like – heart-shaped sachets trimmed with lace, with a ribbon loop to go over a clothes hanger… lavender-filled, padded hangers… You can also cover a styrofoam form (heart-shaped, perhaps?) with white glue, and roll it in lavender buds. Let it dry, and attach a ribbon loop with pins or cool-melt glue. For decoration, glue on lace, little dried rosebuds, or anything else that suits your fancy!

If you don't happen to have a stash of lavender and other herbs around, check with a health-food store, herb shop, or some of the links I have posted to the right. Frontier, Atlantic Spice, and the San Francisco Herb are all good sources, and they all have the muslin drawstring bags as well. 

A Few Favorites for Fragrance
As I promised on today's show, here are some of my favorite herbs for fragrance, both in the garden and out of it:
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) - English, French, and hybrids' scents will all vary. To my nose, English will be sweeter, French and hybrids lean more to the camphor (but still very nice).
Roses (Rosa spp.) - Not every rose has a beautiful scent! If you can, sniff before you take one home.
Scented Geraniums - These are actually the species Pelargonium, and are related to the annual geraniums that so many people grow on the front porch in the summertime. I'll be doing a whole show on them in April, but for now, my favorite fragrances are "True Rose", "Attar of Rose", and the lemon ones, especially "Frensham Lemon" (the leaves smell like real lemon oil!).
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) - a member of the mint family, with a fresh lemony scent. Great in tea, and in the bathtub.
Lemon Verbena ( Aloysia triphylla) - probably the most strongly lemon-scented herb. Dried leaves hold their scent and flavor very well. If cooking with it, be sure to remove the center spines from the leaves, as they can cause trouble in the digestive system. 
Rosemary (Rosmarinus) - Lovely, fresh, invigorating scent.
Thyme (Thymus) - there are all kinds of different thymes, too. Look for Lemon, Lime, Orange Balsam... Some forms are upright, and others are low-growing and make lovely scented paths or benches. 
Southernwood (Artemisia abronatum) - A lovely, feathery, semi-woody shrublet, Southernwood has a musky citrus scent and is an insect repellent. Beautiful in flower arrangements as a filler.
Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - Low-growing perennial, makes a lovely scented path or bench. When bruised, the foliage smells a little like sweet apples.
German (true) Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) - Taller-growing annual, this one is the plant you want for tea. Although it's a totally different plant than the Roman, it still has the lovely sweet-apple scent.
Mints (Mentha spp.) - Again, this is an herb with a whole array of scents and flavors. Spearmint, peppermint, orange, lemon, lime, chocolate, candy, pineapple... the list is nearly endless. If you plant them in the garden, be sure to contain them well so they don't spread everywhere. 
Bee Balm (Monarda) - also called "Bergamot", another mint-family member. This lovely herb attracts bees and hummingbirds, and has blooms and leaves that taste like the peel of the Bergamot orange - the characteristic flavoring of Earl Grey tea.
Pinks (Dianthus spp.) - Some of my favorite plants in this group are carnations (the real ones, without the scent bred out of them!), clove pinks, and especially Bath's Pinks (D. gratianopolitanus). A sweet, spicy fragrance is their hallmark, and many of them have grey-green foliage that stays pretty all through our Kentucky winters. 
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) - lovely little shade plant with whorls of bright green leaves and tiny white flowers. Its scent comes after the leaves are dried, and it smells like a mix of vanilla and hay. This was one of the first non-culinary herbs I ever planted, and I've been in love with it ever since.
Yarrow (Achillea spp.) - Ferny foliage has a camphor scent to it, and bears flat clusters of flowers in any of a variety of colors. Here in Kentucky, white yarrow is a native wildflower, but yellow and pink are probably the most common garden colors. It's an old-timey medicinal plant, and attracts bees and butterflies.
Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) - This isn't a culinary herb at all - it takes its name from the strong curry scent of its thin, felt-y, silvery leaves. It's a lovely as an ornamental and a novelty plant. 

*whew*.... Well, that scratches the "Fragrant Herbs" surface, at least! If you'd like to see pictures of most of these beauties, just click the Thieneman's link on the sidebar to the right of this page - they have a wonderful library of photographs. And above all, enjoy your herbs!

Have a sweet and fragrant Valentine's Day! <3   - J.

No comments:

Post a Comment