Whilst the rest of my family went off to music festivals or sky diving competitions to thoroughly enjoy themselves without any thought of mundane responsibilities, I was left to contemplate my herbal harvest. Everything was growing in such profusion, despite the horrendous summer we endured. I had three days to harvest what I could.
Here is a list of the herbs I gathered to join the yarrow, plantain and wood betony I collected on holiday in Cornwall.
- St John’s wort flowers
- Calendula flowers
- Echinacea flowers and stems
- Vervain aerial parts
- Scullcap aerial parts
- Lady’s Mantle leaves and flowers
- Angelica leaves
- Motherwort aerial parts in flower
- Tansy flowers
- Nettle seeds (left on the stems)
- Haws and leaves
- Bergamot aerial parts
- Lemon balm (second crop not flowering)
- Purple Sage leaves
The calendula, vervain, yarrow, skullcap, tansy flowers, nettle seeds, yarrow and lavender were left lying on the sofas of the summerhouse and my parents’ spare bed swathed in newspapers drying. The Cornish herbs were drying in paper bags hung up in my summerhouse at home.
The haws (2x 2lb jars) have been put to tincture in brandy in the larder and the sage (2x 2lb jars) is infusing into cider vinegar in my “hot cupboard” in the kitchen. The St John’s wort flowers, lady’s mantle, bergamot and hops filled 1lb jam jars and the motherwort, lemon balm and angelica filled 2 lb jars.
I used up over 3 litres of vodka, 1 litre of brandy and 1 litre of cider vinegar.
I ran out of glass jars, so I had to decant some New England aster tincture, sloe gin, applemint malt vinegar and sage vinegar which I put up last year but had never got around to straining and bottling. The sloe gin tasted rather nice and it was really interesting sampling the Aster tincture – it is supposed to work well with deep seated chest infections and asthma and I could feel it deep in my chest when I swallowed it!
You might think I can now sit back for three weeks until this has all dried or infused, but there are still elderberries to either tincture or make into syrup with the Echinacea and I want to make up some SAD syrup as well with the remains of the lemon balm and some St John’s wort “heads” from the plants in my garden. The syrups may have to wait until the weekend when I have enough time to let them evaporate. It’s difficult to do it after a long day at work. I also want to tincture half the wood betony I gathered to see how effective it is on my numerous headaches, so my long suffering husband has been charged with buying more vodka tomorrow!
The good thing is, although this is now a really busy time of harvest, I am just really grateful to have anything to harvest at all. It has been so wet and miserable; I was beginning to despair about being able to gather anything for drying, so to move amongst my herbs and find so many ready to be harvested was truly wonderful!
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