As September draws to a close, it’s natural to think about the harvest, and fruits of our labors over the summer in the aromatic garden. Although some aromatic plants have already faded back until next year, you might want to give some thoughts to how best to utilize your aromatic plants next season! Here are five ideas!
1. Distillation of Aromatic Plants
As an aromatherapist, my #1 use for aromatic plants is in the form of essential oils and hydrosols! This summer, I took a trip to Washington state to take part in an intensive 3-day workshop with the author of Harvest to Hydrosol, Ann Harman, and to learn how to distill some of my aromatic plants. This next year, I plan to grow, harvest, and distill aromatic plants such as cornflower, fennel, geranium, juniper, cypress, and many other aromatic herbs, into hydrosols and essential oils!
2. Infusion of Aromatic Plants
Some aromatic plants don’t produce an essential oil because it is too difficult to extract it from the plant. Or they may produce an essential oil but only in a minuscule quantity. Such plants can be infused in a carrier oil, such as sunflower, to produce an infused oil for either culinary or medicinal purposes. You can also infuse those plants that do produce essential oil. Examples of plants that you can use to produce infused oils include:
- St. John’s Wort
3. Aromatic Bouquets and Floral Arrangements
We are taught in aromatherapy that one of the best methods of using essential oils is through inhalation. So why not go direct to the source and gather some aromatic flowers, leaves, and branches from your garden and arrange them into aromatic bouquets and floral arrangements? You don’t have to be a skilled floral designer; I’ve simply gathered some flowers and placed them in water in a mason jar! Their aroma will bring you pleasure and well-being in the same way! Here are some aromatic flowers and plants you might want to try, depending on the season:
- juniper branches
- cypress branches
- fennel and dill
4. Creating an Aromatic Herbarium
As a child, I used to love to press flowers and keep them in a scrapbook. I forgot the pleasure of such an experience until my recent trip to Washington state this summer when I collected lavender and Douglas fir and placed them inside of a book. Later, as I unpacked from my trip, I had forgotten about my aromatic treasures, until they fell out of the book and their aroma hit me!
You can keep it as simple or as complicated as you like but creating an aromatic herbarium helps to keep a record of your aromatic plants for future reference and to share with future generations. Simply press flowers between some heavy books (with a piece of thin paper on either side to prevent discoloration from the plant) or invest in a plant press. Record the name of the plant, species, genus, plant family, and any other data you wish – perhaps including personal notes on where it was grown/collected and what it means to you. Store your pressed plants in shoe boxes (wrapped in tissue paper) or mount them in a scrapbook or on a card to create a picture. Creativity knows no bounds!
5. Edible Spices and Herbs
Finally, throughout the summer months, you may have been gathering fresh herbs and spices from your garden to add flavor to a culinary dish. When summer is ending, dry some of these remaining spices and herbs to use in winter dishes – or as potpourri.
If you have room on a sunny window ledge, keep a small herb garden for fresh herbs. Once spring arrives again you can transplant these plants outdoors. Aromatic plants that can be used as edible spices and herbs include:
- lemon balm