Tag Archives: herbs

Spring garden stuff

Today I cleaned and top dressed my garden boxes. The herb box had a bunch of early oregano and sage. The sage had just started to flower so I am a little late. I picked a bunch to dry. Last year I made a solar dehydrator it’s biggest benefit has been hang drying herbs. Saves tons of time! If you saw my dehydrator last year I added a black corrugated plate to increase the temperature. Others than that it stayed the same. It still needs a sunny day to get the job done, but it works faster now.

Dehydrator update

Solar dehydrator up date.

In my last post on it I asked for some help dialing in the dehydrator. I did not get much advice, but I tweaked some things. In the end I was unhappy with the natural draft. So I added a solar vent fan to even the draft out, and I repositioned it for better sun. That did the trick for herbs. It runs on a 70 to 75 degree day (no rain and a little sun) at about 105-110 Deg and has a good draft. However, rainy overcast cool days it does not work at all. You really need some dry days with a little sun, but I’m ok with that. It really puts out some volume. I have a huge volume of dried herbs now with no real work and no electricity. I will be adding some painted corrugated steel to the solar tray to boost temperatures for fruit. The steel should up the surface area enough to to give me an extra 15 to 25 Deg rise minimum. That should do for fruit slices.

The biggest surprise was how nice it is to hang herbs. I did not get a picture, but you can stager the hanging pattern to get a lot in. I made a bunch of racks from plastic ceiling return grills, but it is faster to just hang things. It adds to the drying time but it’s less work, and there is less chance of the wind messing with it when you put it in or take it out of the dehydrator.

I also want to say that I still find it incredibly fun to build things like this, and to get a feel for them. The dehydrator plus foraging, has given me such an over abundance of herbs that I will be giving herbs away all summer. The picture represents the volume from one unload.

Lemon Balm

Today’s walk was for lemon balm. I found a bunch of it growing wild last year. And transplanted some because it was pest free and very strong scented, but I have a very small patch so I walked back to get some. The new solar dehydrator makes drying large batches easy and free so it’s a bit of a motivator. The area is very brush filled and overgrown. But you can smell it from yards away. I included a shot of the area for context. I only harvest 3% more or less, just what I will use. I take just the tops and just the high plants, so the lower smaller ones get some sun. In case I come back. I avoid old plants, ones that are too large and ones with poor color or smell. When I get back I check the leaves over and get rid of any with spots. It’s probably just fine, but I think if you forage you should be more selective then if it’s from the garden. If I go back to pick for making tincture I will likely take a great deal more an be a little less picky.

While I was walking out to the patch I found a ton of wild strawberries, nice tart ones. They are not worth going out for, but nice to snack on if they turn up. Also found a mushroom.

Happy hunting

This is a post from last summer, but it relates to the Jewelweed post from a few days ago. It is also a different variety of nettle..

This is Stinging Nettle (a very good edible when young). That little orange thing behind it to the right is a Chanterelle mushroom —you might not see it. I saw it but did not notice the nettle. It got my arm and hand. It burned instantly and I had hives in under a minute. I was in the middle of the woods and thought this might be a good time to see if jewelweed really worked. I thought this because if it did not work I was screwed, and the burning in my arm was similar to multiple bee stings. I a saw a clearing about 200 yards away and took off for it at a run. Sure enough there was a big patch of jewelweed. I grabbed a handful, crushed it, and rubbed it on my arm hard. The relief was almost instantaneous. I was actually more shocked than relieved. I figure I got the jewelweed on it within 5 minutes and the rash was completely gone in 8-10 min., but the itching and burning was stopped within seconds and did not return.

JEWELWEED I got into some poison oak and really had a reaction. So I decided to field test jewel weed on it. I did cortisone on one patch calamine another, and Jewelweed on third. (Not terribly scientific, but there you go) Jewelweed was the only one to work. 24 hours later I said “screw it” and put Jewelweed on all of them. They all stopped itching. I had to re apply once, but that’s it.

1. If you treat it right after contact it cleans the area and knocks out the oil from the Ivy that is on your skin. To use just squish the stalk and rub it on. This work on stinging nettles also knocks it out almost instantly even if the blisters have already formed (I found this out hard way) baking soda also works on nettles.

2. If you only realize your exposure latter on, rubbing it on will not do a dam thing. You need to do a poultice. Cut off a sock or bandage down the crushed stalk this was very affective, and will never use anything else. (I left the poultice on for about 4 hours.)

For the medicine cabinet; This is Cleaver or Catchweed. It is easy to ID because it cleaves to you. Gathering a small bottle of leaves takes no time at all and once dried the tea can be used to treat kidney and urinary track infections and inflammation. Though it is known mostly because it is a safe and affective treatment for feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), I do not know the amounts for treating cats. People also use it for skin ailments, and a couple other things. It is general blood purifier.

My wife made up some violet and dandelion salve, and was nice enough to write up a description for me.

This is a basic salve, using oil infused with both violet and dandelions. Violets are said to be healing and soothing, good for cracked and chapped skin, and dandelions are reputed to have mild analgesic qualities, helping with soreness and pain. It should make a good salve for sore, chapped, cracked skin, and achy muscles. I have never actually made this salve before—this recipe was cobbled together from several web sites and a basic knowledge of salves.
After collecting and drying violets and dandelions, fill a half pint jar full of the dried flowers and pour olive oil over them. Poke around a bit with a chopstick or knife to release air bubbles, and top off with oil. Cover and store in a dark place for at least 5 weeks. When you are ready to make the salve, strain the herbs from the oil and discard. Gently warm the infused oil (in a double boiler ideally) and add in the grated beeswax. I used about 2 tablespoons of beeswax to approximately 1/2 cup infused oil, and the salve is fairly soft. If you want a firmer balm-like mix, add more beeswax. Stir the wax into the warm oil until it melts completely. Add 1 tsp of vitamin E oil to act as a preservative, and pour into tins to cool. If you would like to add essential oils, put them in when you add the vitamin E.