Distilling!

My Herb Garden, May 2015

There is a stand of white Sage just to the right of the orange Calendula flowers in the photo of my herb garden, above.   I made the sage smudge sticks last year, and hope to have twice as much sage this year.  See the free-form rock goddess watching over my herb garden?

My mad-scientist steam distiller has finally arrived, just ahead of the flowers in my herb garden!  I simply could not wait to try it out, even though fresh plants make the most potent hydrosol and essential oil.   It could be a month before the herbs are in flower. It is important to harvest each herb for distilling when the plant essence is at its most powerful, and that could be a month away

White Sage smudge sticks

So, I stuffed the glass vessel with some dried sage from last year, and fired it up!

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It was kind of scary to set the heating plate to high and put the glass on it!  My favorite thing about it was hearing the fascinating laboratory type gurgles and watching the process happen.  I could not look away!

In the end, the pint-sized bottle at the right held the aromatic water (Hydrosol) and the essential oil came out of that little blue spigot into a small, separate bottle. It yielded just under a teaspoon’s size of essential oil.  I hear fresh plants yield 2-3 times that amount.

I could have used a little more Sage, but this was the first time I distilled, so I didn’t realize that.  The steam passes through the cut up plant material and condenses in the tubes as a mixture of water with essential oil.

The process takes about an hour and a half to two hours.  The bulk of the essential oil apparently separates from the plant matter in the first 20 minutes.  A little more happens along the way.  So, though you could run it three hours before the glass retort boils dry, it really isn’t necessary.  In case you are wondering,  the water in the boiling vessel receives some back-flow from the plants above it, and gets a little discolored during the process.

Glop of essential oil floating on Hydrosol.

The essential oil in the above photo is lighter than the Hydrosol (flower water), so it floats.

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I ended up with almost a quart of sage hydrosol and a very small amount of essential oil.  I can hardly wait till the fresh sage is ready to distill!

Still Room Adventures Ahead!

 

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This may prove to be my most magical growing season, ever.

Herbs have been seducing me for over twenty years, beginning as a soap maker. Using a few herbs in my soaps somehow led to growing my own herb garden and making lotions, potions and medicinal remedies for my family. Since I can’t grow every herb I want, I have learned to identify and forage for some herbs in the wild. There are so many dimensions to the plant kingdom that even a lifetime is not enough.

This summer will be filled with mad scientist adventures!  I recently figured out that the process of learning is almost as much fun as the successes are, to me.   I ordered a 2 liter glass Still for my soap making room, which will allow me to make small amounts of steam distilled Essential Oils and Hydrosols from the plants surrounding me. (Once I know what I am doing!) There will be a learning curve to the process of distillation, and I will happily share my mishaps and triumphs in this blog.

Do you steam distill or think you might want to someday?