Easing Into Fall

Fall greetings!

Our herbs are just about done for the year. This has been a great year for Garlic, Basil and Tomatoes, here. Bell peppers? Not so much. Last year we grew huge ones, but this year they are like little dwarf peppers.

Four plants of Sweet Basil have turned into 3 pints of Basil Pesto for the freezer, so far, several rounds of Caprese salad, and a few nicely seasoned batches of marinara sauce. It appears I may have one more good harvest of Basil. I did find a few new Calendula flowers yesterday, and you can never have too many of those. Oh, and a few stragglers of Echinacea. But mostly my focus has moved on to Hops and Jalapeños at this point.

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Hop vines have to share my attention with the last of the tomatoes on the vines and the super hot jalapeños that have turned from green to black, then red.

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I like pickled green jalapeños, but once they turn color on the vines they are much hotter. My husband loves all peppers, the hotter the better. The red ones are just way too hot for me. I usually end up canning two batches so we can both enjoy them.

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Hop flowers take about a week to dry, if you turn and stir them once a day so they dry evenly. Once they are dry, just rubbing the petals will separate them. They are a great addition to my sleepy tea blends and sleep pillows. See the little papery, round flower petals in the photo below? That is my Peace-Out tea blend in the works.

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Our three year old American Elder tree had about 18 clusters of berries this year, but I was only able to harvest two clusters, enough for one batch of fresh syrup. The birds greedily took the rest of them, though they haven’t bothered them in years past. I am wondering if that is a sign of a hard winter ahead.

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Elderberry gummy candies caught my interest this year. There are many recipes online, many of them huge batches, including some with fruit juice or other additions. I wanted to make them as simply and basic as possible, and I didn’t want to waste any of my precious one bottle of syrup on errors. I poured 1/2 cup of syrup in a measuring cup, and sprinkled 1 1/2 Tablespoon of powdered gelatin evenly over the surface. I whisked it in gently and allowed it to dissolve, swell and bloom. It seemed a bit too thick, so I whisked in about 2 Tablespoons of water, and microwaved it for 10 seconds.

The Gummy molds I ordered came with a neat little eyedropper to fill the molds with. I soon realized it would be impossible to fill those little cavities without it!

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That one half cup of syrup was enough to fill almost two molds. I recommend you start with a small amount, too, if you decide to make some yourself. I had to stop and nuke the mixture again after about 10 minutes, because it thickened as it cooled.

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I am pretty happy with the way they turned out. I let them dry a full day on a cutting board after removing them from the molds. So far, they are holding nicely in a jar in my herb cupboard. They are a wee bit sticky, but separate easy enough. It is recommended that they be stored in the refrigerator, but since there was already vodka in the syrup to render it shelf-stable, I decided to push it to see how long they would keep.

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I would make them again, and they are delicious. If you have children, gummy bears would be much easier for little ones to handle than a messy syrup.

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Chamomile Harvest

The cuttings of just one German Chamomile plant filled the harvesting basket.  I am only growing two this year, and enjoyed an early harvest.  I hope to see a 2nd, full bloom before the extreme summer temperatures kick in, but after that the flowers are pretty much random.  Their scent is so sweet and lovely!

Our neighbors are expecting a baby girl in late June, which gives me just enough time to solar infuse Chamomile, Rosa Rugosa petals and Lavender flower buds in Rice Bran and Meadowfoam Seed oils, both of which are high in fatty acids and known for their gentleness.  It is such a pleasure to gift a batch of herbal diaper balm to new mothers.



Garbling Chamomile can be a bit of tedium, but as luck would have it a friend dropped by.  We had a good visit and a glass of wine while I snipped the flowers off the stems!

The flowers from both plants filled these three drying baskets.  They will be dry in about a week, and fill two quart jars for the pantry, for later use.

By the end of the season, solar herbal infusions will fill my kitchen window sill.  =D  I infuse herbs in oil by the simpling method, because it allows me to specifically combine or exchange infused oils of equal strength for salves or balms.

The center jar is filled with Cottonwood buds in olive oil, solar infusing since January, and I probably won’t strain them off until the end of June.  It takes several months to dissolve the resinous coating of the buds in oil by the solar method.  But,  I’m not in a hurry and they aren’t an ingredient in my diaper balm recipe.   I  just enjoy seeing the colorful, healing jars of herbs and oils as I go about my day.