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aromatherapy herb uses

herb harvesting

For a good part of the summer the house is strewn with bunches of herbs hung up to dry. The children disapprove. The cat is reluctant to approach them. The surface below them gets messy.

I keep gathering the fragrant greens, excited by their fast growth in June, and tend to put off grinding and storing them in jars, a task which gets tedious after ten minutes.

By the time I finally resign myself to processing them, the bunches are crunchy and the herbs release their scent freely when crushed, trying to assert their flavors from a distance. The kitchen smells like mint, then thyme, then dill, then lovage, while, slowly, the jars get filled, labeled and stored neatly on the shelves in the pantry.

When this time consuming task ends, I forget about the tedium of crushing a table full of herbs by hand, and am again inspired to go out into the garden and gather more. Some, like bee-balms, are a bulk item, because I have to harvest all the stems at once, after the flowers have faded, to make room for the late summer flowers. Others, like marjoram and thyme, I gather in diminutive quantities, a few dainty stems at a time, over the length of the season.

I know I should store the dry leaves whole, in brown paper bags, to keep out the light and allow them to breathe, but then I wouldn’t be able to see their cheerful colors, so, by the time temperatures start to cool, they’re all packed neatly in glass jars, ready for winter.

The real reward comes later, when comforting soups and stews simmer in the pot, seasoned with the taste of summer.