Aromatic Herbs

Herbs from your own herb garden can be delightful, creating wonderful aromas in the garden or a potpourri bowl.

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For the most part, herbs are used for seasoning in dishes or for medicinal purposes. However, many people also find them delightful for creating wonderful aromas in the garden or a potpourri bowl. Many of those useful for cooking are so because of the oils contained in the leaves. That same oil gives them a scent that can be a pleasure just to smell. But even when you wouldn't think of eating them, aromatic herbs are a treat for the nose.

Lavender is one that will spring to anyone's mind. This Mediterranean native is lovely to look at, with its small purple flowers. But it is equally delicious to sniff. Excellent for perfumed sachets, it is terrific just sitting around the border of a garden where it can also attract Black Swallowtail butterflies. It is very popular in the practice of aromatherapy.

Sage has been planted for centuries for its wonderful aroma, which derives from it being a member of the mint family. Originally from Asia Minor, Sage is now grown all over the world. It will delight the nose of anyone who rubs the leaves between thumb and forefinger and takes a whiff.

Caraway-Scented Thyme is another great addition to the garden. It makes for a lovely small bush, attracts butterflies and bees, and has a spicy scent that is a favorite of herbalists. Another member of the mint family, it will produce pink blossoms in the early summer.

Yet another member of the mint family is Sweet Marjoram, an herb that has been around for centuries. It's often used in perfumed soaps, but the spicy scent is wonderful just ground up as part of a potpourri bowl. Be sure not to confuse it with its wild cousin Origanum Vulgare, otherwise known as Oregano.

Keeping them preserved is an easy task. You can keep fresh stems in a jar of cold water in the refrigerator where they'll last for about a week. Or, you can store them in oil. Wash and dry for an hour, then put them in the jar and pour in preserving oil, where they'll stay fresh for two or three months.

For longer term storage you can freeze them. Wash and dry, then put them into a plastic freezer bag, or chop them up and put the pieces into an ice cube tray. If not exposed to air, they'll keep for four months or more. But for the longest storage you can wash and dry, then put them into a jar of vinegar, where they will stay fresh for up to a year.

For use in potpourri, they're best dried. You can hang them up in a cool, shady place. But keep in mind that the oils are what provide the scent. Left exposed to air for long periods the oil of some will evaporate, taking the scent with it.

That's exactly what you want in a potpourri jar or sachet bag, but if you want to keep them a little longer you'll have to use some preservation methods. Airtight bags are an excellent way to keep those oils inside the plant until you want to use the herbs.

Sage, mint, thyme and majoram retain their scent especially well when dried. Done properly, they'll give a nice odor for weeks.

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Page Updated 6:12 PM Sunday 7/31/2016