Category Archives: Recipes

Herbal Infused Oils & Vinegars

It’s often surprising, especially to new gardeners, just how much you can harvest from a couple of herb plants. With relatively little effort you can have tons of basil, rosemary, oregano, and more. This time of year you’ll need to figure out how to preserve your herbs if you want to keep using them this winter. One simple, flavorful way to preserve herbs is to create infused oils and vinegars.

Vinegar

Herbal vinegars are excellent for homemade salad dressings and marinades or for sprinkling over sauteed or roasted vegetables. I love sautéed swiss chard with a splash of garlic vinegar.

You can use any type of vinegar you have on hand. Personally, apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar are my favorites. You can also use whatever herbs you desire. I love sage, tarragon, garlic, basil, lemon balm, and dill.

To make you vinegar, loosely pack your herbs into a clean, glass jar. Bruising them a bit with a spoon can help bring out the flavor. Then cover your herbs with vinegar. Try to make sure all the herbs are fully submerged before putting a lid on your jar.

Allow your vinegar to steep in a cool, dark place for at least one week. After one week you can taste your vinegar to see if you like the flavor. If it isn’t strong enough you can let it continue to steep. It could take up to three weeks.

Oils

Herbal infused oils have been used as both food like basil oil and medicine like calendula oil. Like herbal vinegars, they make great homemade salad dressings and are also delicious for dipping fresh bread in.

To create herbal oils you’ll want a high-quality vegetable-based oil. Olive oil is my favorite but sunflower or other oil would work as well.

Traditionally, fresh herbs would be placed in a jar and covered with oil. They’d be left to steep somewhere warm and out of direct sunlight for several weeks. However, modern food safety experts recommend against this practice as fresh herbs and oil could create botulism.

If you want to use fresh herbs try gently heating them in the oil to impart their flavor more quickly than steeping them. Your oil can then be strained and safely stored in the fridge or freezer.

Alternatively, you can eliminate the risk of botulism by drying your herbs before steeping them. Using dry herbs you can cover them with oil and allow them to steep for about two weeks before straining them.

Herbal infused oils and vinegars are great, simple ways to store the season’s flavor. They also make excellent gifts for the culinary enthusiasts in your life!

Herbal Tinctures: Goldenrod

Just before we get to enjoy the beautiful colors of fall foliage the land gives us its last summer show. Wildflowers like ironweed, Joe Pye weed, and goldenrod bloom in abundance. In some we can find more than just beauty. Goldenrod is a wonderful medicinal herb that’s best harvested while in bloom.

Medicinal Usage

Goldenrod was first used in herbal medicine by Native Americans. Topically goldenrod has been used on toothaches, burns, sores, and infections. Internally it’s often used to treat digestive, respiratory, or urinary ailments. Recent research has shown that goldenrod teas and tinctures may be effective at preventing and treating UTIs and kidney stones in particular.

Identifying Goldenrod

There dozens of species of goldenrod, 38 in Virginia alone! Identifying individual species can be tough even for experts. However, all goldenrod species have similar properties and can be used medicinally so it’s okay if you’re not sure exactly what species you’ve got.

However, you do want to make sure you do have goldenrod. Some similar looking species like ragwort are toxic. Goldenrods have a woody stem. Though the leaf shape may differ from species to species, typically leaves are tapered to the tip. Leaves are generally larger near the base of the plant. They often have a hairy or rough underside and have parallel veins. Their tiny yellow flowers grow on an inflorescence (like a plume) at the top of the plant. Many have multiple inflorescences.

If you’re unsure about identifying goldenrod plan to forage with a knowledgeable friend. You can also check a wildflower field guide or the Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide for more detailed information.

Harvest

To harvest goldenrod you want to catch it as the flowers have just started blooming. Select plants that look healthy and free of mildew and disease. Bring along a pair of scissors and snip off the plume of flowers. It’s okay to get some leaves they can be used too.

Avoid harvesting an entire patch. Bees and other native wildlife rely on species like goldenrod as they get ready for winter.

Making Tincture

To make a tincture all you’ll need is alcohol (at least 80 proof or 40%), a glass jar with a lid, and your goldenrod blooms. If you don’t have goldenrod near you you can also purchase and use dried goldenrod. If you don’t want to use alcohol you can substitute in vegetable glycerin.

Roughly chop up your blooms and place them in a glass jar. Then cover them with alcohol. Most people like to use vodka because it doesn’t have much flavor but you can use what ever you’ve got on hand. I’m using rum for this tutorial.

Push the flowers down if needed. You don’t have to pack them in super tight but you want to make sure that they’re completely covered with alcohol otherwise they could mold.

Place the lid on and let your tincture sit in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 4 weeks before using. If you’re using dried goldenrod, shake your jar each day for the first couple of weeks to ensure the herbs absorb the alcohol and don’t just float on top. You can keep your tincture just like this for months or you can strain out the blooms when you’re ready to use it.

You can use this method (the folk method) to tincture a number of herbs including lemon balm, mint, echinacea, calendula, goldenseal, ginseng, and more.

Using Your Tincture

Always consult a physician before using your tinctures to treat any medical condition. Start with trying a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon before taking a lot. To make it taste a bit better you can mix it with honey.

Making Tea

You can also make tea from fresh or dried goldenrod. About 2 tablespoons of fresh flowers or about 1 tablespoon of dried flowers will make a cup of tea. Steep your tea for 10-15 minutes.

Drying Goldenrod

To dry your goldenrod for later you can spread roughly chopped blooms on a screen to air dry or dry them in a dehydrator on the herb setting. Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. It will last about a year.

 

***This article is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a physician before using these to treat any conditions.***

Homegrown: Five Seasonal Cooking Resources

This season we’ve been inundated with orders and happy to see many folks trying to make the best of a tough situation by planting victory gardens. We love seeing new gardeners grow their own food for the first time and veteran gardeners expanding their plots.

Particularly for new gardeners, cooking from the garden is a bit different. Rather than selecting a recipe and purchasing the ingredients, gardeners harvest their ingredients and then select a recipe.

While we try to post some of our favorite seasonal recipes here on the blog, we certainly don’t have a comprehensive list. Here are a few of our favorite resources for seasonal recipes and preservation techniques.

Fresh Preserving

When you’re in doubt about putting up the harvest check the Fresh Preserving site from Ball Canning. They have tons of recipes and guides for water bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, dehydrating and more.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Some of you may have read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver documents her family’s year-long adventure of eating locally to their Virginia home. You can find some of their favorite recipes from their year of local food on their website. Try quick dinners like their swiss chard “Eggs in a Nest” or recipes like their Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies to use up excess produce.

Mother Earth News

The seasonal recipe section of Mother Earth News is filled with tons of recipes from a wide variety of homesteaders and gardeners. Check out unique recipes like Thai Green Tomatoes with a Coconut Crust or Creamy Parsnip Soup with Sorrel.

Garden Therapy

Stephanie Rose created Garden Therapy after she found that gardening helped her to “rebuild [her] health.” Her website now includes an abundance of gardening resources including recipes that will help you bring seasonal ingredients to the table. Try fun treats like Edible Flower Lollipops, delicious meals like Garden Fresh Quiche, or beverages like her Salad Bowl Gin and Tonic.

Farm Flavor

Farm Flavor strives to connect consumers to agriculture by profiling U.S. farmers and ranchers. Their recipe section is full of easy ideas for you to use your homegrown or local produce. This summer whip up some Collard Green Salad Rolls or Garden Fresh Gazpacho.

SESE Blog Recipes

Here are a few favorites from the SESE blog. Browse for more recipes and stay tuned with us this year.

Did we miss something? If you know a great food preservation or seasonal cooking resource, let us know on Facebook!