Hey kittens! Hope you all are faring well! I’m back in Nashville and loving the weather!
Turns out, my herbs were loving the weather as well! I came back to a veritable jungle of herbs that were swallowing up my poor roses. Step one of the rose clinic: clear out giant mess of lemon balm and Italian flat leaf parsley.
Here’s what I was faced with. I probably wasn’t thinking too clearly when I decided on lemon balm and flat leaf parsley to begin with. Lemon balm is in the mint family, which is totally obvious to hyper paranoid gardeners by the characteristic square stems and propensity to grow like those little foam capsules that you drop into water and get a full size dinosaur in 90 seconds. I thought lemon balm might make nice tea for a kitty cat on a continuing mission to kick the coffee (ok, half and half) habit.
Alas, I have not made any tea. The lemon balm was bigger than my rose bush. Seriously, yo.
Same thing with the flat leaf parsley. Seemed like a nice idea, but not something I cook with a lot, so it had grown wild and unfettered. Like a pony. Or a basset hound.
Feeling guilty over the mistreatment of a living thing that I had brought into my home, I decided it was my sworn duty to DO something.
After perusing the interwebs and related references, I decided to try two new preparations for the lemon balm. For the parsley, I decided to dry it by hanging – something I’ve tried (and documented) before.
Preparing a tincture
My first project was to make a tincture of lemon balm. Basically, this means soaking herbs in alcohol for a while (4-6 weeks) which extracts all the good stuff. The resulting herb infused extract has a long shelf life of up to five years and can be taken straight with an eyedropper, mixed with honey or dumped into juice.
Lemon balm has a great many uses including calming nerves, making one sleepy, good for the stomach, helping a bit with pain and having an anti-viral effect making it good when coming down with a cold.
To make the tincture I chopped up most of the lemon balm and lightly packed it in a canning jar.
I read around to find rule of thumb information regarding herb-to-alcohol ratios. The pervading rule of thumb seemed to say fresh herbs = fill the jar all the way with herbs, cover with alcohol. For dried herbs, fill the jar halfway with the herb, then fill all the way with the alcohol.
After I filled up the jar with the herbs, I topped off with 180 proof grain alcohol. Honestly, kittens, I went with the higher proof after all my research. Seems it extracts better and yields a better tasting/not bitter tonic. Buuuutttt… I had more herbs than I thought and ended up using the whole bottle of Golden Grain (aka generic Everclear.) I honestly though I had enough grain alchohol for at least two batches. Had I known that so much would go so opposite-of-far, I would have opted for a lower proof (i.e. less expensive) vodka. Oh well. In any case, either higher proof Vodka or a very high alcohol content grain alcohol work as a base for a tincture.
For those of you not up on your grain alcohol percentages, the ‘proof’ is twice the percentage of alcohol. So my 180 proof Golden Grain is 90% alcohol, 10% water. Also, smells like gasoline and I can’t believe people drink this stuff! Vodka runs from 80 to 100 proof and most sources I read indicated that at least 50% alcohol was ideal for preparing a tincture. Apparently, not all states allow the sale of the higher proofs. Lucky me, Tennessee has no problem with selling gasoline in bottles for human consumption.
I capped it off, labeled it (Lemon Balm | 90% alcohol | May 22nd) and put it in a cool dark spot. I’ll shake it up every few days and in 4-6 weeks I’ll strain it and probably mix it with my morning tea in a vain effort to calm myself…
Preparing lemon balm honey syrup
In the meantime, I mixed up some lemon balm honey syrup for my morning tea. I’ve been really struggling with general allergies since moving to Dallas and now Nashville. Recently, miss Lauren-Lladybird suggested I pick up some local honey and have a teaspoon a day. Supposedly that helps with allergies. I had some wildflower honey from Franklin, Tennessee (close to Nashville) and found instructions to make a honey syrup. Lemon balm is supposed to help a bit with allergies with well… a match made in heaven, right? I’m not sure how great this will work, but here’s what I did…
First I dumped about one cup (lightly packed) lemon balm leaves into a saucepan and covered with water (enough to just cover.) I simmered, partially covered until the liquid reduced by half.
I strained through a floursack towel and a colander, squishing out all the liquid with a wooden spoon because I’m a big baby and didn’t want to touch the super-hot boiled leaves with my squishy soft hands.
I had just over half a cup of the super-concentrated lemon balm tea. The instructions I read said that the ratio was two parts of the concentrated tea to one part honey. But when I mixed in just over a quarter cup honey I didn’t like the consistency, so I swapped the ratio to two parts honey to one part tea concentrate. It’s still pretty runny, but will be great for my morning tea (or probably hot water and lemon, which I really prefer….) I was thinking of trying with raw honey which is much more dense. Picture of the finished jar below…..
Drying herbs… again…
For the parsely, I just washed, dried, sorted and tied into bundles with twine. When tying herb bundles it’s best to strip the leaves from the last four to six inches of the stems to ensure easy tying.
The corner of my kitchen is pretty dark and doesn’t get direct sunlight. The last time I dried herbs I hung them in a dark, dark closet, but I don’t have closets in this house! This shelf is nice and easy to hang things from, so we’ll see how it goes!
A good days work!