Collecting and Drying Herbs

Collecting herbs can be an enjoyable and therapeutic activity within itself, but also provides raw materials for many indoor activities, as herbs can be used in food, drinks and craft activities.

Benefits:

Promotes memory, identification and sorting skills, as well as fine motor skills.

Materials required:

  • planted herb beds or pots
  • clippers
  • collection basket or bucket
  • string or twine
  • buttons or beads for the eyes.

Directions:

Ensure that the herbs are accessible to your client group and can be picked easily. If clients have limited mobility, raised beds or pots growing on a bench will allow them to reach the herbs easily. Some clients may need help in identifying herbs, whilst others will find them familiar. Sensory experiences can be a powerful memory trigger, and older clients may especially enjoy harvesting herbs that they remember from childhood, such as lavender and mint.

Herbs can be tied in small bundles and hung to dry in a warm area.

Oven Drying

Quick oven drying can be used to prevent loss of flavour, oils, and colour. Place leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet or shallow pan not more than 1 inch deep in an open oven at low heat less than 180oF (82.2 oC) for about 2 to 4 hours.

Freezing Herbs

Herbs can also be frozen. Harvest herbs according to recommendations. Wash them thoroughly and blanch them in boiling, unsalted water for 50 seconds. Cool them quickly in ice water and then package and freeze them. Washed fresh dill, chives, and basil can be frozen without blanching.

Herbs can also be frozen in ice-cubes so that they can be added to drinks or food as required.

Storage

When completely dry, herb leaves may be crushed to a powder or stored whole in airtight containers, such as canning jars with tightly sealed lids.

For the first few days examine the jars in which you have stored dried herbs daily. If you see any moisture in the jars, remove the herbs and repeat the drying process. Herbs will mould quickly in closed jars if not completely dry.

Once you are sure the herbs are completely dry, place them in the airtight containers, and store them in a cool, dry place away from light. Never use paper or cardboard containers for storage as they will absorb the herbs’ aromatic oils.

Herbal Teas

Fresh herbs can be used to create a refreshing herbal tea.

Suitable herbs include camomile flowers, dill, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, peppermint, sage, thyme, and verbena.

Herbal teas can be created very simply by putting a large handful of leaves into a teapot or clean coffee press and then pouring over boiling water. Mix and match to find your favourite mixture and flavour. Let the leaves steep for a few minutes before pouring. You can use honey to sweeten if you prefer.

Herb Butters

Herb butter can be an interesting and flavoursome addition to meals, spread on bread or used to dress fish, potatoes, green vegetables or meat.

Herb butter can be prepared using a single herb or combinations. To make any herb butter, cream a small cup of softened butter with a small handful of chopped herbs of your choice. Cover the mixture and allow the herbal flavours to permeate the butter for two to three hours before using it. Some popular recipes are shown below:

Chive Butter

1 small cup butter
1 tbsp. chopped chives
1 tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. rosemary

Dill and Oregano Butter

1 small cup butter
1 tsp. dillseed
1 tsp. oregano

Mint Butter

1 small cup butter
2 small cup chopped mint leaves
2 tbsp. lemon juice.

Download Activity Sheet.