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Herbs and the Holidays

Herbs for the Holidays

The smell of pine, cedar, cinnamon, rosemary, cloves and citrus along with the aromas of food baking and sparkling lights puts one in the holiday mood! Save money by decorating with herbs and spice you have in your pantry.  Another part of the holiday festivities is:  handmade gifts, baking, sharing our favorite recipes and enjoying family time making memories.  Celebrations are what help us connect to our history, our families and cultures. Sometimes these events can be overwhelming and we need to slow down.  Spending time using herbs is a perfect way to slow down, catch your breath and become involved in the holiday traditions. Whether you’re cutting herbs for drying, making into bundles to decorate your packages or to give as culinary gifts or you’re making herb tea and cookies for a small gathering, just having the herbs around you, smelling them and handling them can help you relax.The holiday season is the time we enjoy family, traditions cherished memories and make new memories!            

Decorating for the holiday season can be time-consuming as well as expensive. While decking the halls may not consume as much time as holiday shopping and wrapping presents interior and exterior decorating for the holidays may consume anywhere from 2.5 to three hours per session.  This year let’s keep holiday decorating simple and inexpensive by filling our home full of magnificent scents by decorating with herbs and spices from our garden and kitchen!  Let’s take a stroll through our garden to see what we can find to decorate with.

ROSEMARY:  Rosemary is an attractive aromatic ash colored evergreen shrub that is a perennial herb in warm climates and an annual in colder climates.  Rosemary has a pungent, pine like fragrance, scaly bark and opposite, narrow, leathery leaves, which are thick & dark green on the top & downy white underneath.  It has violet blue flowers, lavender to pink that blooms in May.  Rosemary is the herb of remembrance in literature and folklore.  In ancient times it was supposed to strengthen memory and Greek scholars wore it in their hair to help remember.  Ancient Greece used as incense & dedicated to the Goddess of Love-Aphrodite.  Ancient Rome dedicated to Venus—it was considered to give eternal youth & beauty.  A small, potted rosemary bush makes a lovely little holiday tree or fragrant centerpiece.  Rosemary can turn into a gorgeous wreath, play a central role on the holiday tablescape, beautify our gift wrapping and home decorations and even make adorable mini holiday tree alternatives.  You can also use branches of rosemary to decorate tables, mantels, staircases and over windows and doorways, make holiday ornaments, placed inside glass ornaments, napkin holders or placed in a jar of water with berries for a decorative candle holder.

Rosemary and Orange Candles

 

SAGE:  When you think of Sage you think of dressing but sage has many more uses.  Sage is a hardy perennial subshrub with woody, wiry stems, 2 inch leaves and pink, purple, blue or white flowers.  It is native to Northern Mediterranean Coast and requires slightly alkaline, well drained and moderately rich soil with a soil PH of 6.4,.  Once the plant is established it will need little moisture but will need full sun.  Sage has a pungent flavor that is lemony, camphor like slightly bitter and has a musty mint taste and aroma.  Arabians say sage represents immortality or longevity and increasing mental capacity.  During the holidays and before a big presentation I love a good cup of sage tea.   Sage was a prize tea in China and the Chinese would trade their fine green tea (ration of 4 to 1) for sage.  Sage and rosemary complement each other so they can be mixed in decorations if you wish.  Lavender is another herb that complements both and looks great in decorations.  Both can be frozen in ice cubes or rings to make a nice decoration in a holiday beverage or punch.  Sage leaves secured with a rope ribbon around a large candle make a beautiful candle to decorate your home.  Bundles of sage secure with ribbon looks great on mantels, staircases, over doorways and windows and in centerpieces.

Sage Wreath

 Other herbs you can use for decorating are mint, lavender and scented geraniums along with the spices cinnamon and cloves.  Look through your garden and get creative gathering these different herbs to make holiday wreaths adding holly, citrus fruits and spices from your kitchen.  You can also use these same items to make a sentential potpourri to simmer on the stove or in a potpourri pot.  Make ornament balls or in shapes to place in a vase or bowl to add a festive fragrance throughout your home along with dressing up a busy hallway or foyer of your home.  Add dried herb cuttings to decorative pillows for an inviting scent and instant festivity!

                       

 

Tips for Using Herbs and Spices Throughout Your Holiday
  • Make holiday ornaments from cinnamon, cloves and applesauce
  • Use rosemary, orange peel and varies of other herbs and spices to decorate around drinks on the table
  • Select large whole sprigs of rosemary to use as table runners
  • Sprinkle some finely chopped herbs over dips or spreads to give them eye-appeal and fresh flavor
  • Stuff herb sprigs into the cavity of your turkey for fantastic aroma as it roasts.
  • Use whole sprigs to garnish the platter of your turkey or roast.                                                                               
  • Choose tall pieces of rosemary or sage to use as table bouquets — you can use them alone or mix them with flowers.
  • Tuck a branch of a woody herb like thyme or rosemary into your guests’ napkin rings.
  • Add the leaves of soft herbs like parsley, chives and dill to green salads.
  • If you use just the herb leaves, save the stems of thyme, parsley and dill for making stock or broth

CINNAMON ORNAMENTS                                                                                                                                                    Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 – 1 ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves (optional)
  • Cookie cutters
  • Drinking straw
  • Decorative ribbon or string

Directions:  Preheat oven to 200°F.  Mix applesauce, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl until a smooth dough is formed.  Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  Cut dough into preferred shapes using cookie cutters.  Make a hole at top of the ornament using the straw.  Place the ornaments on baking sheet and bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours until they are dry and hard.  Once the ornaments are completely cool, loop the ribbon or string through the ornament and hang on your tree.  What an awesome family project that you can enjoy throughout the year and for several holidays.

These are just a few ways you can use herbs to decorate your home.  For more information on using herbs contact Martha B. Maddox. Martha B. Maddox is the Family and Consumer Sciences County Extension Agent IV for UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County.  Contact Martha at mmaddox@ufl.edu or 352-955-2402.

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