Saturday, 19 June 2010

Potpourri from your herb garden

Almost anything can go into a potpourri, so long as it is very dry (so it won't go mouldy).

Some examples:

2 cups rosemary leaves
1 cup marjoram leaves
1/2 cup each thyme, sage, savory leaves
1 cup each dried orange peel and coarse salt

1 cup rose petals
1 cup lavender flowers
½ cup geranium petals
1 broken cinnamon stick
½ cup rosemary

3 tbs rose petals
2 tbs chamomile
1 tbs coriander
1 tbs lavender
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean

Potpourri needs a fixative to absorb any scent that is added to make it last longer. Orris root is the one most often used in potpourri. You but it from healthfood shops or shops selling scented oils and candles. Dry lavender, sage leaves, patchouli, sandalwood bark and rock salt are also fixatives

SCENT with essential oil such as lavender, geranium, rose oil.

FILLERS can be anything from extra leaves and pine cones to coloured glass marbles, glitter and sea shells! Small gold cardboard cut outs of hearts and stars, or paper wedding confetti can be used, except in mixes using scented oils, where they would become stained. If you look at some commercial potpourri you will notice that they are made up of coloured wood shavings. The shavings hold scented oil like a fixative and are colourful and bulky.

To make a simple dried potpourri
Collect flowers and/or herbs from the garden at a time when they are open and dry. Collect 3 times as many flowers as you think you will need. (Flowers lose 2/3 of their weight after they have dried.) Blot to remove excess moisture.
Pull off the petals, discard the green parts (stem, leaves, flower head), and any brown parts on the petals. Be sure to unfurl them all to separate the individual petals. If they stick together moisture hides between them and they can go mouldy. If you are drying roses, tear of the white heal parts on each petal.
Also collect a few leaves, nice sized ones, the drier the better and maybe a piece of tree bark.
Place in a wide flat container. Spread petals thinly allowing plenty of airflow. I put mine in a big plastic sandwich “Tupperware” box with paper towel on the bottom.
Leave in a dry, well-ventilated area away from strong light. Turn and stir every few days, or each time you pass it by. If the flowers were wet, look for signs of mould and remove those bits immediately. Remove the paper after the first day or so.
Petals are ready when they are crisp and dry. If the weather is humid and they aren’t drying, I place them in the oven (fan only) for a few hours. In our climate drying can be a challenge so I try to only use plants that dry easily.
Combine the dry ingredients with a fixative (eg. orrisroot powder). Add spices, dried bits of citrus fruit or bits of wood impregnated with scented oils i.e. aroma therapy oils. Mix gently with your hands.
You can now place potpourri to cure in tightly sealed jars for six weeks, or just use it as is.
Potpourri is often placed in open containers, like small bowls, cups or baskets, to allow their aroma to delicately scent the room. Sachets can be made from old handkerchiefs, or squares of silk, muslin or lawn –folded into a triangle and tied with ribbon and lace – or sewn into a little pillow.


Getting rid of bugs. In our climate they can be a problem. Moths will lay their eggs in my nice open potpourri bowls. If this happens, bag up your potpourri in plastic zip-lock bags and place them in the freezer for a minimum of two weeks. Remove then put over a sieve to get out the dead grubs/weevils etc. Ta-Da, bug free potpourri.
Alternatively place dried red chillies in the potpourri. It seems to drive the nasties away, and looks hot.
Remember, essential oils etc may bleed through material or baskets, so put a liner of some kind between the potpourri and its holder.

To use these mixtures as a room freshener, fill a pot with at least 2 cups water. Add the mixture. Simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour or longer. If you'll be simmering for longer than a half-hour, add more water. If you wish, use a potholder to carry the simmering pan around your house to further spread the smell.
(use fresh leaves or dried)

4 tbs rosemary leaves
3 bay leaves
1 tbs basil
1 tbs sage
1 tbs fennel
1 tsp dill seed

6 tbs of mint &/or peppermint, spearmint
1 tbs rosemary
1tbs dried lemon peel
1 tbs dried lime peel

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