I have always loved growing herbs for use in the kitchen, medicinal teas, and for the pure joy of working with them in the garden. Nothing compares to the aroma of freshly cut herbs. Other than those reasons, my cats really appreciate them, too.
To harvest, I usually cut and hang bundles to dry. In the middle of winter it’s such a treat to grind the dry herbs and as they release their oils, they fill my kitchen with tantalizing odours. I feel like summer has just walked through my kitchen! But what else can you do with herbs? There are many uses of herbs, but this year I decided to try, once again, herb oils. Yep, once again. I have given oils a try before, but without much luck. This year, I stumbled upon a method that finally gave me what I was looking for. I was able to make a lovely peppermint oil that met my expectations.
Just to note, infused oils use much less plant material than essential oils and can be applied to the skin if desired. Essential oils can cause a nasty rash if applied directly to the skin.
Method for Making Infused Oils
Cut fresh herbs and allow to dry if wet. Wet herbs will produce mouldy oils. Pull leaves off plant and bruise slightly in mortar and pestle. Put into a clean jar and fill to the top with oil. I used grape seed oil, but you can use any oil that does not have a strong scent, such as canola or safflower. Olive oil works well for Rosemary or thyme oil, but can become rancid quickly. Screw the lid on tightly. Let sit for about 2 weeks. To make a stronger oil, I repeated the process daily for a week. You will need to strain the herbs from the oil using cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer. I personally like cheesecloth as it catches even the smallest pieces of plant materials. Below is a photo of my peppermint oil and materials I used.
fresh, clean, dry herbs
Glass jar with lid (preferably not metal)
Motar and pestle
Uses of infused oil
Infused oil can be used for adding to salves, lip ointment, and in hair products. How you use them depends on the healing properties of the plants you use. For example, if you are bothered by insect bites in summer, you may want to make a plantain oil to add to a salve. The peppermint oil I made is invigorating and can be used to stimulate. I used my peppermint oil in my diffuser. As the oil heated up, it released an invigorating peppermint smell into the entire room.
In the kitchen herb oils made from rosemary, thyme, oregano, or sage can be added to marinades, sauces, stir fries, or salad dressings. I like to add a sprig of the plant to the finished oil to “dress” it up a bit and it can help with identification of the oil. Herb oils make welcome gifts, as well.