Monday, July 14, 2008

so many choices, only time for one

On Saturday, Maryanne and I both have talks to give at the Mid-Atlantic Meeting of Lights and Lather Artisans in Pittsburgh. She'll be discussing soap colorants, and I am taking the still for a demo.

Yesterday I was trying to decide what would be a good choice to distill. So I took off wandering around to see what options are available. The lavender is about kicked for now, so that's out.

First up is this wonderfully full oregano. There's more than enough there for a good distillation. It won't smell "pretty" though. The resulting distillate is going to be a door prize, so it should be something they like. On the other hand, besides getting a wee bit of oil, the hydrosol would probably be great in italian dishes, and added to sauces. Hmmmm.....
Next comes the rosemary. This plant is enormous for rosemary in MY growing experience. It grows next to a fir tree, and is cracking me up as it appears to be trying to compete for size. That could be my imagination. I've been known to assign motives to inanimate objects before, but it just seems to have an attitude. I distilled rosemary last year, and besides the bit of eo, the hydrosol has maintained every bit of its scent over the year. It might be a good choice. Rosemary soap is great, and the hydrosol could be used as the water.
Balloon flowers aren't a good choice. To my knowledge, there's no reason to distill them. Still, this soft pink flower always catches my breath. I love the deep rays that stretch out from the center, the perfect symetry, and the way the buds turn into perfect hot-air balloons. When the guys in the family were piloting balloons, we found these flowers. The deep blue is stunning too. I just chose the pink because it is so delicate.
The front garden. Nothing of interest here YET. The vitex was very interesting 2 years ago, and it made a lovely hydrosol. This year I would also like to try distilling echinacea to see what comes of it. It's the experimentation that appeals to me more than anything.
Ah...meadow tea. I think this is spearmint. It reminds me so much of my childhood, when we'd set out for the day to play down by the creek. The boys would fish from a small plastic boat while I just tryed to stay as far as possible from A) fish hooks and B) stinging nettle. The scent of this mint is blended with the scent of fish living in a creek, to form one fresh, wild scent. A few years back I met a land management guy who, as we walked around a spring-fed pond, talked about being able to smell fish in a pond before even knowing there was a pond over the next hill or beyond the tree line. I knew exactly what he meant. It isn't a fishy smell. It's a smell of pollywogs and mud and grasses, mints and burn hazel and water. But this mint brings that smell to mind every time. I was glad to have someone point out to me that there even is such a thing as that. This would make a delicious distillate. It could be used in all kinds of ways, not the least of which would be culinary.
Now this is the mountain mint that came home with me from Baton Rouge in ...was it last year? It has gotten huge and lush. The tops of the stems have all turned this luscious shade of pale green, while the lower leaves are brilliant jade green. This distills beautifully. We did it for an herb guild last fall, and it was so strong as to make us almost woozy. The resulting hydrosol makes a spectacular body spray on hot days - especially if kept cold in the fridge. It also makes a wonderful minty soap. This would be the apple mint. There is so much out there right now I could fill the still 10 times and there would be enough left over to dry and have a few pounds. The plants are incredibly healthy, reaching halfway up the pines they grow amongst. The trees are about 7' tall. I distilled this mint last year, and it is a delicious, juicy mint. It is nice as it fills the room with refreshing mint while steaming away, producing essential oil and lots of hydrosol.
Between my garden and my sister's garden, we'd probably have enough calendula to try. I've never done that one. It would probably be pretty sticky in the biomass flask, but that's simple enough to clean with a little alcohol. Perhaps we'll do this one later. If it works, I won't want to give it away, and it probably wouldn't be good to experiment in front of a group - if the experiment fails.
I just like the blue of the chicory next to the blue spruces. It looks so pretty out in the field. Besides the chicory, there is a lot of Queen Anne's lace. The three together are stupendous. I'm pretty sure my bil doesn't feel the same, as the weeds aren't a good thing for him.
Last shot for today is the elderflower slowly turning into elderberry. There are so many berries on the bushes this year that I just might try distilling them. That might be really cool. Or not. We'll see.
So aside from that, I have peppermint, chocolate mint, and holy basil that could be distilled. It might just turn out to be whatever we're in the mood for on Friday when we pick it. There are just too many choices.


Rosemary said...

Beatiful walk thru your garden this morning! Loved the Rosemary - does it winter over for you?

Tina Sams said...

It did last year. I usually have a 50/50 chance, and only once have had a third year plant. This one sure seems determined, though.

Anonymous said...

mmmmm... thanks for the minty tour. just reading about it makes me smell it, though all I have in my spritzer on this hot day is lavander/rosemary e.o. But mint just takes the CAKE as far as refreshing goes!!! I am happy to discover your blog today, and I applaud your spirit of experimentation! (: Sasha

Diane said...

Hi Tina, I met you at Alloway Creek Farm. I was just thinking of you yesterday when I was out tending my you cover your Rosemary in the winter? I've only had one Rosemary survive our winters in the mid-atlantic region. Any ideas? Your gardens look remarkable. I loved looking! Thanks.

I just read the comment by Rosemary....yep, how do we get them to survive without bringing them in?

Tina Sams said...

Took me a while to answer, Diane. I am not very good about coddling plants, so if it's something easy to replace - like rosemary - I try to plant it somewhere out of the wind and cross my fingers.
This one is not out of the wind. It's right out there in the middle of everything. Just wanted to come back another year, I guess :-).


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