Tagged: herb gardening

Honeysuckle Magic

20130620-215221.jpg Oh, the scent of honeysuckle. The aroma floating on the breeze that says “Put away your sweaters and long johns. The sun is high, the wind is warm. Come outside and play.”

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrial at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab I heard that honeysuckle is supposed to help with self-control. I’m not sure how it should be used to gain that effect, but in one of those weird ways that everything seems to tie together, I learned this little tidbit after I had begun my own little Kitchen Witchery experiment featuring Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle. This species of honeysuckle is considered a noxious weed in many areas . It’s nearly impossible to eradicate once established and it spreads like wildfire in marginal areas, but boy-oh-boy does it smell heavenly.

I wanted to capture that scent so I could get a hit of Southern Summer whenever I needed it and share it with others through my Etsy shop, Two Horse Shoe, if it turned out well. I went out to my side yard to our HUGE honeysuckle bush. We’ve tried to dig it out at least twice in 4 years, but its currently about 12 feet tall. I clipped the most blossom laden branches I could find. Then, I sat down and plucked only the peak blossoms, being careful not to include any stem or leaves. It took 2 hours of plucking to fill the jar. After I filled the jar with blossoms, I poured some vodka over them.

I wish I could tell you that it was organic, non-gmo, artisanal vodka. But I’m not gonna lie. It was the cheapest bottle I could find.

I left the creamy white and buttery yellow blossoms to infuse for a few days. Then, I strained out the blossoms and left it to settle for a while.

Then, nerd that I am, I did it all again.

Unfortunately, I had some issues during the process, which you can read about here, if you’ve got a strong constitution and want a little TMI about me. So I really didn’t want to fool with it for a few weeks. Otherwise, I would have done several more infusions.

Last week, the infusion had been sitting, to rest and let some vodka evaporate, for about a month. When I finally smelled it… well… People, it was a bit of a let down. I’d spent at least 6 hours on this stuff. It was a gorgeous yellow-amber color. But the scent was… meh. There was ~something~ there, but the vodka was still way strong and the other aroma was very green and vegetal rather than heady, sweet, white floral. There was a hint of the floral, lurking in the top notes. I’d get a whiff when I splashed some on my skin, but not strong enough to overcome the vodka.

So I’ve changed the focus of the infusion a bit. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adding a bit of this and a bit of that. I’ve got some chamomile that volunteered from last years blossoms gone to seed, so I’ve been popping German chamomile blossoms in there as they bloom.

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I’ve also got some pretty, deep burgundy Bachelor Buttons growing. I’ve thrown a few of those in for color. Then, I really threw caution to the wind! I stuffed in a big bunch of Golden Delicious Sage, which smells just like apples and has lovely, bright yellow-green, fuzzy leaves.

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And because they looked and smelled so light and refreshing, I added Peace Rose (top) and Tiffany Rose (bottom) blooms.

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Next, I added a small handful of my favorite herb, lemon thyme, and several Moldavian Dragonhead leaves, both of which have a bright, crisp, lemon scent.

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Then to make things super fresh and a bit unusual, I put in several large sprigs of chocolate mint.

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We were out on a walk last night, when a familiar, candy-sweet, heady floral fragrance drifted by. Mmmmm-mlmosa. Also known as Persian Silk Floss Tree. Yet another heavenly smelling, noxious weed. The bright pink, fluffy flowers look like they belong in a Dr. Suess illustration. Of course, I added some. Must remember to add more.

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(Source: Wikipedia)

So now, it looks like this:

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It’s sitting in my Cabinet of Curiosities… infusing. All the different aroma components rubbing up against one another in that Honeysuckle Vodka. Whooo-hoo. Sexy, wild times on the Suburban Homestead.

As the summer progresses, I will add whatever strikes my fancy. I’ve got some Sweet Woodruff drying. It has kind of an unusual fragrance right now, when it’s still green. But it is supposed to smell sweetly of vanilla-ish hay when dried and is customarily used to scent alcohol. In Germany, it’s called Waldmeister, “Master of the Woods”. The Germans mix Waldmeister syrup with vodka to make a special party drink. It sounds so “Black Forest”, primeval woods.

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(Source: Wikipedia Commons)

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Will it smell nice? Will it make a refreshing beverage? Will it be good for skin? I’ll let you know as Honeysuckle Magic evolves over the summer.

Gourmet Squirrels

A few years ago, before I “put in” my garden beds, I decided to grow a small herb container garden.  I bought a large plastic pot (I even sprang for the matching saucer!) and filled it with dirt and plants.  I planted lemon thyme, cheddar pinks, and a sad looking little basil plant I bought in the produce section of my grocery store.

As the plants grew, I introduced my young daughters to the joys of plucking a fresh herb leaf, crushing it between fingers, and taking a big whiff.  They loved it!  I like to imagine that helped them learn to enjoy their senses and live in the moment.

When the basil was getting nice and lush and tall, I went out one day to find one of the tops of the stalks snapped off.  I looked around for the top, assuming that one of the girls had pulled it off to sniff and just tossed it to the ground after, as we usually did.  But it was nowhere to be found.  Oh well, no biggie.  They must have carried it arouBedford a bit before dropping it.

The next day, more leaves are stripped off.  A couple of naked twigs struck up from the mass of leaves.  I gave the girls a gentle lecture about only taking a leaf or two to sniff.  They nodded and agreed, looking a little confused.

A few days later, I walked out to see the plants stripped absolutely bare.  Not a single leaf was left, just several pathetic twigs sticking up from the dirt.  For some reason, I didn’t say anything to the kids, but mentioned it to Hubs that evening.

“Squirrels” was his reply.  He told me that he had seen a squirrel messing around in the pit several days previous, eating some leaves. But he had assumed that the squirrel would lose interest after a mouthful of the spicy, pungent plants.  Well, apparently not.  I assume the stuffed their greedy cheeks full of my prized basil, scampered back to their little squirrel nests and made walnut pesto from the black walnuts the gathered in our yard.  Seriously?  Gourmet squirrels.