Of all the treasures and wonders of the summer season, for me, the most revered are the colorful, aromatic, fresh herbs and flowers. Roadsides, railways, gardens, and mountainsides are all alive with wild flowers and plants and dragonflies, butterflies, bees, and winged creatures of all sizes delight in their presence. After months of using their dried counterparts, fresh herbs remind us of the true vitality and essence of herbalism. There’s nothing quite like waking up, going out into the sun, and bending down to pick a few leaves of mint, lemon balm, sage, or verbena and making a fresh infusion. A cup of fresh Lemon Balm leaf tea makes the dry version pale in comparison. Working with fresh herbs and flowers is one of the sweetest experiences one can have, and now is the time for these moments. Naturally, we seek to preserve the fresh herb experience much like one seeks to preserve memories through photographs, feelings through a journal, keepsakes through a time capsule buried in the earth for future discovery. This season, I have enjoyed the blessing of a bountiful little herb patch that began with only a few small starter plants and seeds, and has blossomed into a thriving plant community regularly visited by dragonflies, butterflies, and the like. I am astonished each time I visit at the rapid growth and the incessant offering of Calendula blooms, lavender buds, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, parsley, and rosemary. The garden’s growth exceeded my wildest dreams and it seems every day the leaves have multiplied once again, and even after leaving behind plenty for other visitors, I am left with an abundance of plant material to take home. One of my favorite recipes that I developed inspired by my own garden is the follow facial toner, called Shades of Green because as it brews, it goes through stages of greens, leading ultimately to a deep, forest green that alludes to its powerful natural healing gifts. I believe the parsley lends a deep glow to the skin, while calendula can heal past damage. The lavender was added for beauty and inspiration, and also lends a cleansing, astringent effect.
You’ll need: 1 pint size mason jar, organic witch hazel or vodka, distilled water
Gather enough Calendula blooms and leaves, lavender buds and leaves, and parsley leaves (you can try root here too) to fill the jar to the top, but not over-stuffing completely (there should be enough space for the herbs to move around freely when the liquid is added.) Fill 3/4 of the jar with vodka or witch hazel, and the rest with water. Swirl the herbs around, and leave in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks. At first, the liquid will turn a bright emerald green, then watch it daily as it absorbs the vitamins, minerals, and magic of the plants – changing to a deep forest green. When the leaves and flowers look as though they have given all their color away, you can begin to use the toner. I like to leave the plant material inside while I use it, then eventually I strain it and store it in a small jar with a spray pump for easier application.
Use: I like to apply a small amount to an organic cotton ball and use it to clean my face – great when camping! Feel free to experiment with the ratios of the herbs – I used more calendula and parsley, and a few lavender sprigs. Go with what you have on hand and let your garden’s supply inspire you. Be well and be beautiful.