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Add a little nature to your holiday season with these ideas.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times Photo taken August 12, 2011 Avariety of oils or vinegars infused with various herbs, vegetables, fruits or spices.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
The holiday season has officially begun and many of us are giving thought to gifts for friends and family. Why not look to your garden as a source ?
Veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers all can be used to create thoughtful gifts that don’t take much time or effort, but can add a little nature to your holiday season.
Here are some of my favorite ideas of gifts from the garden .
Vegetable, fruit and herb growers have a wealth of gift-giving ideas. Food items are always a much-appreciated present during the busy holidays, so consider a gift of homemade spaghetti sauce from your homegrown tomatoes. Or, turn your harvest into salsa, chutney or relish.
Create jam, jelly, fruit butter or marmalade from your fruit and herbs, and liven up a friend’s breakfast. Homemade jam is easy to make and can even be made sugar-free for friends who are watching their sugar intake. Herbs can make jams extra special, with unique and delicious flavors, such as lavender-peach jam, rosemary-apple jelly or marmalade-mint jelly.
Herbs also can be turned into herbal vinegars, butters and oils that will infuse cooking with herbal flavor. Flavored vinegars and oils are easy to make and expensive to buy, so any cook will appreciate receiving a bottle as a gift. Herbs, chili peppers and edible flowers can be used to create flavored vinegars and oils.
For baked goods, herbal-infused sugars will liven up your cookies, cakes and biscuits. Lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme and sage are all good choices for creating herbal sugar, and are easy gifts to make, as well.
Or, instead of a finished product, consider combining your herbs to give custom seasoning blends for your cooking friends. Make up classic herbes de provence, pasta seasoning, Italian or ranch dressing mixes, or barbecue rubs.
Nut growers can give tree nuts or peanuts for holiday snacking. Those with chestnut trees can give friends the quintessential holiday gift for roasting over an open fire.
Herb growers can dry herbs and create mixes for brewing tea. Good tea herbs include chamomile, mint, lavender, lemon balm and fennel. Combine lemon balm and chamomile for a soothing brew, or mix chocolate mint and spearmint for an after-dinner treat. If you like, add dried stevia for a little sweetness.
Dried flowers, herbs and fruits also can be used to make potpourri, and make a lovely gift packaged in a pretty jar or bowl. Begin with some fragrant dried herbs, such as lavender, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay or scented geraniums. Add some colorful flowers, such as calendula, rose petals, bachelor’s buttons or borage. Boost the fragrance by adding cinnamon sticks or dried citrus peels.
Or, turn dried herbs and flowers into sachets. Scented sachets are easy to make and don’t even require sewing skills. Just pick your favorite herbs and flowers and tuck them into bags or small pillows. Sachets can be used to scent drawers, to add to clothes in the dryer or can be placed under a pillow for a scented sleep.
For the crafty gardener, herbs and flowers can be used to create scented soaps, lotions, creams and balms. Or, personalize a purchased candle by melding leaves, flowers, ferns or herbs into the wax. Simply soften the candle wax by dipping it for a minute in boiling water, and then press leaves or flowers into the sides. Dip it again for another minute to coat and seal the items into the wax.
For bird lovers
For those gardeners who grow sunflowers, giant sunflower heads can be turned into an edible wreath for feeding birds. Just cut the center out of a giant sunflower head and decorate it as you like. You can also make edible wreaths from smaller sunflowers by attaching them to a metal wreath frame. Millet or clusters of peanuts make good edible decorations.
Gourd growers can make wonderful birdhouses for bird lovers. Create a single birdhouse or combine several to make a house for purple martins.
Children can make classic pinecone bird feeders, or combine homegrown nuts and seeds with suet to make edible ornaments for hanging on outdoor trees.
Flavored vodkas are very popular now, and, for a host or hostess who drinks alcohol, homemade flavored vodka would be a welcome hostess gift. A purchased bottle of vodka, and a little bit of time, are all that’s required to make this unique gift. Try lavender, rosemary, basil, thyme or chili peppers and have fun experimenting with your own garden concoctions.
Your host will also enjoy natural decorations made from evergreens, leaves, fruits and seeds from your garden. Wreaths, door ornaments and swags will all be appreciated for the holiday.
Perhaps the best gift is the simple sharing of your garden itself. Take cuttings of your favorite plants, or share seeds, bulbs or plants from your garden. Sharing a piece of your own garden truly embraces the season of giving.
Instructions for all of these ideas can be found easily on the Internet. I’ll also share them and more ideas on my blog at blogs.roanoke.com/downtoearth/. Come join the conversation!
Karen Hager’s column runs every other Saturday in Extra.
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