Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Herbs – Herb of the Week

Recently Gypsy Herbal posted on Facebook a poster of Holiday Herbs.  There was a discussion about the herbs that might be missing from the image, like sage and parsley.  I am sure I have posted on Christmas or Bible herbs before, but I thought a December Holiday post with a few choice favorites of mine for the holiday would be perfect of Christmas, especially when it falls on a Wednesday.


Some herbs are seasonal symbols that can be added to a winter feast bouquet, tucked into napkin rings, added to sprays on side tables and tucked into the ribbons tied on presents as extra gifts from the garden.  All can be made into bouquets or tussie-mussies to be given to friends, hung on the door handles of neighbors'  front doors, or the bedroom door handles of visiting house guests.
  • Rosemary represents remembrance for special friends.
  • Lavender is a fragrant scent of the sweetness of life.
  • Horehound is a wish for health.
  • Marjoram is for the joy of the festivities, as is its cousin Oregano.
  • Mint is a reminder of home.
  • Sage speaks of virtue and long life.
  • Thyme is for courage to face the darkness of the long winter nights.
Beyond the language of herbs there are stories, uses and legends that link some herbs to the December holiday season.  Like Bedstraw, Chamomile, Horehound, Thyme, and Sweet Woodruff which were said to have been mixed with the manger grasses.
Bedstraw or Wild Madder
Bedstraw also known as the Gallium plant, is an herb that may have been used in baby Jesus' manger.  Bedstraw has a sweet honey aroma that is released when warmed.  The herb is also used to make red dye.

Costmary

Costmary, Ivy and Bay Laurel --Costmary leaves were used to add spice to holiday ale, or wassail, in old Europe. Called Bible leaf they are considered a symbol of everlasting life. Ivy and bay laurel were long used, along with other greens, to help celebrate the winter solstice in early Europe, with ivy symbolizing friendship and bay laurel as a reminder that the long winter would soon melt into spring. 


Cardamom Pods


In my family traditions Cardamom (a spice) figures prominently in sweet breads and meat seasonings. 

Creativity tea
This blend of herbs and spices helps construct a creative frame of mind.
§  1 Tbls. Hibiscus
§  1 Tbls. Lemon grass
§  ½ Tbls. Basil (Holy Basil if you have it is even better)
§  1 tsp. Rosemary
§  1 tsp. Cardamom seed (if you have pods crush and extract only the seed)

Combine in a container with a tight fitting lid and use 2 tsp. per cup of hot water. Allow to steep 5 to 7 minutes.
Rosemary with Horehound above
Rosemary  is one of the most beautiful and fragrant of the seasonal herbs.  Rosemary, according to folklore, will bring happiness for the coming year to anyone who smells it on Christmas Eve.  So perhaps a Rosemary Wreath is in order. (check out this link!)



Sage is commonly used in culinary dishes.  Legend also holds that Mary and baby Jesus hid in a large blooming sage bush when King Herrod was searching for them.  For this reason, sage is known as the herb of immortality.
thyme knot garden
A list of my favorite herbs would not be complete with out the mention of Thyme. For the holiday I have chosen Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) because it is said it was collected from the fields outside of Bethlehem to make a soft bed for Mary during the birth of her child.   It is a pungent herb, thought to have antiseptic properties and was burned as incense later in history by the Greeks. Today thyme is a popular culinary seasoning but can be used in dried flower arrangements, bouquets, and potpourri during the holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy New Year Susanne - Let's Herb together!

    ReplyDelete

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