Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

What to do with what’s in your garden.

Fresh mint, thyme, and lemon balm. —Stacey Rupolo

You’ve worked hard all spring, preparing a garden plot, putting in fencing, keeping the deer away from precious seedlings and tender blooms. Now that the rainsoaked earth is finally getting some summer rays, the blooms and leaves are out to play. But what to do with it all? Here are some suggestions for those green thumbers or culinarily curious.

Lavender Salt or Sugar

½ cup either white or brown sugar OR sea salt
3 Tbsp. dried lavender buds

Grind lavender buds with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. Mix with sugar or salt, depending on what you’re making. Use the sugar in or on top of baked goods. The salt can be used as a rub for meat. Makes ½ cup.

Lavender Mint Tea

2 cups water
10 to 15 fresh or dried lavender flowers (add more according to your preference)
About 4 freshly harvested mint stems (spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, red stemmed mint, or your favorite variety)

Gently rinse off lavender (if using fresh) and mint with cool water. Place herbs in a teapot. Boil the water and pour over herbs. Steep for at least 15 minutes, 20 for a strong cup. Makes two cups.

Lavender harvesting tips: Harvest lavender when it is in full bloom, removing both the flowers and the stalks from the bush, cutting right above the roots. If using in a bundle or sachet, harvest the plant when it is full of buds and the flowers have barely opened. For essential oils, harvest the flowers, leaves, and stem, as the oil is derived from all three.

Rosewater Facial Toner

15 to 30 roses
3 cups distilled water
About 15 ice cubes
2 medium heatproof bowls

Dip flowers in cold water and remove the petals. Place a heatproof bowl upside down in a large pot; scatter petals around the bowl and cover with the distilled water. Put the second bowl upright, on top of the inverted bowl and cover the pot with the lid upside down, so the handle is in the bowl. Simmer the petals until you see condensation appear on the lid. Add a few ice cubes to the inverted lid, which will attract the moisture to pool in the bowl.

Continue to simmer until all the water is in the bowl, about 45 minutes, adding ice cubes as they melt. Be careful not to scorch the petals by heating any longer than this. Put rosewater concentrate into a sealable bottle or jar; it will keep for 3 months. Strain any remaining water left in the pot. You may add remaining liquid to the rosewater essence, or add to drinks or baked goods.

Rosewater is a natural anti-inflammatory and astringent. Use multiple times daily (in the morning, after being in the sun, after washing your face) with a moistened cotton pad or a spritzer bottle, or by applying directly to your face.

Harvesting tips: Pick roses in the morning, when it’s cool, before the heat wilts the flowers. Place harvested stems in water immediately.

Herb Blends

Herbes de Provence
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
½ Tbsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbsp. dried summer savory
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. lavender flowers

Italian Blend
4 Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. minced garlic

3 Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbsp. dried savory
1 tsp. dried fennel

For all these herb combinations, it’s best to pick, wash, and dry the herbs prior to mixing. Once the herbs are dry, rough-chop them and place in an airtight container. For another option, skip the drying process and mix your herbs with ½ cup coarse sea salt in a food processor until combined, or rough-chop. Can be used as a meat rub. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Will last for at least six months.

Quick Pickles

1 cup vinegar (white, apple cider, white wine, champagne, or rice, according to your preference)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 pound vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, red onion, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, radishes, or summer squash)
Fresh herbs (oregano, dill, rosemary, thyme — optional)
1 clove garlic, whole or chopped (optional)
1 tsp. whole spices (peppercorns, mustard seeds, or coriander — optional)

Wash and dry the vegetables. Chop into small pieces, trimming the ends of carrots, cucumbers, green beans, and squash. Divide into prewashed glass jars, adding any herbs or spices you are using. Pack the jars as tightly as you can without smashing vegetables.

Bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar, if using, to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling the jar(s) to within ½ inch of the top. Tap the jar to release air bubbles and seal tightly with a lid. Cool on the counter to room temperature, then store the pickled vegetables in the fridge for at least 2 days before eating.

Infusing Honey

1 tsp. dried herbs (not ground) or 1 tbsp. whole dried flowers (rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, mint, lemon balm, rose petals, elderflower, or chamomile blossoms)
1 cup of light-colored honey

Place herbs or flowers into a jar and cover with honey, mixing to release any trapped air. Cover with a lid and set the jar in a cool place for a week. Strain the herbs or flowers out of the jar with a sieve, pouring the honey into a new jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to six months.

Harvesting tip: Make sure your herbs or flowers are dry before using. Any water added to the honey can cause mold or bacteria growth. De-stemming herbs helps them distribute evenly, but makes them harder to strain out.