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What's in your garden?


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I've only got rosemary, because the weather here is brutal and I'm quite terrible at growing anything. I'm going to plant a bay tree, as I went to get bay leaves yesterday and the store had none, which is a travesty. We have a few gum trees, but I haven't investigated the specific species that we have. I need to find out what the local First Nations lore is around our flora.


I'm considering mugwort, but then the question is which mugwort, as there are several - with the European variant Artemisia being used for absinthe - and the old writers appear to often be unclear about species, so I'm wondering about the distinction between common mugwort and wormwood, but that'll be research for another day.


I'm wondering about fresh herbs vs dried ... and then there's drying - bunches of certain herbs being good for keeping evil away, as well as bugs, and you need to grow-your-own to have that kind of quantity.

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Dried herbs hanging in bunches all over your house upside-down are wonderful for scaring off bad energy ... and bad people. AND look very decorative and witchy!


Fresh herbs are MUCH more medicinal, and more flavoursome. You can, however, preserve most of the medicinal qualities of herbs for the future by creating a spagyric extract, as opposed to a tincture. Tinctures only preserve the ingredients that are soluble in alcohol, spagyric extracts go a bit further. Creating a spagyric extract:


Pack a glass container with as much of the freshly picked herb as possible. Dark glass is better, because light degrades some of the chemical ingredients. Crush them down hard in the jar. When you cannot possibly pack more in the foliage should be slightly bruised. Slowly, carefully, add the best quality and highest percentage ethyl alcohol you can find, though if you're a snob you can go something with a name, like Glenfiddich or Courvoisier. But while they are more satisfying, simple "white lightning" will do the job better.


Leave in a cool, dark place for a month or so, somewhere like the cupboard under your laundry sink or your kitchen sink.


Strain it carefully in medical-clean equipment, keeping both liquids and solids. Crush the solids back in the jar once it's been sterilised - they should crush down lower, this time. Cover with the same liquid it was covered with before. If the foliage floats, press it down with a couple of thicknesses of waxed paper or baking-paper or something (not foil!) and weigh that down with glass fermentation weights. Then reseal, place in the cool dark spot again, and wait another month. Do this a minimum of six times. By this time the liquid should be almost black. Allow what's left of the solids to air-dry, then put them in a crucible or super-clean ceramic bowl and burn them to white ash. This ash will contain a lot of the minerals of the plant that you simply don't get in tinctures. Bottle the liquid and add the ash to it, again, dark glass to prevent it degrading in the light. Shake very well before each use, so that you get an even amount of suspended ash particles in each dose.


One thing I would love to do if I had acreage, would be to grow vast crops of herbs that I love, such as oregano, thyme and lavender, harvest huge amounts of one at a time, and cover the hard-floors - not carpeted floors - inside my house with it, as was done in Mediaeval times. Fresh herbs on the floor, replaced every few days and getting walked-over, release their perfumes into the air, which is nice for us, but absolutely necessary in Mediaeval times, when baths were few and far between. There were many references to strewing-herbs, as they were called, and the servants who were employed solely to cultivate, cut and spread them, as opposed to the gardener who grew the veggies and if you were high-status the flowers ass well. Strewing herb gardens were tucked away behind as something shameful, but necessary. 🙂


Queen Elizabeth I used to like it if her night clothes were spread over growing herbs on sunny days so that they smelled nice at night.

Edited by Nisaba
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Oh that's so interesting to read about strewing-herbs. I must grow some - I have space. I'm sure there must be some hardy varieties that will do okay. The rosemary is certainly robust.


Spagyric extract sounds like quite a process - I'm not sure I'd trust myself not to end up with botulism. I've friends who are into brewing and sourdough and fermenting all sorts of things, and I'm quite mystified by their skills. Compost is about the limit of my ability to conjure with microbes and at least the soil can sort out my mistakes given enough time.


I used to have most wonderful herbal, an inch-thick tome with lovely illustrations and details about culinary and medicinal uses and counterindications...  borrowed and not returned, I think - I must try and get another copy.

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