The holidays are the perfect time to play and create with herbs. Cinnamon,
cloves, nutmeg, ginger, peppermint, orange and sage are just a few of the
amazing tastes and smells that permeate our homes and bring smiles to our faces
this time of year.
Cooking and crafting with herbs are wonderful ways to share time
with your children or grandchildren. An easy holiday craft for younger children
can be something as simple as wrapping some aromatic mulling spices (about 2
tablespoons) in a square of cheesecloth or into a muslin bag and tying it up
with some baker’s twine. Kids can color a little instruction tag to tie on the
bag, and they now have some nice holiday gifts for everyone.
Speaking of mulling spices, here are some ideas and variations you
might like to sample. The combinations are many, just a matter of your preference.
Typically, we use herbs such as cardamom, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, cloves,
peppercorn, nutmeg, vanilla beans, orange or lemon peel, and anise stars. There
is no specific recipe or ingredient amounts to this blend; make them according
to your liking.
Once you mix up your desired recipe, you can add them to a nice
red or white wine. Pour your wine into a stock pot and add your herb blend. Let
it simmer for 30 minutes. Depending on the wine chosen, you could also zest a
bit of lemon or orange peel for an extra kick. Because this is a busy time of
year, we like to make this in our slow cooker before a family event; it makes
the entire house smell just like the holidays. It’s a two-for-one: great drink
and a house that smells divine. This will definitely set the festive tone for
your family affairs. Oh, and because this is the holidays … if red wine isn’t
enough for you, try adding a cup or two of brandy to your mix. Heavenly.
Mulled wine is great, but what about the kids? They will love a
spiced apple cider (or juice) and can help in the making. This can be made on
the stove or slow cooker, just like your wine recipe. Use apple cider as a base
and then add your herb blend to it. Let it brew all day and then enjoy. It’s
fun to serve this spiced cider with a nice, long cinnamon stick the kids can
use to stir it with, or maybe an orange slice, or one or two anise seeds
floating on top.
Ever heard of a pomander ball? This is a perfect activity for
young hands this time of year when the kids are so antsy and excited for the
big day. It simply involves piercing an orange (or any citrus fruit) with whole
cloves to be used as a tree ornament, a centerpiece for your holiday meals, or
as an air freshener. The young ones like to add as many as they can until you
can’t see any of the fruit peel, but as they get older, you can see patterns,
name initials, and stars being made with the cloves. It is fun to watch their
imaginations blossom as they mature. Sometimes it is hard to pierce that tough
skin of the orange for the smallest of hands, so using a toothpick to pierce
the skin first helps those little ones not get too frustrated. The history of
pomanders is interesting as well. Herbalists and healers used to make these to
ward off sickness or to bring good fortune, and they were hung at entryways of
homes to make sure everyone entering was of “good energy.” So, if you are doing
it for pleasure or for healing, we hope you enjoy the experience with family
gathered around the dining room table.
These activities are fun and provide good family time, but let’s
not forget all the amazing healing and nutritional properties of our beautiful
botanicals. May your holidays be filled with laughter, love, and lots and lots
of delicious herbs!
Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb
Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has
extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call
480-694-9931 or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.
Madalyn Johnson (left) and Kathleen Gould (right)