When I started down this path, my kitchen was stocked with pretty basic items. There were a few times I found myself lacking real necessities to do specific tasks, which led to frustration. I’m assuming your kitchen has things like pots, pans, bowls, and knives. These are items above and beyond the “absolutely necessary”. Before you get started using herbs for medicine at any level, here are five items your kitchen will be better for having:
Mortar and Pestle
Sometimes, you just need to turn something like ginger into a paste. With a mortar and pestle, you can grind dry herbs, make smooth poultices with fresh ones, and powder nearly anything you’d need to your heart’s content. A fantastic kitchen tool, it becomes even handier when you need to get something smashed. Pulverize peppercorns or specialty salts for your cooking and herb blends. Bash your herbs a little to help release their volatile oils. Grind small amounts of oatmeal into flour to make a paste for bug bites and rashes. Super useful!
Definitely not a necessity, but really great in an herbal kitchen. I can’t tell you the number of times I uttered the words, “I’m going to get a dehydrator” before I actually did. It would have saved me quite a bit of food and medicine that I just didn’t get to in time. A good electric dehydrator with accurate temperature control is important if you’re drying herbs. Too much heat, and your essential oils and other compounds can break down and render them less useful.
Of course, if you’re as timid as I about spending what it costs to get a dehydrator worthy of your herbs, you have options. You can make a drying rack, with a wooden frame and metal screens. It’s a pretty easy project. You could also tie them with kitchen string and hang them in a cool dry space as in the photo. You can use an oven set to a low temperature, or even just place them on a cookie sheet covered with a kitchen towel. Basically, keep the air circulating and the bugs away. But the machine is really helpful when your garden is plentiful!
Fine Mesh Strainer
There once was a very frustrating time in my home. A time filled with hibiscus-stained cheesecloth nightmares and doubled-up colanders. I just needed a fine mesh strainer, and I could never think to order or buy one until I was in need! Grrr! Don’t be like me. If this isn’t already in your kitchen, get one. If it is, get a different kind just to be safe. A conical shape is nice for squeezing all the water or juice from something. The round basket shapes are great for teas and are moderately easier to clean. It doesn’t hurt to have a few in different sizes.
See the labels down below? Or the suggestion to tie herbs with kitchen string? Need to help something stand a little taller in the garden or to tie up a gift bag? Beyond trussing a chicken for roasting, you’ll reach for this more than you realize. Tie up some cheesecloth for making cheese – or an impromptu herbal bath. Tie labels onto bottles and waxed paper around a gift of baked goods. It’s odd how often I need “just string”, but I do.
Bottles and Mason Jars
Lots of ’em. Old, small, big, new, brown, green – you’re going to want all the jars and bottles. You’re not, however, going to need all of them. Lots, but not all. They’re great for dry herb and food storage. You can use them for creating tinctures and extracts. Blending herbal creams and essential oils. It’s good to go with some conventional jars with replaceable or reusable seals – you don’t want to ruin a great batch of herbs because the seal was corrupted in some way.
If you’ve ground them to specifications, or dried them from your own garden, you’re going to have to label your projects. You’ll want labels in all different sizes to match the jars you use. Sticky labels, labels for hanging, reusable labels, biodegradable labels. These are important – one needs to be certain about what’s in the bottles and jars. After soaking in vodka or oil for several months, lots of herbs tend to start to look alike. And once you’ve removed the herbs from the project, those healing liquids look even more like one another. Be safe, make it easy, don’t be dumb. Label stuff. Hermione doesn’t live with you and she’s not there to help you figure out which potion to drink!