5 Dec 2023

Turning homegrown herbs into homemade Xmas gifts

From Nine To Noon, 11:25 am on 5 December 2023

Desperate for some low-cost and useful gift ideas? It's not too late to craft some Christmas presents, soaps, salves and food items, naturopath and medical herbalist Jane Wrigglesworth says.

Wrigglesworth is the author of Everyday Herbalist and writes for numerous publications including NZ Gardener and Lifestyle Block. She has a raft of ideas on how to fashion useful presents that don't cost much to produce, especially if you've got a flourishing herb garden. 

Homemade gifts

Homemade gifts Photo: Jane Wrigglesworth

Herby gifts

Even if you're not particularly green-thumbed, re-potting garden centre herbs is a useful trick, she says.

“You can get four herbs, the little potted herbs, for $20... you can either pot them up yourself or just pop them in a gift basket.

“It's a really great idea for someone who loves to cook.”

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Photo: Pexels

For a lover of Asian food, she suggests a combo of lemongrass, Thai basil, coriander and Vietnamese mint. For Italian food fans; mint, thyme, oregano, sage and basil.

“Even if they like good old English food, then maybe rosemary for the roasts or chives and mint.”

Dried herb mixes are another “super-easy gift option,” she says.

“A beautiful gift is rosemary salt. All you're doing is drying your rosemary and mixing that with some coarse salt.

“Once the rosemary is totally dry, put that in a salt grinder and then you've got a beautiful rosemary salt gift.”

No-salt mixes can be made with celery, fennel and dill seeds and dried, powdered bay leaf, she says.

You can dry using a dehydrator but it’s not essential, she says.

“Just put them in little bundles, tie them with a rubber band and hang them up in a warm room.

An airy room with lots of air circulation, not the kitchen, will see them dry in a week, she says.

Things to eat

Wrigglesworth loves to make chamomile and lavender-infused honey. To do this at home, you'll need 50g dried chamomile flowers, 50g dried lavender flowers and 400g raw honey, she says.

“You just want to crush the chamomile flowers and the lavender flowers with a blade of a knife and place in a sterilised jar, top it up with honey, seal with a lid, place it in a warm room and out of direct sunlight.”

Leave that to infuse for about three or four weeks, then strain and transfer to a clean jar in time for Christmas gifting, she says.

Photo: Pexels

Making soap

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Photo: Pexels

The easiest way to take the DIY soap route is to buy melt-and-pour soap base and add your own fragrance, she says.

"It's just a soap base that you melt either in the microwave or on the double boiler on the stove. I like to use an aloe vera soap base, you can get all sorts - soy based and goat milk.”

Then it’s a simple matter of taking it off the heat, adding some essential oils, pouring into a mold and leaving to set, she says.

"It will dry completely in about 24 hours to 48 hours and then you're ready to roll.”