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Preserving Your Herbs

Magical Herbs ~ Drying your harvested Plants, Blooms and Roots for Magick Use

Here are simple steps for drying the herbs you have gathered or obtained for use in magick practices. Herbs like borage and snapdragon are only used when fresh. Most others plants can be dried and stored for later use.

Remove damaged or insect-eaten leaves. Rinse all cuttings and roots thoroughly with running water. Use paper towels to pat dry the plant parts, be sure that any earthy material or other contamination has been cleaned off.

Lay out some paper towels, you can use cookie sheets or large flat pans to make it easier to handle the drying herbs. Place leaves, stalks or blooms flat, close but not stacked. Turn them each day to prevent mold, check your herbs as you turn them and remove anything suspicious. Do not place your herbs near an open window or directly in the sun. If you can, find a place that is not disturbed, with good ventilation. I use a spare bedroom, or sometimes my art shed.

When leaves are dry enough they should be almost brittle. It’s easy to tell when plants parts are dry, just snap them.

To dry seeds and blooms with seed heads -like sunflowers, gently tie the stems together carefully and put them into a brown paper bag. Be sure the bag is deep enough to hang the plants and tie the open end around stem ends. This is how you can dry the blooms and keep the seeds from being lost during the drying process. This is a quick-dry method. When the plants are suspended upside down within the bags containing them, you can hang them outdoors in the sun, or hang in a window. It may only take a few days to fully dry, depending on weather and temperature. Shake and roll the flower heads between your fingers to remove all the seeds. You should remove any stems or woody pieces before storing your dried seeds.

To dry flowers, for example hyssop, lilacs, roses, vervain, and others, place them on paper towels after rinsing and patting dry, the same as for leafy herbs. Larger flower petals dry best when separated before drying (rose buds and miniature roses are dried whole). Hyssop, lilac and vervain have small petal blooms and are stripped after drying. Compact flower heads like verbena and yarrow are left whole after drying.

Roots dry very slowly. Hang them next to a heat duct, or near your fireplace through the winter. A very warm spot will help dry them faster, but depending on the thickness and type of root, you may need several seasons to complete a natural drying. Again, a dry root will be brittle, and when broken it is completely dried through it’s thickness. You can hurry the root drying process for occasions when you must obtain quick results. Simply bake them slowly in an oven at about 200 degrees. Or, if it is safe for you to do so, you can dry them over an open fire, carefully turning them to avoid burning.

After some practice you will understand the drying process. Just be sure that you allow enough time for the process to complete. Any moisture in plant parts will cause mold when you store them. This ruins all your careful efforts.

I hope you enjoy wild harvesting!



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