Any herbs with thin leaves or petals are suitable for pressing. The pressed specimens can then be used in herbal crafts. Avoid herbs with thick, fleshy leaves and flowers and always select perfect sprigs, delicate flowers or individual leaves and petals. Snip them neatly, removing petals gently from thick flowers or cutting leaves or leaflets into small groups.
You an use a book or sheets of stiff card to press your herbs. A special flower press made up of a number of sheets of still card fixed together at the corners with butterfly screws is useful but not essential, unless you plan to do a great deal of pressed flower work. Protect books from flower dyes with sheets of whit e tissue paper. You will also need some blotting paper or absorbent paper the same size as the press or books and some heavy books or other weights if you do not have a press.
Lay the leaves and flowers on a sheet of absorbent paper, using plastic tweezers or a soft paintbrush to lift or move them and making sure they do not touch each other. Cover carefully with another sheet and place them in the press, between the sheets of card or between the pages of the book. Tighten the screws, press the card down with weights or absorbent paper; you may need to do this two or three times if the material is very moist. Leave for about six months; the longer the specimens are left, the less likely they are to fade when exposed to light.
Preserving in Oil, Vinegar or Salt
By storing herbs in oil, you not only preserve the herbs but also create wonderful fragrant oils for use in cooking or cosmetics. You can also preserve herbs in vinegar, creating aromatic herbal vinegars for use in sauces, salad dressing, pickles and chutneys (pg 16).
Large leafed herbs, such as sage, can be stored layered in a jar with course salt. They will keep for several months and impart their own flavor to the salt.
Preserving with Glycerine
Preserving plant stems in glycerine solution is suitable for some herbs, such as bay and sorrel. The technique darkens the leaves and makes them soft and pliable with lovely sheen.
Pick perfect twigs in summer when the new shoots are growing. Whisk one part glycerine with two parts very hot water until thoroughly blended and then pour the solution into a vase. Stand the twigs in the solution, making sure they reach the base of the container and leave them undisturbed for about two weeks until the tips of the leaves are brown and glossy. When they are ready, you can paint them with a varnish or spray with hair lacquer to help to preserve them. Strain the solution and use it again.
Kali S. Winters