How herbs can keep you healthy in winter

A focus on valuable energy providers

The leaves are slowly falling from the trees, and the herbs build up their strength one last time – autumn is coming and nature is getting ready for a quiet winter. Our collection baskets are being filled with roots, berries and mushrooms instead of flowers and leaves like in spring. Herbal expert Maria Bachmann gives helpful stockpiling tips, so that you don’t have to go without these energy supplies in winter.

The gentlest and best way to dry herbs is air drying.

Fit in winter

Even though the landscape is covered with a blanket of white snow in winter, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fresh herbs available. “There are plenty of ways to make fresh spring and autumn herbs durable”, explains herbal expert Maria Bachmann.

Herbal expert Maria knows the name of almost every plant. She knows what effect they have, and what they can be used for.

How to preserve herbs:

  • Dry
  • Marinate
  • Freeze

Drying – the most common method

Not all drying is created equal “Even as you’re collecting them, you should make sure that the plants aren’t wet with morning dew”, says the herbal expert. Maria’s tip: “Don’t wash the herbs before you dry them, otherwise the majority of the flavour is lost”. Spread the leaves and berries as thinly as possible on a grate, or in wooden boxes, then place them in a dark, well-ventilated location and turn them regularly. After three to five days the drying process is complete. As soon as the herbs and berries are crisply dried, they can be filled into clean jars and labelled with the date and contents. Roots are processed a little differently. “After washing them, I cut the roots into 1-3 mm cubes, layer them in a wooden box and wait until they are rock hard.”

Marinating in oil

“Most herbs contain essential oils that are fat-soluble. This makes them perfect for marinating in oil”, Maria Bachmann points out. Place the dried herbs (see above) in a sealable container, for example a glass bottle, and then fill it with oil so that the herbs are covered. “Best suited to this are delicate herbs such as wild garlic and basil, but aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage or summer savory can also be marinated”, Maria reveals. The mixture can be frozen in smaller portions. The oil herb mixture keeps in jam jars for more than two months.

Freezing – herbs & berries in the freezer

The flavours, substances and colours of herbs and berries are well preserved by freezing. After harvesting, the berries prefer cool and dark storage. Generally they only keep for one or two days before spoiling. That’s why freezing is perfect for wild berries. Maria’s tip: Place the berries on a tray, freeze them, and then transfer them to a freezer bag. Incidentally, the same applies for autumn herbs. After drying they can be chopped up and stored in bags in the freezer. “What’s better than, in the depths of winter, being able to enjoy the unique flavour of spring and autumn herbs?” asks the herbal expert Maria Bachmann, who also explains the most important autumn herbs:

If you harvest your herbs at the right time, their flavour will bring you joy for a long time.

The rosehip

It grows out of the delicate, white flowers of the wild rose, and can be found in hedges and bushes, and on slopes. In autumn the rosehips grow as small orange berries.

  • Application: An important provider of vitamin C, helps against joint disease.
  • Winter preparation: Place the berries in a warm spot to dry, or heat them at low temperature in the oven. Then they can be used for a tea (place in cold water and bring briefly to the boil), or enjoy a warm bath with the berries.
  • Maria’s tip: “The berries don’t lose their vitamins in the drying process, and can be kept for up to one year.”
The rosehip

The elder

It’s hard to overlook, and often grows near houses. In spring, the elder has a unique smell and white flowers. In autumn the flowers transform into berries.

  • Application: Strengthens the immune system, anti-inflammatory and prevents colds.
  • Winter preparation: Once the berries have been cooked in hot water they can be made into jam.
  • Note: The berries are not edible raw! Easy to confuse with the poisonous rowanberry!
  • Maria’s tip: “The best cold remedy in winter: Mash up the cooked berries and pour hot water over them.”

The guelder rose

The serrated leaf plant, also known as “snowball tree”, grows on shorelines and near waterways. They say that the guelder rose’s berries take on a person’s worries and help with depression. Note: Don’t confuse it with the poisonous red elderberry.

  • Application: Emotional depression, disinfectant.
  • Winter preparation: Once the berries have been cooked in hot water they can be made into jam.
  • Note: The berries are not edible raw! Easy to confuse with the poisonous rowanberry!
  • Maria’s tip: “The best cold remedy in winter: Mash up the cooked berries and pour hot water over them.”
The guelder rose

Valerian root

On walks through the forests, valerian root is mainly found on the edges of the forest, in damp meadows or ditches. The fresh roots are easy to dig out with a shovel.

  • Applications: Calming, soporific (sleep promoting), antispasmodic and muscle relaxing
  • Winter preparation: Place the root in strong alcohol. Take the tincture in drops.
  • Maria’s tip: “A combination of valerian root, melissa, St. John's wort and passion flower is the perfect basis for a natural sleep aid.”
Valerian root

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