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Summer

Food & Drink, Summer

How To Make Chive Flower Vinegar

Make delicious chive flower vinegar, that livens up summer salads or root vegetables, with this easy how-to guide.

Is there anything better than bottling the taste of summer to enjoy later in the year? Come winter, when summer feels like a far and distant memory, and the thought of next summer feels light-years away, just the simple taste of something summery can be like a portal to another dimension.

I dry mint leaves and dry lemon balm leaves for tea, and any other herbs I can get my hands on. I think I get a kick more out of preserving summer flavours than I do the actual gardening. There’s also something so deeply satisfying about a shelf full of home-dried herbs and bottles of homemade vinegar. Nothing shop-bought can ever really compete.

Fresh chives are one of my most favoured herbs. They’re so versatile and lend such a delicate flavour to so many recipes. Whilst most people think you can only eat the chive blades, in fact, the chive flowers are edible too. The flowers have a more oniony taste and the fresh petals make a delicious peppery addition to any salad.

When it comes to preserving chive flowers, you can dry them to enjoy later in salads. But my favourite thing to do whilst chive flowers are at their best, is to pickle them in vinegar. The result is a vibrant-pink chive flower vinegar, that has a mild onion flavour. This is absolutely delicious drizzled on summer salads, or on thinly-sliced raw root vegetables in winter.

How To Make Chive Flower Vinegar

Chive flowers being prepared on chopping board, with blue text box that reads how to make chive flower vinegar.

The good news is that is incredibly easy to make chive flower vinegar. There are no special tools, equipment or cooking skills required. If you can pick some flowers then you’re good to go!

You Will Need

A large cup of freshly picked chive flowers

One bottle of white wine vinegar

One sterilised lidded jar (here’s my guide to sterilising jars should you need some pointers)

One sterilised lidded bottle

A sieve

A note on the ingredients. I’d recommend the use of white wine vinegar only for making chive flower vinegar, so this is why I’ve specifically listed this type of vinegar.

Chives have a very delicate flavour. Standard white vinegar and malt vinegar are both too strong, and will completely overpower the taste of the chives. If you use red wine vinegar, you won’t get the benefits of the beautiful vibrant pink colour that comes through. Meanwhile, you could use cider vinegar at a push. However, it has a stronger flavour compared to white wine vinegar, so you won’t taste the chive flavour as much.

If you don’t have white wine vinegar, and can’t get hold of any, then I would recommend drying your chive flowers instead.

Method

To make chive flower vinegar, wash your freshly cut chive flowers in cool water and dry them thoroughly.

Fill a clean and dry sterilised jar with chive flowers, until it’s around two-thirds full.

Next, fill the jar with white wine vinegar.

Seal the jar, and store it in a cool, dark place for around two weeks.

After two weeks or so, strain the liquid through a sieve into the sterilised bottle. The pickled chive flowers can then be composted.

Seal your jar and store it in a cool dark cupboard to preserve the colour. Your vinegar should last for around one year – even after opening.

Enjoy splashing on your food whenever you need a taste of summer! Your winter self will truly thank you!

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How To Make Chive Flower Vinegar

Make delicious chive flower vinegar, to liven up summer salads.

Course Preserve
Keyword vinegar
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large cup chive flowers – freshly picked
  • 1 bottle white wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Wash freshly cut chive flowers in cold water and dry them thoroughly.

  2. Fill a clean and dry sterilised jar with the chive flowers, until it's around two-thirds full.

  3. Next, fill the jar with white wine vinegar.

  4. Seal the jar, and store it in a cool, dark place for around two weeks.

  5. After two weeks or so, using a sieve, strain the liquid into a sterilised bottle. Pop the lid on and this will store in a cool dark cupboard for around a year. The pickled flowers can be composted.

Food & Drink, Summer

How To Make Lemon Balm Tea – Two Ways

Want to know how to make deliciously refreshing lemon balm tea? You’re in luck – it’s one of my favourite beverages! Here’s how to make it with fresh leaves, and how to make lemon balm tea from dried leaves. Enjoy!

Lemon balm grows in abundance in my garden. I absolutely adore the smell of lemon balm and it’s not just me. Bees blooming well love lemon balm. When the plant’s tiny white flowers bloom in August and September, you’ll find scores upon scores of bees on it collecting precious pollen.

As such, I have planted a couple of pots of it over the years. Pro-tip: plant it in pots otherwise it will spread. I tell myself I’m doing it for the bees, but mostly it’s simply for the fact that I adore lemon balm tea. It’s a refreshing, caffeine-free tea, and one that I reach for during the day or evening when I need a non-caffeinated pick-me-up.

A basket full of freshly picked lemon balm, ready for making tea with

In summer you can make fresh lemon balm tea, or you can dry the leaves for a beverage you can enjoy all year round. I’ll show you how to make fresh tea in summer.

And while we’re here, I’ll also show you how to dry lemon balm leaves to preserve them for later. And then, because I’m good like that, I’ll show you how to make lemon balm tea from the dried leaves. I promise it’s a taste of summer even in the darkest depths of winter.

First Off, What Is Lemon Balm?

Lemon balm is an edible herbal plant known by the botanical name Melissa officinalis. The plant is also frequently called common balm and balm mint. This is because it’s closely related to the mint family.

Lemon balm is often confused with lemon verbena, but these are two very separate plants from two very different parts of the world. Lemon balm is native to Europe and North Africa, whilst Lemon verbena is native to South America. You can, however, make tea from lemon verbena – it is perfectly edible – so if you have lemon verbena to hand then all is not lost!

Lemon balm has a long history of culinary use. And in many regions, lemon balm has long been used as a natural herbal remedy. Some possible health benefits of lemon balm tea include reducing stress and anxiety levels, helping with insomnia, providing indigestion and nausea relief, and more.

Whether herbal remedies are your thing or not, lemon balm also makes a pretty tasty and refreshing cup of tea. So let’s get down to the tea-drinking business!

How to Make Fresh Lemon Balm Tea

A cup and tea infuser, with fresh lemon balm leaves

The quickest, no-fuss way is to make your tea fresh. Here’s how to make one cup of tea:

  1. After picking your fresh lemon balm leaves, give them a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and using a tea towel, gently pat dry the leaves.
  2. Add two to three teaspoons of fresh lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser, and then place the infuser in your teacup or mug. I prefer to tear up the leaves before adding them to the tea infuser, as it helps release the lovely lemon balm flavour.
  3. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  4. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the lemon balm leaves to steep for around 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

Do note that it’s best to use lemon balm for tea before the plant starts to flower. This is because the flavours are at their optimum peak. The plants tend to flower in August, but depending on the weather, the flowers may arrive in July.

How To Make Lemon Balm Tea From Dried Leaves

A jar containing dried lemon balm leaves next to a tea strainer

If you have dried leaves to hand then follow this tea-making guide instead. If you’re looking to dry your fresh leaves then do skip to the next section.

This makes one cup:

  1. Add one heaped teaspoon of crumbled, dried lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser.
  2. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the dried leaves to steep for around 5 minutes.
  4. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

How to Dry Lemon Balm Leaves

lemon balm on an oven dish ready to be dried in the oven

If you have a glut of lemon balm, like me, then you are going to want to dry at least some of it to tide you through the autumn and winter. There are two separate methods – in the oven, and hanging them up to dry. Let me talk you through both.

How to Dry Leaves In The Oven

Here’s the full step-by-step guide to drying lemon balm leaves in the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 80°C / 176°F
  2. For the best flavour, harvest the lemon balm leaves just before the plant begins to blossom. Depending on where you are, this could be from July to August. As it’s a favourite plant of the bees, do ensure that you leave plenty for our fuzzy friends to gather pollen from.
  3. Next, cut the lemon balm stalk, just above the second row of leaves. Pruning like this encourages the lemon balm plant to produce new shoots and maintains a source of pollen for the bees.
  4. Once you’ve gathered what you need, give the stalks a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and gently pat dry with a clean, dry tea towel.
  5. Once dry, lay out the stems on a baking tray and heat in the oven for around 1 to 1.5 hours. Keep a close eye on your leaves to ensure they don’t burn.
  6. You can tell the leaves are fully dried when the leaves become very crisp and brittle. If you are in any doubt, give the leaves a little more time in the oven, as leaves that are not fully dried out will develop mould.
  7. When the lemon balms are sufficiently dry remove them from the oven and remove the leaves from the stalks. For best results, I find running my fingers down the stem helps remove all the leaves.
  8. Finally, place the lemon balm leaves in a clean and dry airtight jar, ready for future tea drinking times. Compost the leftover stalks.

Air Drying

If you don’t want to dry the leaves in the oven, you can dry bundles together.

Simply gather several stems of lemon balm together, and tie them up around the stem with a piece of string. Then hang your bunches of lemon balm up in a cool dry spot in your house. Once dried, in approximately 2-3 weeks, follow steps 7 and 8 to store your lemon balm tea.

Storage

Your dried lemon balm will keep for around 6 months or so. For optimum freshness, store your jar in a cool dark place. If you see any signs of mould on the dried leaves then you’ll know the leaves did not dry properly. In this instance, they should be discarded.

Enjoy!

PS: If you have mint growing in your garden, then you can also make mint tea. Here’s how to dry mint leaves for tea.