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Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

July 25 2009 at 2:07 PM
Anne Thomas 
from IP address

Hi Everyone

I am just trying to pick everyone's brains and find out what your favourite pieces of equipment are when it comes to preparing herbs for steeping, making into tinctures, storage etc. What about kitchen scales for measuring out - particularly small quantities? Or jars for making herbal oils or tinctures - do you use glass or steel or something else? Tools for chopping herbs - especially large plants such as comfrey?

So far I have only been producing things on a very small scale for myself and hubbie, using mostly jam jars. I recently bought a small pair of digital scales from Brabantia but find it difficult to read the display - especially if it's got a large bowl on top. Hubbie treat me to a mezzaluna and end-grain board for chopping herbs which is great. But I want to start producing more oils, dry more herbs for teas and tinctures and generally do more, so really I am picking your brains for advice.

Hope you don't mind and thank you in advance.

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Sarah Head

Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

July 27 2009, 9:43 AM 

Hi Anne

You could call me the great recycler - it drives my husband crackers!

In the days before the honey crisis, you used to be able to buy honey in 2lb jars from the supermarket. It is these jars and the extra large mayonnaise jars which I use for preparing the majority of my tinctures, vinegars and elixirs. These are then decanted into recycled wine bottles - the new sort with screw top lids are great because you get dark glass and a top which is easy to deal with. Smaller quantities go into green "Bottlegreen" cordial bottles or you can get the single glass wine bottles which are really good either for giving out samples or putting cordials/syrups in because you can open small quantities at a time and they last longer.

Oils tend to go into whatever clean jars I have handy. I mostly give them away as salves, so I salvage as many small hotel jam jars as I can which are the perfect size. I have lashed out recently and bought dropper bottles from Baldwins. I think Neals Yard do them and I believe there is or used to be a London bottle company which sold jars and things really cheaply, but I've not used them.

I don't weigh my herbs before tincturing as I'm using a simpler's method. It works for me, but I can imagine a good pair of scales is a must if you are calculating your concentrations.

My coffee grinder is really useful when I'm gathering fresh herbs for cooking. A liquidiser is essential for soups and herb juices and if you're making things like syrup of figs.

I wouldn't be without my caffatieres when it comes to herbal teas. I have three different sizes which I use for workshops and demonstrations so you can prepare different teas at the same time. I also keep a small one on my desk at work so I can make a herb tea there if I need to. It sits with the herbal vinegar mix I use every day.

A strong pair of kitchen scissors and secuteurs are invaluable when you are preparing herbs. I can cut up most roots without much trouble as long as they are not too dry. Plastic bowls - square ones to wash roots in and round ones of various sizes to decant tinctures and vinegars into are really useful.

If you are going to powder herbs into capsules, suppositories or electuaries, you may wish to invest in a commercial grinder as apparently some roots, like stone root will kill a normal coffee grinder. I don't make casules, but I may be experimenting with electuaries, honey pills and nut butter tonics in the near future, but I think my coffee grinder will cope with the herbs I'm intending to use, although I am angling for a new one which actually has a lid!

Some people like to have a set of saucepans just for their herbal preparations, but I just use my normal stainless steel ones. I've found that if I wash the inner double boiler saucepan immediately after salve making with very hot water and lots of washing up liquid I don't have any problems with getting the wax off and the same goes for the grater I use to grate the beeswax up with.

The only special thing I use is a stainless steel funnel with a separate wire mesh when I'm decanting liquids into bottle. This is really useful as it allows me to double filter with kitchen towel if the liquid is really cloudy.

Good luck with all your preparations!


Anne Thomas

Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

July 28 2009, 2:18 PM 

Wow thank you Sarah. Lots of great ideas. I too tend to hoard jars and bottles, but I have limited space and usually find I have just thrown out the very jar or bottle I would suddenly find useful! I have a small hoard of green & blacks hot chocolate jars as they are quite large and brown coloured so work well. 2lb honey jars sound useful so I will have to keep an eye on them.

I read somewhere that you can get new lids for jam jars - does anyone know anything about that. The reference as to where to get them was missing from the article - although I shall check with the author.

Thanks again Sarah



Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

July 28 2009, 2:56 PM 

Hi Anne,
You can get new jam jar lids from Lakeland and also Hobbycraft.
If you don't live near by to either of those, Lakeland do have an excellent mail order service. I expect you can get them via the internet also, and am sure that someone here will be able to give more details.



Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

August 1 2009, 9:44 AM 

Gadgets on my bench
1) A small heavy axe for splitting the dread recalcitrant Cs Chaerophyllum, Collinsonia and cardamom
2) An electric drill attached either to a can lined with industrial sand paper for scarifying seeds or half a dozen strimmer lines for parting seeds from the surrounding material
3) A range of sieves
4) A mini vacuum cleaner for seed cleaning
5) A small insectocutor, last year we were plagued by grubs in the seed store, this year the bug killer has revealed the culprits, moths resembling clothes moths. So far it seems to have worked brilliantly
6) Speakers linked through the computer to the local Syracuse NY radio station, which has less irritating chat interrupting the music than our Radio 3

Anne Thomas

Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

August 1 2009, 9:57 AM 

Thanks Linda. I am familiar with Lakeland and have used them before so will check them out, along with Hobbycraft.
Thanks for the info

Jim Bargates

Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

August 4 2009, 12:42 AM 

1) A copper still (got it from Portugal via ebay) which is now about, for the third year, to distil large amounts of lavender for me, with great ease (and greater fun).

2) B&Decker Scorpion electric saw. Only way I know to swiftly get through things like marine ply and slate, both of which I'm using a lot in my Roman herb garden.

Anne Thomas

Re: Herb Preparation - Favourite Equipment/Gadgets

August 9 2009, 2:41 PM 

Hi Jim - I think I can miss on the electric saw. I'll leave anything that needs sawing to hubbie - how sexist is that!!

I like the idea of a still though. That sounds like fun.

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