I am grateful to the plants that hold their green through out the winter. Moss. Pine. Rosemary. Uplifting us as we wander beneath grey skies. Reminding us that life and growth continues. That vibrant colors will return.
Rosemary has been a long time herbal friend. Long known for her uplifting, clarifying, and memory enhancing effects, our relationship began in the kitchen. First with savory dishes and then desserts (you can find an excellent rosemary rye brownie recipe by Kitchen Vignettes here). When a friend of mine gave me a bottle of coconut and olive oil infused with rosemary for my hair more doors were opened. As my rosemary plants grew larger, I began using the extra trimmings to making infusions to rinse my hair with, as it's especially nourishing for those of us with dark locks, plus the fact that it aids the memory is a welcome bonus.
Most recently I've started experimenting with making hydrosols. You may be more familiar with them by their other name, flower waters. Perhaps you've used Rose water as a spritzer for your skin, misted Lavender water onto your linens, or added Orange blossom water into your cooking. That was how I was first introduced to them, and then I realized that there were many others...in fact for the most part anything you can have an essential oil of you can also make a hydrosol from. Hydrosols are much gentler then essential oils, and because they are water based they contain water soluble constituents that aren't present in the essential oils. They also don't require nearly as much plant material or, as I recently learned, any special equipment to make.
Hydrosols are made by distilling plant material usually flowers or leaves. I'd always thought you needed a still to make them, but for small quantities you can easily make them at home on your stove. All you need is a deep pot with a lid, a stone or small dish to place your collecting bowl on, plant material, water, and ice or ice packs. You can see the set up I used below.
To make your hydrosol, place your flat stone or dish on the bottom of the pan. Add your plant material. Add water, but don't completely cover the bottom dish/stone. Place your bowl on top of the dish/stone (I've used all sorts of things for the bowl...pyrex measuring cup, glass jar...as long as it fits in your pan and can handle heat it should be fine.) Then place the lid on your pot upside down. The lid needs to be slightly domed. Set it up so that the top of the dome is directly above the empty bowl. Turn on the heat below the pan and place ice in the top of the upside down lid (you can also use icepacks as I did, which are a bit less messy as you don't have to worry about removing the melting water from the lid. Just switch to a new icepack when the first one melts). Then wait for the magic to happen.
Beneath the lid the water is heating, which steams the plant material. The steam rises hits the ice cold lid and condenses. The droplets roll down toward the top of the dome and drop into your bowl. This is your hydrosol. I've found that around 30 minutes works well. I've tried letting it go longer, but found that the hydrosol ended up more diluted and less aromatic given the amount of plant material I could fit in my pan. Experiment and see what works for you. Once it's finished, I bottle it up into sterilized glass bottles. I like to keep a little spritzer bottle out that I am using and then store the rest in the fridge.
I'm looking forward to making hydrosols with a variety of different plants this year. Have you made or used hydrosols before? Which one is your favorite?