Herb bouquets are used to add a punch of flavor to culinary dishes or beauty and scent to a room. Some brides even add fresh herbs to their bridal bouquets. With so many herbs to choose from, herbal bouquet combinations and uses are nearly endless.
Bouquets used for cooking, commonly known as bouquet garni, are bundled herbs tied with string. They may also be made from cheesecloth, netting or tea-bag size muslin or cotton bags found at most natural food stores.
Bouquet garni are added to soups, stews, stocks and sauces or even mulled wine or cider - anything that is simmered for a while.
Dried Bouquet Garni
According to Homegrown Herbs by Tammy Hartung (page 152), to make a dried bouquet garni, first cut three-inch squares of cheesecloth or netting. Add dried herbs and spices, gather the corners of the cloth, and tie loosely with string. The bouquets should be stored in an airtight container (a large mason jar works well). To use, add the bouquet in your cooking vessel at the start of cooking time. Remove the bouquet and discard before serving.
You can create a bouquet out of whatever herbs a recipe includes or from herbs you like. Popular options include:
- Bay leaf
- Dried garlic
- Dried, minced onion
Fresh Bouquet Garni
To make a fresh bouquet garni, gently rinse or shake off any debris from stems and leaves of fresh herbs and pat dry. Lay the herbs in a pile on a flat surface and tie with string. You can tie the herbs in multiple areas to make sure they stay bundled.
Popular fresh bouquet garni options include:
- Bay leaf
Fresh herb bouquets are used to scent a room or add a decorative touch. They are easy to make and can be made in a variety of sizes. They add simple elegance to a table when used as a centerpiece and may also be used at place settings or as package toppers.
Like traditional flowers, herbs have a language all their own. For example, basil means love, mint means virtue and rosemary symbolizes remembrance.
There are different ways to make fresh herb bouquets:
- Gather fresh herbs into bunches and tie with ribbon, twine or string. Set them strategically around a room or hang them upside down from kitchen rafters and shelf pegs, doors and windows, or the backs of chairs.
- Make bridal bouquets or boutonnieres with fresh herbs or a mix of herbs and traditional flowers.
Most fresh herbs can be used in bouquets but those with colorful flowers and strong scents work particularly well. These include:
- Sweet violet
- Scented geranium
- Lemon Verbena
- Flowered chives
Herb Family Bouquets
Bouquets made from herbs in one family are another option. For example, you could make a bouquet from herbs in the mint family which includes spearmint, peppermint, catmint, chocolate mint and lemon balm. Or stick with herbs from the Asteraceae family like chamomile, calendula, dandelion and stevia.
Many herb families are large and it's challenging to know which herb is a member of which family. Most people choose herbs that appeal to their sense of sight, smell and with bouquet garni, taste.
Herbs to Avoid
Some herbs have beautiful flowers and scents but can also be toxic. Even if you aren't ingesting the herb, when there are kids or pets around or if an adult is unfamiliar with herbs, a dangerous herb could be eaten by mistake. To be on the safe side, it's best to avoid using these herbs in a bouquet, especially since there are so many other options to choose from.
Potentially toxic herbs include (but are not limited to):
Because many toxic herbs resemble non-toxic ones, it's best to get herbs from a nursery, garden center or florist and not collect them in the wild.
Herb bouquets are a simple, inexpensive way to add ambiance and flavor to your life. They are beautiful and useful and help make any occasion "greener." Whether you grow fresh herbs (harvest them in the morning when they are most hydrated) or purchase them from a garden center, they'll last longer than most traditional cut flowers and can be dried and used later.