One thing that makes working in the herbal world especially nice is the old-fashioned language that we all tend to embrace, like the term garbling. Garbling involves picking the flowers and leaves from the stems of plants, in order to store them properly, removing the bits that are just taking up the room or will damage your final result.
What Is Garbling?
Garbling your herbal harvest is the final step to ensuring you are just storing the best bits and getting rid of the rest. It's easy to end up with bits of plant material and other things that are unwanted in your basket as you harvest.
Once dried, the herb is much easier to sort, and that is when you garble or sift out what you don't want. Garble your dried herbs, and then store what you can use.
How to Garble Herbs
To garble, place your dried herbs in a container with some sort of sides to it. Use an especially large bowl that would seem much too large for storage to give you excess space so you don't lose any plant material as you work.
Using clean, dry hands, sift through the dried herb and remove the unwanted bits. This includes any woody stems, pieces of other plant material that may have been mixed in, twigs, or clumped leaves that may not be dried properly.
If you are working with flower blossoms and only want the petals, remove the rest of the flower head and you'll have much less bulk to store. This is especially true with calendula. You can harvest a gallon jar full of dried flower heads, but after garbling, it's only about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of pure petals. Be careful not to break your herb into too many small pieces. The more whole the useful parts are in storage, the longer they will last.
It takes a few weeks for plants and flowers to thoroughly dry, so if you harvest your herbs in the late summer, fall is the perfect time to garble them for winter.
Why Garbling Herbs Is Important
Garbling is important for many reasons. It ensures that your product is fully and evenly dried. One moist flower head can spoil the entire harvest if stored unnoticed.
Garbling helps to create uniform teas and other herbal mixes. Measure carefully for recipes, as a misplaced clump of herb will not only look bad, it may change the taste of the final mix dramatically.
Garbling also ensures that you're not wasting space with less than optimal parts of the herb. You don't want a stem poking through a teabag for instance. It's unsightly and will allow the rest of the herb to escape into the hot water of the cup.