Earlier this year, in the middle of summer as I was harvesting some of my many lavender bushes, an idea popped into my head to one day extract my own essential oil from the flowers. I dreamed up so many ideas of what I could do with the resulting essential oil and hydrosol, that I knew it was something I wanted to do in the future.
I had done this many times before in the lab when I worked as a plant biochemist, but back then I had a lab full of equipment at my command, but now, not so much. I couldn't exactly call up a local lab supply place any longer, since I didn't belong to a scientific group where this was thought of as an appropriate use of said equipment. So I had to come up with better idea. I did come across alembic stills for sale in New Zealand, but the stills were very large, and there was no way I could fill up any one of their stills.
Then I came across a small pot still from Still Spirits called the Air Still. With a big base like a kettle, and an air cooled distiller on top, it was perfect for me in home use. It is typically made to make and distill alcoholic beverages like gin and rum, but the instructions also include a method to distill essential oils and hydrosols from plants. After waiting for a while, one was finally available for sale on special, and I ordered one for us. Unfortunately by this time it was the middle of winter, and there was nothing to distill yet.
When it arrived, I was quite happy with it. I did the first cleaning, and then did a trial run by making distilled water, which could potentially be helpful in a natural disaster when water is contaminated. Ever since then I've been waiting impatiently for some plant material to be ready.
And our growing peppermint plant was the first plant material ready to actually try the Air Still out on. I started by harvesting a big bunch of peppermint leaves from the edge of the plant. I washed them in water to clean them, patted them dry, and then cut them up into smaller sections to fit into the still. The total weight of the peppermint plants going into the still was 234 grams.
I popped them into the still pot, and then boiled up 3L of water in the kettle. Once I added the boiling water, I inserted the still head, and turned it on. It
was less than 10 minutes before the liquid began to come off the still as the water boiled, and there on top of the hydrosol was a fine layer of peppermint essential oil. I was so excited.
The peppermint and hydrosol came off at a decently fast rate, and it wasn't long before I had 0.6L of combined peppermint essential oil and hydrosol.
All that there was left to do was separate the hydrosol from the peppermint essential oil. I bought a chemistry separator funnel online, and was able to separate out the hydrosol on the bottom of the liquid, from the essential oil on the top.
In the end I got about 0.5 mL of peppermint essential oil, and 0.6L of peppermint hydrosol.
Considering that I only added 234 grams of plant material to the still, I thought that it was a pretty good harvest rate. It didn't take a lot of effort and time, and it's a fun project to do. I will definitely be repeating this method with my lavender and rose harvests in the future. I will be using the essential oils and hydrosols in my home, and my sister as also requested some for her to use at home as well.
Have you ever done something so completely geeky around the home, that it makes you really happy to see the results of your endeavors? I'd love to know...
Have a wonderful day
It's now the part of spring where everything is growing quickly, and unfortunately that also includes many weeds. The good thing though is that we finally have stuff to harvest in the garden.
Our rhubarb plant has shot away and has produced many leaves, so it was time to harvest the first of the stems. We mostly use our rhubarb for our rhubarb and ginger meringue pie.
I pulled a bunch of rhubarb out off the plant, cut off the leaves,
and then cut the stems up into pieces to freeze away in our chest
freezer. I find that six stems of rhubarb are enough to make one rhubarb
and ginger meringue pie, so I freeze them away in batches of those. The good thing about freezing them is that the process turns the rhubarb into mush, which makes them easier to cook with afterward.
The next thing to harvest is peppermint. I like to harvest our peppermint in early spring for making dried peppermint leaves for peppermint tea. Our peppermint patch pops up everywhere in the herb garden, and beyond, so I just find whatever is on the edges, and then harvest them. It's really easy to do, just pull out any rogue peppermint stems, rinse them, and then pull off the leaves to slowly air dry, or by putting in the dehydrator. I dehydrate ours, and it doesn't take very long at all.
The first harvest of calendula flowers was also ready, and it is one of my favorite plants. Not only do bees love it, but you can use it in all sorts of products around the home.
I just pick the flowers when they're fully open, and then rinse and pat them dry before putting them in the dehydrator along with the peppermint leaves.
The last thing to harvest was the first of our strawberries. They weren't the most prettiest strawberries in the world, but they were good enough to put in the chest freezer for making strawberry jam later on in the growing season.
Are you harvesting anything in the garden yet? Labour weekend is this weekend, and it's a pretty busy time in the vegetable garden. All the garden beds have been dug, and I can't wait to get stuck in and plant everything currently sitting in our glasshouse.
Have a wonderful day