Wreaths and swags of evergreen and seasonal flowers have long been a part of holiday traditions. From the welcoming wreath on the front door to swags of wintery pine that adorn the mantle and stair, holiday greenery is a symbol of growth and life. Traditional wreaths are made from pine, holly or bay laurel decorated with berries, pine cones, fruits and seasonal flowers and ribbon. Herb wreaths are gaining in popularity as well, making a perfect holiday decoration for a cook or foodie.
Wreaths filled with bay, rosemary, thyme, garlic and even chili peppers look as festive and beautiful as a traditional evergreen wreath but have the added bonus of being edible. Most fresh herb wreaths are shipped “just clipped” so the herbs are still green and tender (and usable). A quick, gentle shake to “fluff” the herbs back up and maybe a mist of water is all it takes to have the wreath looking like you just picked the herbs from your own garden.
The best part about an herb wreath is that its usefulness doesn’t end when the holiday is over. Hung in the kitchen, herbs can be harvested from the wreath while they’re still fresh and green, or, allow the wreath to dry over the holidays, then use the herbs as you would any dried herb once the holidays are over. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, and it’s oh-so eco-friendly. To keep an herb wreath at its best, hang them indoors – freezing temperatures will damage the herbs, and mist lightly to slow drying and keep the herbs green and bright throughout the holidays. Once dry, the herbs can be left as is for a year-round wreath, or harvested for cooking – it is best to harvest and store your herbs to prevent them from getting duty or over drying and losing their valuable (and flavorful) oils.
Common Wreath Herbs
Bay Leaves – perfect fresh or dried, bay leaves are perfect for soups, sauces and roasts or any long-cooking dish. Leaves can be crushed or left whole (if left whole, they will need to be removed before servig).
Rosemary – popular in Italian cooking, rosemary leaves are common in tomato dishes. Don’t toss the stems, though, they make great skewers for kabobs! Can be used fresh or dried.
Thyme – from the mint family, and popular in French and Mediterranean cooking, thyme is equally good fresh or dried and is ideal on vegetables, fish or poultry.
Garlic – crush it, chop it, mince it, pulverize it or roast it, garlic is a delicious addition to a variety of dishes and mellows with longer cooking times in roasts, soups and stews.
Chili Peppers – spicy little flavor bombs, chili peppers heat up your favorite dishes. To mellow the flavor out a bit, remove the seeds before dicing the chili. Roasting them also tames the heat a bit. If you have very sensitive skin, wear gloves to chop fresh chilis.