Fragrant herbal beads

Yield: 1 recipe

Measure Ingredient
½ cup Herb leaves or flowers fresh or dried
\N \N Water if using dried material
\N \N All-purpose flour
15 drops Essential oil to match or complement the herb

Strip off leaves or petals and discard stems and other coarse or nonaromatic parts. Puree fresh plant material in a food processor, blender, or old-fashioned meat grinder. A food processor breaks down herbs faster than any other method and can be used to finish blending the dough as well. You can finely mince the herbs with a sharp knife instead, but the finished beads will be coarser than those made from a puree or powder. Process dried herb leaves or flower petals in a blender or spice mill, or rub the leaves across the bottom of a fine-mesh sieve until you have a fairly uniform powder. Unless plant material is processed into a fine powder or smooth pulp, coarse beads will result.

Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour to the plant material, and enough water, starting with 1 tablespoon (if using dried herbs), to make a smooth dough. These are approximate amounts; you'll need more flour if you're starting with a soupy puree, and more water if the herb powder is very dry. When blended, the dough should be the consistency of children's craft clay. If it seems too soft, add flour in small amounts to improve it; if too stiff, ad a little water; if too coarse or crumbly, try adding both flour and water until the dough is workable. Don't add essential oil yet; it evaporates too quickly during the blending.

Pinch off bits of dough and roll them into beads between your palms, or roll a long "snake" (this always brings back memories of my childhood) and slice off uniform lengths, then shape them into beads.

Work with a light touch and keep your hands clean to prevent the dough from sticking to them. Essential oil can be added at this point, or after the beads are dry. When sizing the beads, remember that they will shrink a bit as they dry.

String the beads using a large darning needle and heavy carpet thread.

Leave at least 6 inches of thread bare to allow room for sliding the beads as they dry. Tie a big knot or a button at the end to keep the beads from sliding off.

Hang strings of beads to dry in a warm, airy place away from direct light and heat. Drying take three to four days, depending on weather and bead size. Slide the beads up and down the string periodically to keep them from sticking to the string or each other. Store dried beads in an airtight container to preserve their scent until you're ready to assemble a necklace. String the beads with beading thread or dental floss for strength and durability.

* Source: Kate Carter Frederick in "The Herb Companion" (Feb/Mar'93) * Typed for you by Karen Mintzias

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