Saving can be good: saving lives, saving money, saving endangered species, saving time, saving the document you've worked so hard on...
But saving can also be bad: saving used staples, saving bellybutton lint, saving junk mail, saving every issue of Underwater Basket Weaving Weekly since 1967.
I like to think that I fall somewhere in between. Although truth be told, I probably skew a bit further to the bad side of saving stuff (just short of the used staples and bellybutton lint). I can't help it... I like to wring every last drop of usefulness out a thing before throwing it out. Even if it's going to be composted.
Save up and stock
For instance, when I dry herbs from my garden and strip the leaves from the stems, the dried stems go into my "stock jar". When I use fresh herbs in my cooking, I save those stems too, letting them dry first, then I add them to the jar. The next time I make stock, I throw a big handful of those dry stems into the pot. They add depth and make my vegetable stock more flavorful.
The sweeter side
It's a good system and it works great for things like rosemary, oregano, and basil. But what about the "sweet herbs"; the lemon verbena, lavender, and the mints? Well, I save those stems separately in a big bowl on the counter and make Twig Tisane (herb tea) with them.
There's lots of good herbal-ness still left in those dry sticks. Just rub a few in your hands for a second and inhale the scent. I don't know if they are any more or less intense than their leaves are, but they're plenty potent for a pleasing pot of tea...
- Fill a heatproof bowl or pitcher with dried twigs from sweet herb cuttings.
- Boil a kettle of water and pour over the dried herb twigs.
- Let steep for 5 minutes.
- Carefully strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve or a not-so-fine mesh sieve lined with a paper towel or flour-sack dish towel.
- Enjoy a cup of hot Twig Tisane (add a touch of honey if you like)... if it's a hot day, pour the hot tisane over a tall glass filled to the top with ice for a super herbal refresher.
Notes: Tisanes (the fancy name for herb or fruit infusions) are meant to be rather delicate in flavor as opposed to strong and robust. I think that's in part what makes them so refreshing, whether enjoyed hot or iced.