Festive wreath made out of dried chillies

Gifts And Decor From The Garden

There is so much a food garden can give you besides just something to eat. Here are some ideas for this festive season to make gifts, decorate the tree or add to a festive table.

1. Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is a favourite for many and yet often people will not make their own. It’s really ridiculously easy to make using a few ingredients and a microwave. You end up with silky smooth, delicious curd that can be bottled and decorated for great gifts.

Easy lemon curd recipe

  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks – freeze the whites for another recipe
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g butter, cut into cubes

In a microwave bowl add the lemon juice, sugar and eggs and mix well with a whisk. Stir in the cubes of butter and microwave on high for a total of about 4-7 minutes depending on the power of the microwave. At every 2-minute stage, take out and whisk. When it’s thick and coats a spoon, it’s ready. Stir in the zest and pour into sterilised jars.

2. For Tea Lovers

Make your own herbal tea mix with herbs and flowers dried and packed into clear jars as gifts for tea lovers. Herbs that make good herbal tea include lemon verbena, parsley, rosemary, ginger, pineapple sage, mint, fennel, chamomile, lemon balm, cinnamon and roses to name a few. Combine the flavours you would enjoy in a tea to give as a gift.

3. Everlasting bouquet

A bouquet made from dried flowers can be a thing of beauty and it lasts much longer than fresh flowers. There are several things in the edible garden that could be added like dried chillies, wheat and oats, cereal grasses, dried citrus (will need to be wired before adding to the mix), rosemary, sage and roses. To dry long stemmed cuttings, tie them up together and place upside down until fully dried.

4. Traditional shortbread with rose

My favourite Scottish shortbread recipe needs nothing added to the biscuit, but can do with a little décor in the form of a simple icing, dried crushed rose petals and crushed nuts or pumpkin seeds for colour. If you have or can find a shortbread mould that makes a pattern on the biscuits all the better.

Scottish shortbread recipe

  • 100g cake flour
  • 100g cornflour
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 drop vanilla essence

Sift the flours in a bowl and rub in the butter and add the caster sugar. Add the egg yolk, cream and vanilla and mix to bind, then knead well to a stiff consistency. Don’t add more moisture. Roll out or press into a mould – about 1cm thick. Prick with a fork all over and bake for 20-25 minutes at 160°C. Cut while warm with a sharp knife. For the decoration mix together 100g icing sugar with 1 – 2 tablespoons water to form a runny icing. Decorate the edge of the biscuits once they are totally cooled and sprinkle with crushed roses and crushed nuts or pumpkin seeds. Package in clear cellophane.

5. Chilli Wreath

Anyone who grows chillies will know that one bush can hold a lot of chillies, so much so, that unless you are making sauce (another good gift), they need to be dried to preserve them and not have them perish on the bush. At this time of the year a chilli wreath brings in the colour red and also uses up a lot of chillies. Use either fresh or dried chillies and string them together at the stem end with florist wire, but do wear gloves for this – chillies can burn your skin when handling a lot of them. Once you have the size you want, tie the wire to complete the circle. You can then do another layer a little smaller to add to this. Also, pre-made rings made from raffia, vines or oasis will help keep the shape when the chillies are tied to them.

ANOTHER IDEA: Make your own herb infused soap to give as a gift, read more here.

6. Bath Bombs

So easy to make and yet so special to give as gifts. You will need a mould to make the bombs and there are proper bath bomb moulds available online. As an alternative use ice bomb moulds or cake pop silicon moulds. Add dried herbs and flowers to add an extra touch.

Bath bomb recipe

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup Epsom salts
  • ½ cup cornflour
  • 2½ tablespoons melted coconut oil or almond oil
  • ¾ tablespoon water
  • 15 drops essential oil (there are many different essential oils to choose from available at some pharmacies and other stores)

Optional: food colouring, gel colouring or powder colouring as long as its water soluble. A few drops to colour to the desired colour won’t affect the bath.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Add powder colouring if using at this stage. Mix together in a separate bowl the wet ingredients and wet colouring if using. Add the wet ingredients very slowly into the dry ingredients so as not to activate the mix. It should look like wet sand when mixed well. Pack the mix into the mould pressing it in until overflowing and press two halves together. Allow to dry for a few minutes, then gently unmould. Allow it to sit for 24 hours before handling and pack into gift boxes.

7. Lemony Candles

With a few simple things you can make these scented jars to waft through the air and give a room a fresh fragrance. All you need are some empty jars tied on the top with raffia to hide the ridges. Then fill with slices of lemon and lime and herbs of your choice – we used mint, thyme and parsley. Fill with water and top each with a floating candle. A great table decoration for a dinner party as well. Change the water, citrus and herbs every 3 days.

ANOTHER IDEA: Make a wooden herb stripper to give as a gift

8. Salt scrub

A homemade salt scrub can make your skin feel amazing and its simple and easy to make. You can use various salts, but don’t use table iodized salt that has been so processed that there is not much benefit to your skin. We used Himalayan fine salt but there are various other salts you can use from Black volcanic salt to Murray River pink salt.

You need to mix together: 100ml jojoba oil (olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil works as well) 400g fine salt Fragrance – these are endless. Try lemongrass finely chopped, rose petals dried for 2 minutes in a microwave, lavender flowers, chamomile flowers, coffee grinds, fresh herbs, or just essential oils (10-20 drops).

9. Orange baubles

Use dried orange or lemon slices to decorate a tree. To dry the citrus, cut into slices and place on a rack on a baking tray in a single layer. Bake at 120°C for about 3 hours – check that they don’t burn. Alternatively, you can microwave the slices on defrost for about 7 minutes. Place on several layers of paper towel and cover with several more layers. Orange slices can also be used for decorating wreaths and adding to gift packages.

10. Herbal tags

Personalised name tags give your table that extra special touch that your guests will enjoy. They are so easy to make with few supplies. Use up the herbs in your garden to make mini posies and write each person’s name on wood offcuts or ice cream sticks. Add some brown paper and ribbon and you have a very festive herb tag that smells good too. You can use these as labels for gifts too.

11. Veggie pillar candles

Transform ordinary white candles into a green and white delight with a few veggies and some ribbon. Wrap a line of beans or rosemary around a candle and secure with ribbon. Also hollow out an artichoke and use as a candle holder. Use as table décor for a fresh arrangement.

12. Mini bird seed wreaths

For someone who loves feeding the birds, this is a great gift and easy to make. Here is how to make them:

  • 125g Holsum or similar white hard margarine, plus extra for decorating
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 3 cups birdseed
  • 1 cup flour
  • Decorations like sunflower seeds and nuts
  • Ribbon or string for hanging

Melt the Holsum and then add the peanut butter, birdseed and flour. The mixture should bind well and not be too dry or too sticky. Adjust if necessary with added flour or peanut butter. Form the mixture into rings and allow to set on a tray. Melt some more Holsum and spread like icing over the top of the rings. Drop in pieces of sunflower seeds and nuts and allow to dry. Add ribbon to hang and pack into a gift box.

The Gardener