Gifts from the garden

by | Dec 1, 2019 | Journey with Jill in the Garden

Photo by Jill McSheehy

Do you ever get stuck in a gift-giving rut? Every year you set out to find that “perfect” gift, but you end up settling on another sweater knowing full well the sweater will take its place alongside the others you’ve given in previous years.
For many years my Christmas shopping revolved around Black Friday sales and flash deals. Gone were the days of enjoyable weekends of Christmas shopping; life got too busy and online purchases filled the gap.
Tired of the “same old same old,” I began seeking truly unique ideas, realizing not all gifts needed to fit in a shirt box. That’s when I turned to my garden for inspiration.
Even if the garden has stopped giving, you can still use it (and some workarounds) to give fresh, unique, homemade gifts. While many of these options can be bought in a store, your gift will come with the handmade thought behind it, while leaving behind questionable ingredients found in their store-bought counterparts.
Below you’ll find a few of my favorite gifts to give. In my first year, I bought many of the ingredients and tested different recipes. Still, these homemade versions always proved economical. Now that I know which recipes I enjoy the most, I plan some of my garden’s vegetables, herbs, and flowers with Christmas gift-giving in mind. No matter where you are on your homemade garden-gift journey, use these suggestions to spark ideas of your own.
Jams & jellies. I now plant an extra jalapeno and bell pepper plants so I can make yummy jams and jellies. These can be given as gifts on their own or brought as an appetizer to a Christmas party. They also make great hostess gifts! My favorites this season were jalapeno jelly, blackberry jalapeno jelly, peach jalapeno jam, and red pepper jelly.
Lotion bars & lip balms. You wouldn’t believe how easy it can be to make lotion bars and lip balms, and when you customize the scents with favorite essential oils, the recipients of these gifts will ask for more. Most recipes only require shea butter, beeswax, essential oils, and another oil like coconut, almond, grapeseed, or olive.
Natural hand sanitizer spray. During cold and flu season, mix up a batch of natural hand sanitizer spray. Combine 2 oz witch hazel, 1 oz. aloe vera, 1 tsp glycerin, 10 drops lemon essential oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil, and 10 drops peppermint or tea tree oil in a 2-ounce spray bottle for a quick and easy gift for anyone on your list.
Specialty soaps. Gone are the days when homemade soaps require a chemistry degree (slight exaggeration). Melt and pour soaps are fun and easy, allowing you to add custom scents through essential oils, and you can dress them up with dried leaves from dried flowers and herbs in your garden. My favorite is goat milk soap (available at Hobby Lobby) with rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils.
Spice mix blends. If you harvested a bumper crop of herbs this year and dried them for spices, why not mix up some custom spice blends? My favorite is Ranch Seasoning: 2 tbsp. dried parsley, 5 tsp. dried dill, 1 tbsp. dried chives, 1 tbsp. onion powder, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp. dried basil, and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Place mix in a small mason jar and dress up with ribbons and a nice label. Test out other spice blends and add some of those herbs to your garden plan next season!
Relishes. My most-requested homemade gift is sweet pickle relish. Taken from a basic recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Canning, I now plant extra cucumbers each season to ensure I have enough to give at Christmas time. Other unique relish ideas include zucchini relish, mustard pickles, and endless heirloom recipes. Gift recipients love homemade edible gifts that can’t be purchased from a store.
Hand and body scrub. One of the easiest body care gifts I make is hand scrub. You can whip up a batch of sugar scrub, but I’ve found this Salt Glow to be quick and easy: 2 cups of fine sea salt, 4 cups of grapeseed oil, and 25 drops of essential oils of your choice. Mix in a wide-mouth jar or plastic container, starting with the sea salt. (Ingredients in the recipe can be halved for smaller batches.)
Bath salts. Who doesn’t love a warm bath on a cold evening? Mix up a custom bath salt blend including 2 cups borax, ⅛ cup sea salt, ⅛ cup white clay, and essential oils of your choice. For an even easier option, purchase a bag of unscented Epsom salts and add essential oils and ground up fragrant herbs to the mix.
Bath bombs. A bit tougher to master than body scrubs and bath salts, bath bombs are fun to make (and young girls absolutely love making and using them). Purchase an all-in-one kit or find a tutorial online.
Tea blends. For the tea lover in your family, mix up a custom blend of tea in a decorative tin or jar. If you can use your own herbs and flowers for the recipe, that’s even better! I enjoy a blend with equal parts peppermint, lemon balm, and chamomile, but you can find options for relaxation, cold care, headaches, and more.
Don’t assume you have to be a “crafty” type person to make homemade Christmas gifts. Pinterest is full of ideas and tutorials, and you can purchase ingredients from a local health food store or online. Of course, the more you can use your own homegrown vegetables, herbs, and flowers, the more special (and more cost-effective) these gifts will be.
Test out some of these ideas, and make notes of which vegetables and herbs you want to plant in your garden next year to add even more garden goodness to your gift-giving!

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