Who’s ready to go camping? I certainly am. This beautiful spring weather has me thinking about two things- camping and gardening (basically, I just want to be outside). As a result, today’s post is about the top herbs for camping families. Don’t you just love when your favorite things converge?
Top Herbs for Camping Families
Citronella. Citronella is very well known among campers. It emits an insect-repelling aroma, which is why citronella products such as candles are so popular. Did you know that the living plant has a much stronger scent than these products?
Citronella may be grown as citronella grass, which is used to create citronella oils, or a citronella geranium, which is a hybrid created by crossing citronella grass and geraniums. The geranium version is also known as a mosquito plant. These herbs are most effective when the leaves are crushed or rubbed and applied to your skin.
Lemon thyme. Lemon thyme is one of my favorite herbs. It has small variegated leaves and is a creeping plant. Not only is it a cute plant, but my kids also love to rub their fingers over its leaves, which releases a lemony scent. It smells great and it can be used in recipes that require lemons.
Lemon thyme is twice as effective as citronella at repelling mosquitoes. In fact, it is about 62% as effective as DEET (see more information here). But once again, to use lemon thyme as an insect repellent, you should crush or bruise the leaves and rub the oils on your skin.
Basil. As you know, basil is a wonderful herb for cooking but did you know that it is also used to keep away mosquitoes and flies? Unlike many herbs, basil releases its scent without its leaves being crushed. Camping families may want to consider placing a pot of basil strategically at the campsite…maybe on the picnic table or by the tent entrance. Basically, the “real” mosquito plant has been masquerading as a culinary herb. Who knew?
Jewelweed. Jewelweed is a type of impatiens commonly used to treat poison ivy. It’s also used for insect bites and for cooling a sunburn.
Jewelweed can be grown in containers in the shade. Since it loves shade and moisture, in the wild it is typically found in the woods by a stream. In fact, many folks say that when you see poison ivy, you are likely to see jewelweed growing nearby.
Tea tree. It seems that tea tree products are everywhere these days. Tea tree is used for minor abrasions, bug bites, stings, burns, eczema, dandruff, acne and athlete’s foot.
Tea tree is an evergreen that may be planted in the ground or grown in pots indoors. The tree can grow to 10 feet tall, but you can keep it pruned to a manageable height.
Lavender. Lavender is beautiful, aromatic and… it is also keeps away mosquitoes (without crushing the leaves). It’s a popular herb for herb gardens and is useful while camping. Bring some fresh lavender stems to use as a fire starter for your campfire (or in your fireplace at home).
More Ideas for Using Herbs at the Campsite
1. Set out small pots of insect-repelling herbs around your campsite (basil, lavender, rosemary, etc…).
2. Make an all natural insect repellent by crushing lemon thyme leaves and rubbing their oils onto your skin. Citronella or lemon grass may be used as well.
3. Add herbs such as lavender, basil, eucalyptus or peppermint to sachets and hang them by the tent entrance, around the picnic table or from your camping chairs.
4. Make an herbal fire starter which will ward off insects. We’ve already discussed placing lavender stems on the campfire. Another example is to combine pine cones, lavender and rosemary, then wrap them up in a newspaper. Lastly, create a starter log by gathering a bunch of dried herb stems and bundling them together with twine as seen here.
I’ll see ya by the campfire.
While some of these herbs may deter mosquitoes, they may not be effective at preventing the spread of the West Nile Virus which is a serious illness. Follow the guidelines set by the CDC for West Nile Virus prevention here.
What are some of your favorite herbs and uses for herbs?