Homemade gifts are a bit more personal than store-bought ones for the holidays, but still are equally appropriate tokens of appreciation for the holiday hostess, New Year’s festivities or Thanksgiving thank you.

Visiting a friend? Consider bringing a jar of fresh vegetable soup straight from your garden. Attending a socially distant “Friendsgiving” feast? Send the hostess a fabulous handcrafted floral centerpiece. Ringing in the New Year with your social bubble? The featured hibiscus syrup will come in handy for a memorable rum punch (or Italian soda for the kids).

Whatever occasion you need a gift for this holiday season, we have you covered.

For the Garden Lover

Everyone has at least one friend with a green thumb, where everything they plant seems to thrive. Cater to their interests by supplying tools to fuel their gardening habits well into the new year. One of the easiest gifts you can give are simple seeds. Whether vegetable, herb, fruit, or flower, you can get surprisingly creative by creating custom seed packaging using a variety of templates available online or buy them already created through craft sites such as Etsy.

Create your own custom blend and send it along in a cute pot with a garden tool or two and you won’t even need to worry about wrapping! Likewise, bulbs, cuttings from a favorite plant (like a plumeria), and miniature herb gardens for the kitchen windowsill will leave your garden-loving friends delighted.

Succulents are certainly having a moment this year and they are an easy, inexpensive gift to give, especially if you already have a few. To propagate, remove a leaflet or two, allow to dry and sprout roots, and plant upright in a container of succulent media mix. Before long, you will have an army of succulents ready for the holiday season!

For the CULINARILY Curious

Luckily, foodies are one of the easiest friend groups to gift! It is easy to create a range of offerings from your own garden that will add complexity to dishes and inspire new recipes. If you are already growing herbs, consider drying them to create your own D.I.Y. spice jars. You can pick up small jars at craft stores or reuse previous spice containers from the grocery store, just remove the labels.

You can even get fancy and blend a few together to create your own seasoning blend (tacos, anyone?) or rub. If you are lucky enough to have a food dehydrator, your gift gifting options just increased tenfold.

Kitchen staples like onion and garlic powder are surprisingly easy to create at home using a dehydrator. Slicing bulbs as thin as possible, place in a single layer in the food dehydrator and rotate tray every 30 minutes until crumbly. Once cooled, let them take a spin in the food processor to turn into a pungent, yellow-hued powder. When placed in a small decorative jar, it is good for 2 years and so simple, you may opt to make a few containers for yourself!

Food dehydrators also produce lovely homemade fruit and vegetable chips. Thinly sliced root vegetables, apples, potatoes, grapes, oranges, and even bananas make colorful lovely dried snacks for both culinary and outdoor adventurers. Classic freezer jam (see strawberry recipe below) does not involve the stress or food safety concerns of normal canning and makes for a tasty gift good for up to three months. The act of food preservation not only serves as a thoughtful gift, but also provides a little extra food security in a time of uncertainty.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

– 2 cups crushed strawberries
– 4 cups white sugar
– 3⁄4 cup water
– 1 box fruit pectin
– Mason jars

– In a food processor, pulse until strawberries are well diced but not mashed.
– Measure 2 cups of strawberries into a large bowl.
– Add sugar, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Let stand 10 minutes.
– Add water and pectin to a saucepan and bring water to a boil.
– Remove from heat and add to strawberry mixture.
– Stir well until sugar is totally dissolved.
– Fill mason jars with jam, leaving 1⁄2 inch of room at the top.
– Cover with lids and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours Store jam in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Making Spirits


What would the holidays be without a cocktail or two (or three)? We all know someone with a hibiscus plant in this county, and you can use the large flowers to create a simple syrup perfect for making a ruby-hued holiday rum punch. The following recipe, which can serve a crowd, can even be included with the syrup to make a thoughtful and attractive gift.

Hibiscus Simple Syrup

– 2 cups water
– 1⁄2 cup sugar
– 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
– 1⁄3 cup dried hibiscus flowers
– 1⁄2 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
– Zest from 1 lemon

– Boil water, sugar, dried flowers, and zest until dissolved, about 10 minutes.
– Remove from heat and steep for another 5 minutes.
– Strain into a container, discard the solids.
– Add to taste, starting with about 1 oz to 2 oz of alcohol per drink (rum or vodka both work well). Can also be mixed with club soda for an alcohol-free spritzer.

Amanda Rose Newton
Gardening Information and Education Specialist, Rockledge Gardens Instructor of Horticulture, Eastern Florida State College

Amanda Rose Newton is a Florida certified horticulture professional; board certified entomologist, beekeeper, and educator. She holds an Associates of Science in Horticulture Technology, A Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, a Master’s of Science in Entomology with a specialization in Integrated Pest Management, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate at Florida Institute of Technology.