Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by hearts and roses, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    No, not the kind you smoke!

    I harvested my herbs today. I dried out some sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and oregano. My counter looks like one that belongs to a dealer. Hahaha.

    What I thought was going to be a time consuming, tedious task turned into a really nice, calming, relaxing, soothing time spent with the herbs I grew this year...drying the leaves and stripping them from the stalks and stems, measuring them out and bagging them up. I even created a blend from the contents that fell through my drying screen. The house smelled so good, I can still smell the herbs on my hands and fingers - nice.

    I was hoping for a larger haul so I could bag some up as gifts, so instead I'm going to get some smaller ziploc plastic bags and create a blend. For the holidays, I'm giving family canned goods, homemade soap and these herbs. I am hoping to find old tins or baskets cheap (I saw some nice ones at Michaels craftstore) and put the items in there and then just tie a nice bow on it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share what a nice time I had.
  2. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    How very cool! I grew basil for the first time this year and you are inspiring me to maybe try an herb garden next year.
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Jo, how did you dry them? In the oven or with a food dryer?
  4. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I normally dry them by hanging them upside down in a dust free spot for at least a few weeks. But since I have been so short on time and my schedule seems to be nuts lately, I decided to do it in the oven. I don't like the effect the heat gives the herbs, but the flavor is still there and it's quicker.

    My sister's H used to grow pot in my mom's yard when I was a teen and she and I would steal some and dry it in the oven...my H and easy child's boyfriend were making fun of all the little baggies around the kitchen. lol.
  5. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    You wild woman, you!
  6. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Really, I feel like I'm so out on the edge - lol!! :D

    I used a bunch when I made dinner tonight, delish.
  7. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I should dry some of the thyme and rosemary I am growing... mmm I love the smell of fresh herbs.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I began harvesting my herbs a week ago. Yes, it's spring - I know. But I had to harvest my mint because I detected some caterpillar activity, and from experience the best way to deal with it is to cut the mint back hard, to about an inch high, and hang the bunches to dry. Under these circumstances I don't dry in the oven - I hang the bunches so the caterpillars will drop off the bunch as it dries out. That way the end result is still free of caterpillars.

    Yesterday I harvest basil - again, necessary. A lot of herbs MUST be used or they either bolt to seed or they get leggy. By harvesting and tip-pruning from the beginning of the season, you get bushier, thicker growth and a much bigger, longer harvest.

    Some herbs don't dry well. Chives, parsley, basil, tarragon - I used to try to dry them but no more. Instead, I make stuff with them and freeze that. Chives and parsley can be chopped and frozen into ice cube trays, then popped out and kept in a bag of chive cubes or parsley cubes in the freezer. Basil - I make pesto sauce and keep it in either the fridge or the freezer. Tarragon - I make bearnaise sauce and keep it in the freezer. And now my tarragoon is growing back. I will have a big harvest of basil and tarragon in time for difficult child 1's wedding. I talked to the caterer last night, she will be very happy to use our home-grown herbs for the sauces at the reception. In fact, she will use my sauces! Because BF2 is allergic to pine nuts which are usually used in pesto sauce, I'm making pesto with toasted cashew nuts.

    I keep harvesting through the growing period. I have a thin line strung across the ceiling of our family room and I tie bunches of herbs to it. When they're dry and crisp I shred the leaves into jars. Once the jar is full I use my stick blender to grind it down - it's depressing to see how much bulk gets ground down to such a small quantity. But what concentration of flavour is in that quantity! You have an entire summer of garden flavour condensed into a pinch.

    Depending on what herbs, I wouldn't use a whole bunch at once (unless it's a bouquet garni). Home-grown is always going to be stronger.

    A suggestion for gifts - make some bouquet garni that you can dry (in other words, don't include parsley!). For gift bunches I use whatever woody herbs I have in the garden, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano and bay. You can either tie them in a bit of muslin or just tie the little bunches with kitchen twine but leave a long length on one side so the cook can tie the long end to the lid of the pot for easy removal later.

    You can make Asian bouquets but you need to tie them into muslin - a slice of ginger (it still has flavour even when it dries), a piece of star anise, some szechuan peppercorns, some lemongrass. It makes wonderful flavour addition to chicken stock.

    I've also made pot pourri in the past - I would spread rose petals to dry, on newspaper. Once dry they would be packaged into paper bags and I would dry other flowers for colour, maybe peel some oranges and lemons for the coloured peel. Some allspice berries, some cinnamon and orris root and a sprinkle of essential oils, and you have a wonderful pot pourri.

    I also find it very calming, very therapeutic.

    A herb you could try to grow through winter - salad burnet. I'm told it stays green in winter, even in snow. I read that it used to be used to ward off scurvy in the winter months. it has a very mild flavour, like cucumber. It's also pretty. It looks leafy and delicate, like a fern or like chervil, but is tough as old boots. I just bought two new plants this spring - I had lost my previous plant in the searing heatwaves two years ago. It's a leafy green perennial that is circular, it can grow to a couple of feet across although the babies I bought were only a few inches. I've currently got mine surrounded by lemon basil (part of last night's harvest). It's like parsley in that you can't dry it and expect to have any flavour. You just keep it growing, so you cna use it fresh!

    Enjoy your herbs. Way to go!

  9. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Marg, thank you for the great ideas! Yours sounds like a very nice mix of herbs there. I know what you mean about some herbs not being a good pick for frying. Especially the tarragon and basil - I've done the basil in the past and have found freezing to be the better option. I wasn't able to keep basil plants healthy this year, for some reason. I don't know why, but no matter what I did, they kept dying. I think my soil is way too acidic. Next year I will try it in a pot. In fact, there are many things I'm growing in pots next year...we have way too many trees now and my garden spot hardly gets enough sunshine. I think I may plant a strawberry patch in one corner of the yard that does get sun. And I will put my tomatoes into large pots as well. I did that a few years and had much better results than this season. Disappointing is an understatement!

    I will look for the salad burnet.
  10. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Marg -- walnuts make a great substitue for pine nuts in pesto sauce, provided BF2 is not allergic to those as well!
  11. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    Jo, try Good Will for baskets, containers, and ribbon ~ and the dollar store, too.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful day!

    And weren't those ideas Marguerite came up with clever. I am going to try making potpourri, too.

  12. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I just donated about 25 assorted baskets to Goodwill when we cleaned out our garage... coulda sent them to YOU!
  13. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    I bet your house smells AWESOME!!!!!!!

    WAY TO GO JO for doing something for you -

  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I did know about using walnuts instead, for pesto - but they have a bitter undertaste and I'm the only one in our family who can tolerate the bitterness. Everyone else is extremely sensitive to bitter tastes in anything.

    Growing basil - I found the biggest killer of basil plants was lack of water. I grow mine in pots, with an ice cream container as a saucer and water reservoir. I bought one over-planted pot from the nursery and used a big 4 litre plastic ice cream container to sit the pot plant in, I often had to fill it twice a day.

    The other thing you need to do, is keep pinching out the first signs of flower heads. Once you let it flower, it will set seed and die. But you can only postpone flowering for so long - once the stems begin to go woody, you may as well let it flower so you can harvest the seed to plant next year. One year I kept picking off the flower heads for too long and it never flowered, so I never got the seed. It just died off anyway.

    We have a warm wall which faces north (the equator side, for us). I had a basil plant along that wall that I kept going through winter and through the following summer.

    But I've found water is the big secret for my garden tis year - I'm careful to not overwater, but I suspect in the past I haven't watered enough. So this year, I'm working on it and my tomatoes so far are coming along well. Strawberries too. Just about the entire garden is in pots, apart from my built-up vegetable bed.

    I didn't get to buy any herb plants today, so if I get a chance I'm going to plant some seed in the morning.

    Oh, one more tip - coffee grounds to knock out slugs and snails. They always take out my woody herbs especially, and this year the coffee grounds seem to be doing a great job, even better than snail bait. Only a sprinkle of coffee grounds, not too much.