Hey, can you believe it's already March first...seems like yesterday we were celebrating Christmas. Today, I'll be sharing some herb tips. Growing your own herbs can save you a lot of money. Depending on your windows you can grow herbs all year round in your home. Certain herbs produce a fragrant aroma and flower that makes a great centerpiece. Enjoy!
Harvesting time for an herb is best determined by the growing condition of the herb, rather then by a specific date or month. Always check your zone for growing times. Most herbs are ready to be harvested just as the flower buds first appear. The leaves contain the maximum amount of volatile oils at this stage of growth, giving the greatest flavor and fragrance to the finished product. To extend the use of herbs into the winter months, plan to harvest and dry various herbs during the summer and fall. Herbs should be harvested at the proper time of the day, early in morning, just before the sun is hot. Their fragrance makes this early task quite enjoyable.
Annual herbs can be cut back several times during harvest. Using a sharp knife or pruning shears, cut just above a leaf or a pair of leaves, leaving 4-6 inches of the stem for later growth. If an annual herb is grown for it's seeds, it should not be cut back and used for the leaves. Allow the plants to mature fully and then harvest them. Collect the seed heads when they are turning brown by cutting them from the plants and drying them on a tray made of very fine wire mesh.
When drying whole branches or stems first wash and dry, then gather 5 to 8 stems together and tie them into a bundle. Place the bundle into a brown paper bag with the stems extending out the open end and hang in a dark warm place (70 to 80 degrees F). Depending on temperature and moisture, drying time will take 2-4 weeks. Tray drying is usually used for short-stemmed herbs or for individual leaves. The trays should be kept in a warm, dark place until the herbs are dry.
Microwave ovens can be used for quick drying of herbs. Care must be taken, for herbs can't be desiccated too quickly at too high a temperature or much of the flavor, oils, and color of the herbs will be lost. Place the clean stems or leaves on a paper plate or towel and set the control on high for 1-3 minutes, turn the stems over or mix the leaves every 30 seconds.
Drying with conventional oven, place the stems on a cookie sheet or shallow pan and warm at no more than 180* for 3-4 hours with the oven door oven. Store the herbs in an airtight jars in a cool, dry place. If the entire stems were dried, remove the leaves and crush or crumble then in jars. Herbs must be completely dried or they will mold and jars away from direct sunlight and heat.
My favorite is using dehydrating herbs in my toaster oven. Uses less electricity. Certain herbs like chives and basil due have a "smelly" scent (so I've been told by my husband). Always, test a small amount of herbs first so you don't waste a full batch.
TOMORROW: "Recipes w/ Herbs Part 1"
DESIGN TIP: You do not need a large area for growing herbs. Herbs grow nicely in pots and also make great decor around your patio as well. I plant herbs in small pots around my BBQ area for that "quick snip" when cooking.
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