Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grind your own herbs and spices

When was the last time you replaced the spices you rely on to add flavor to your dishes? I’ve been wanting to replace many of mine for several months. This is the time of the year when I can do just that with some of what I’ve been growing.

This morning, for example, I put the hot peppers I had dehydrated into my blender and pulverized them. Keep in mind that I dehydrated the peppers outside to avoid their strong scent taking over the house. Pulverizing them also emitted a strong odor that made me sneeze. I think, however, that the result is worth the temporary inconvenience. We now have a small jar of very aromatic hot pepper spice that will add zing to many dishes this winter.

Although spices don’t go bad, they do lose flavor and aroma. One good reason to grow herbs is that at the end of the season, you can easily dry them (either by hanging in a dry location or using a dehydrator), grind or crush them and replace your old spices. I find herbs easier to grow than vegetables since bugs don’t seem to bother them. (I will admit, thought, that a small animal did eat my borage earlier in the year. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it anyway!)

I like using herbs fresh when they are in season. Some plants hold up to the cold quite well, only giving up their productivity when the temperatures drop to an extreme. For example, my first rosemary plant lived outside through its first winter. The next year, however, we had an ice storm that decimated it. This year I covered my parsley wioth dried leaves before our first hard freeze and it still looks good.

Store your spices in a dry, dark place in a tightly sealed container. Although it’s convenient to keep them near the stove, the heat can quicken their demise.

Herbs and spices not only add flavor to your meals, but also nutrition. reports that Oregano has 23 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin K. Cayenne Pepper has 30 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin A.

If you didn’t grow spices yourself this year, check your farmers market. Now is the time to stock up for winter.

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