Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drying herbs makes the kitchen smell good!

As I crushed my recently dried herbs between my hands before putting into their storage jars, my husband walked into the kitchen to identify the smell. Indeed, herb perfume can be as enticing as the taste of any herb.

I’ve been growing herbs for a few years now, adding another plant or two every year. My favorites to dry are rosemary, oregano and basil. I don’t use an extraordinary amount of rosemary but love its scent. During the growing season, I have to run my hand up a stalk when I pass it in the garden. It leaves its small on my palm, a small gift of appreciation. Rosemary grows well in my garden and smells wonderful as it hangs to dry. 

The scents of other herbs tend not to be as strong as they dry, but they have their place as well. I usually run out of oregano and basil before the winter is over and the fresh plants begin to produce.  This year I made more of an effort to dry these two. I also added French tarragon, a new plant for me that did well. Fresh, the herb tastes like licorice. I didn’t bother drying my mint because I seldom use it except when it’s fresh.

My routine for harvesting herbs follows four simple steps:

1)      1) Cut the herbs before they flower.

 2) Bunch strong end of the stems of the same herb together with a rubber band. Attach a bread tie and wind it around a peg on a shelf in my dining room.  If I run out of pegs, I attach a long piece of strong or yarn to the bundle and place the end of it under something heavy that sits on the shelf, allowing the herbs to hang free. The herbs hang in the dim dining room, which is also one of our driest rooms, until they dry.

3)      3) When dry, I take down the plants and unbundle them. Using my palms, I rub the dried plants over a large bowl then break them down into smaller pieces with my fingers.

4)      4) Finally, I store in small, labeled glass jars. I have some cute octagon-shaped jars that a friend gave me a few years ago. They’re my favorites but I also save small jars I’ve emptied of other things to use. I prefer glass containers as the herbs seem to retain more freshness than if I put them in plastic.

We’ve now had a few hard frosts so the only herbs that are still alive in the garden are what I covered with dried leaves. A few more sprigs of fresh parsley to add to tonight’s chicken salad will taste good.

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