An easy guide to growing and storing herbs
13/03/2013 By 1 Comment
Whether you’re a pro in the kitchen or a newbie at the stove, there’s an easy and affordable way to transform even the most humdrum meal into something delicious. Herbs and spices can add flavour and colour – and they don’t have to cost the earth.
Forget expensive ready packed spices and dried herbs – simply turn a spare bit of your garden, allotment or even a windowsill, into your very own herb treasury. Use them fresh in season, or store them away for long term use in colder months.
You’d be surprised at how many herbs and spices you can grow in the comfort of your own home, garden, or allotment. Annual herbs like parsley, basil and coriander grow fast and flourish, so it’s worth planting regularly throughout spring and summer. Use them fresh in salads, pasta dishes and curries for a fragrance and colour and store away plenty for winter.
Perennial herbs like chives, rosemary and thyme, are slower growing. Sow these in Spring, keep under cover, then re-pot when they’re sturdy enough to be handled. Rosemary and bay also form attractive shrubs once they’re a little larger, so make an attractive plant to have on the patio or in the kitchen.
Stored well, herbs can last for months, even years. Different methods of storing work better for different types of herbs. Once you’ve got your dried herbs together, then why not treat your kitchen to an attractive spice rack to display all your efforts.
Air drying is an easy method for low moisture herbs, like thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage. It’s important to harvest them before they flower, as this is when they are most full of flavour – look for the emergence of buds as a clue, as different herbs will flower at different times of the year. Rinse and dry them thoroughly with paper towels, then hang upside down in a warm room. Once dry, separate the leaves, and store them away in an air-tight jar.
Herbs full of moisture, such as basil or mint, are better dried using an oven. Harvest them before they flower, rinse and dry throughly. Warm the oven on a very low temperature, then turn off. Place trays of herbs to dry slowly overnight.
This no-fuss method is great for herbs like coriander, parsley and chives. Once harvested, washed, and towel dried, place herbs into freezer bags or vacuum sealed bags and place in the freezer. These will last for several months.
This is a guest post by Patti Thompson.