Start Your Garden and Dry Your Own Herbs
by Alesha Wilson
Many of our dishes don’t taste right without the delightful herbs that we buy in the store by the carton. Herbs are nature’s flavorings and we need them for daily culinary use. Herbs are also healing agents, although we don’t really notice because we’re too busy enjoying their great flavors. Medicinal herbs that double as cooking ingredients are the best ones to grow in your garden.
Why start your own herb garden? The money you shell out monthly to buy your herbs could add up to a lot. If we consider how much we could be saving if we had these herbs in our own home, it makes sense to create a garden full of these great crops.
Fresh herbs are preferred over dried ones any day. Most herbs like basil are not picky where they grow, as long as the sunlight is plentiful and the soil is not flooded. Aside from basil, you can also go for oregano, rosemary and thyme, which grow well under mild conditions. In fact, the herbs may grow faster than you can use them, so share some with friends and neighbors. Seasonal herbs are also good to have around because they flower and bear fruit right when you need them to, during spring and summer. During the growing seasons, you really should prefer homegrown over store-bought because you’ll have fun planting your herbs as well as using them straight from the garden
Growing herbs requires patience. Treat your herbs like family members that need a lot of tender loving care. Prune the leaves and remove the ones that look diseased because these may infect the other healthy leaves. Take note of the growth of each plant and transplant them to separate pots as soon as they start outgrowing their planter.
Expect to have more herbs than you can use during the harvest season. If only you can cook a lot of dishes daily so that you can use them all. If you’re successful in your gardening project, you can expect plenty of extras, so it’s time to learn how to deal with them. Don’t throw away the extra leaves of basil or lemongrass. You can always dry them and use them in dishes in the distant future. Dried herbs have extraordinarily long shelf life, especially when the drying process is done right.
When drying herbs, use wooden racks. However, because of the potential rotting of the wood in these racks due to excess moisture during storage, some people prefer wire racks. You will also need clean cheesecloth, strings and lots of paper towels.
Rinse the herbs under cold running water before doing anything else. This will remove the residual dirt that may still be clinging to the herbs. Use a colander or a strainer to drain the water from the leaves of your herbs. Pat-dry the leaves occasionally until they are completely dry.
Arrange the leaves for drying on the rack. You can bunch some leaves together for ease of collection later on. Most homemade herbs are tied together in bunches and air dried by hanging from the ceiling suspended by several strings. Don’t dry in direct sunlight. You can hang them up to dry on the porch because the warm air will lead to the drying process. Make sure the room where you dry the herbs is not humid.
Alesha Wilson is a staff writer at RockwellNutrition.com. Get Rockwell Nutrition design for health supplements by following the link.