Discover the pleasures of growing and dryiing your own herbs and spices. Home grown and dried herbs have such a superior fragrance and flavor you will never want the store bought variety again. You can grow your own herbs in a small garden patch or on a patio or terrace in containers and hanging pots. Many herbs, such as chervil, chives, marjoram, mint, sage, rosemary and oregano, can be successfully grown indoors.
Herbs enhance flavor and add a gourmet touch to any food. Herbal teas make a delicious, healthy substitute for caffeine laden beverages. Besides vitamins and minerals, herbs have valuable medicinal properties that may aid digestion, soothe nerves, or relieve minor discomforts and ailments. The delicate fragrances of herbs have long been used in scented preparations for the bath and boudoir.
When you harvest herbs depends on the part of the plant you are using.
LEAVES AND STEMS: Gather when they are young and tender. Leaves should be picked before flowers begin to open. (An exception is the mint family which should be harvested in full bloom for best flavor.) Gather leaves and stems using pruning shears or a sharp knife. In order to allow more growth and further harvesting, leave four inches of stem on leafy annuals and use only a third of the growth of leafy perennials.
SEEDS -- Gather when the seed heads are turning brown.
ROOTS -- Gather in the fall when the stalks have withered or in the spring before the new growth begins.
Gather herbs on dry days during the early morning hours after the dew has dried. The delicate oils are quickly dissipated by the heat of the sun.
DO NOT GATHER PLANTS THAT HAVE BEEN SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES, OR OTHER POISONESS SPRAYS.
Drying Herbs: Separate leaves from stems. Arrange loosely on trays to allow good air circulation. Dry at low temperatures, 85° - 95°. Leaves will take only a few hours to dry. When they crumble easily, remove immediately. Over-drying will cause loss of flavor and fragrance. Stems, seeds and roots should be dried until brittle.
Storing Herbs: Store dried herbs in air tight containers. Dark glass or glazed pottery containers are best. Small jars will retain delicate fragrances better than larger ones. Store herbs in a cool area. Do not keep kitchen herbs near the stove or in bright light or sunlight. Crumbled and powdered herbs lose their flavor more quickly so it is best to store as whole as possible.
Use as a seasoning for meat, eggs, soup, salads, potatoes, or french bread.
Place herbs in tea bags or tie into cheese cloth and add to soup or stew. Discard when done cooking.