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Sep 23

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Herb harvest

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Bottom left – dried spearmint (in jar). The stems have been removed and discarded, leaving the just the leaves for easier storage.

I’ve been harvesting and drying herbs from my garden since early this past summer, and as it’s getting cooler, I’ve ramped up my harvesting to get the most out of my edible plants before frost is upon us. This year’s weather was pretty poor, so a lot of my plants didn’t get the sun they needed and many shrivelled. I’m addicted to parsley, but my poor parsley plants were completely decimated by an army of invasive slugs. However, to my delight, my new sage plant became thick and robust, and I now have more than I need, and spearmint plants appeared one day in spring on their own, between the cracks of my patio tiles and in between dahlia plants.

 

Many garden herbs are super easy to grow and are low-maintenance. For example, mint grows like a weed and is nigh unkillable, for better or for worse, and it comes back every year. There are many different kinds of mint, including spearmint, peppermint, and apple mint, and they each impart their own special flavour. The best part is that they need practically no care, and if it’s rainy like this past summer, you don’t even need to water them! For such a low commitment vs. benefit ratio, mint is quite versatile in the kitchen — we’ve made mint iced teas, hot good-night teas, mojitos, used it as garnish, and baked some spanakopita (Greek spinach pie). When we don’t use up the fresh sprigs, we stick the stem into a jar of water and it grows roots within days. (Almost) instantly more mint!

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Easy-to-grow garden herbs, clockwise from left: spearmint, oregano (in jar), sage, more spearmint, thyme, rosemary.

Oregano is also a choice herb to have around, and is delicious when stirred into your pizza sauces or sprinkled on a tomato-mozzarella salad. Parsley is great for pretty much every dish, including Asian fried rice dishes, cold dishes, and sauces. I’m still experimenting with thyme and sage, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy in hearty winter foods.

 

After the herbs are dry, they can be simply stored in airtight jars, where they’ll last months, if not years. I love herbs because they add nuance and a special highlight to food, and all the better when it comes from my own garden.

This year, I plan to make my own herbed olive oils, herb salts, and herb tea blends this year to give as handmade gifts. I might also try my hand at making some herbal bath soaks, as well. At least I’ll finally have a use for the dozens of jars I’m hoarding!

Permanent link to this article: http://project-aika.com/2014/09/herb-harvest/

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