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Herb Guide Part 2: Using and Preserving

Now that you have grown these beautiful herbs, you need to know how to use and save them. As a follow up to my last post, I wanted to discuss tips on how to best use and preserve summer herbs.

Michigan summer is here and with that comes abundant fresh produce. By this time of the summer, many of you may start to have more fresh produce from your gardens than you know what to do with, especially herbs. Herbs are a great way to add new dimensions of flavor and color to a dish, but unfortunately they do not grow fresh year round, especially in cold winter months. Fortunately, there are a few quick ways to preserve your extra garden herbs so that you can use them year-round.

Want an audio guide? Check out my news segment on WZZM here!

  • Freezing: Freezing herbs are a great way to preserve the flavor and essential oils of the herbs. If you would like to preserve the beautiful green color of the herbs, consider blanching (pouring boiling water on the herbs for 1 second) before drying and freezing. Here are some great methods for freezing:
    • Plastic bag: rinse, remove the leaves from the stems, and then lay flat on a baking sheet to dry. Once fully dry, place in a plastic bag and freeze. Freeze in a clump or freeze the leaves separately before adding to the plastic bag.
    • Ice tray: Chop herbs into bits, drop about 1 Tbsp per cube tray, fill ¾ full with water, and freeze. The next day fill the cube trays to the top with water to prevent freezer burn. This can also be done with your choice of oil or broth depending on how you anticipate yourself using it.
  • Drying: Using string, tie herbs in small bunches, allowing room for ventilation, and hang in a well-ventilated room away from light. After 1-4 days, place dried herbs in an airtight container. Use a dehydrator for bigger-leaved herbs, such as basil, parsley, and cilantro.
  • Oven drying: Oven-drying is a good idea if you live in a humid climate where it may be difficult to air-dry successfully. Heat the oven to 150°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the herbs in one layer on the tray. Keep the oven door slightly ajar, check frequently, and remove when leaves get crumbly. This may take 1-4 hours. Store in an airtight container for 6 months to a year.
  • Uses: pesto, herb-infused butter, oil, or vinegar, hummus, soups, stews, pasta dishes

 

Basil Walnut Pesto

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • juice from half a lemon
    • dash of salt and pepper
  • Directions:
    • Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.

 

Roasted Beet Hummus:

Prep time: 5 mins, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized beet, skin on
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2½ tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • water to thin

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
  2. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and roast them for 1 to 2 hours (it depends on the size of your beets) or until soft and tender.
  3. Once the beets are roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  4. Peel the skin and chop them into chunks.
  5. Place the beets, chickpeas and garlic into a food processor and blend for 1 minute.
  6. Add tahini, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, cumin, 1 teaspoon of water and blend until the hummus becomes smooth and creamy.
  7. If it’s too thick add more water until the your desired consistency.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed
  9. Refrigerate or use immediately. Roasted beet hummus will last in the fridge for approximately 1 week.

BONUS Recipe!

I have so much dill, it ain’t even funny. So I decided to make some dill pickles! Because I don’t have all the proper equipment for canning, my recipe is just for pickling and storing in the refrigerator. But if you have the canning materials, go for it!IMG_6897

Dill Pickles

Total Time: 1-1.5 hours

Yield: 4 pint mason jars

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 salad or kirby cucumbers
  • 4-5 springs of fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp. dill seed
  • 2 Tbsp. pickling salt (I used fine 100% sea salt)
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut off the ends of each cucumber and cut into wedges.IMG_6900
  2. Wash mason jars with hot soapy water, dry, and set aside (You can also boil the jars in hot water for 10 minutes as well).
  3. Combine salt, vinegar, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until salt dissolves (~4-5 minutes).
  4. Add one peeled garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed, 1 dill spring, and red pepper flakes (optional) to each mason jar.
  5. Fill each mason jar with the cucumber wedges.
  6. Once the salt has dissolved into the vinegar and water, remove the saucepan from the heat, and pour the vinegar mixture equally into each mason jar, leaving 1/2-1 inch from the top of the jar. Let it sit and cool for at least 10-15 minutes.
  7. Seal each jar with the lid and lightly tap on the top of the lid to help remove bubbles.
  8. Refrigerate and allow at least 1-3 weeks for pickling before trying (longer if needed). IMG_6912

Enjoy!

-EAW

 

Resources:

http://www.gardeners.com/how-to/freezing-herbs/5391.html

https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/4-alternatives-drying-herbs

http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/herbs/harvesting-and-preserving-herbs

 

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Herb Guide: Pruning and Harvesting

I have been gardening for the last 3+ years and learn something new every year. During this time, I have learned that pruning (or trimming) your plants is essential to a healthy plant and a good harvest, which is ultimately the goal! Pruning helps keep your plants healthy and allows you to control their growth. However, pruning and harvesting is often different based on the plant so it’s important to know the methods you need to use for each plant.

I find that herbs in particular, need constant pruning to control or promote growth. I decided to create this user-friendly guide to pruning and harvesting as a resource to my followers and out of my necessity as a gardener.

A few key points to remember:

  • When harvesting most herbs and plants, be sure to only harvest 1/3 of the plant at a time and allow time for it to recover. This will encourage continued growth without devastating the plant.
  • Harvest from the top. I know it seems opposite of what you think but trust me, harvesting from the top instead of the bottom helps keep your plant sturdy, but promotes continued growth.
  • Know which tool to use for pruning and harvesting…your fingers or kitchen/garden shears. Some herbs are more delicate than others so it’s important to know the difference.

Annual vs. Perennial: Annual plants grow and live for one growing season. They need to be replanted every spring season. Perennials grow and regrow every spring season. Perennials are less work than annuals because they do not require re-seeding each season.

DILL

Method: Kitchen Shears

Category: Biennial (a mix between an annual and perennial, meaning a single dill plant has the potential to live up to 2 year, but can be very sensitive to frost and freezing).

Pruning:

  • Snip off the flowers at the tops of the stems. Be diligent with pruning the flowers of the dill plant unless you are ready for the dill to go to seed. Once the dill sets to seed, the plant stops producing and starts to dry out (which is fine if it is the end of the season).IMG_6885

Harvesting:

  • Harvest from the top of the dill plant
  • Harvest at the elbow of stems or where leaves meet the main stem (see picture below).
  • If you desire to cut an entire main stem or stock, do so at least 3-4 inches about the ground to promote re-growth.

Recommended uses: Tzatziki, pickling cucumbers and other vegetables, roasted carrots, salmon and lemon, potato or egg salad, fresh pasta-based or green salad paired with feta cheese

IMG_6894

BASIL

Method: Fingers

Category: Annual

Pruning:

  • Wait until the plant is 6 inches tall before pruning
  • Pinch flower buds off to force the plant to focus its’ energy on the actual basil leaves
  • If growing vertically, pinch off leaves from the top (this will encourage lateral growth)

Harvesting:

  • Pinch above where there are 2 large leaves on either side with small leaves with them
  • Pinch 1/4 inch above a node and 3 inches from the base of the plant
  • Don’t be afraid to be a little more aggressive with your basil harvesting. Basil is a rapid-growing herb and can recover well from more aggressive harvests.

Recommended uses: Italian dishes, ramen, pesto, raw green salads, pasta

IMG_6884

ROSEMARY

Method: Garden or kitchen shears

Category: Perennial

Pruning:

  • Prune anytime during spring and summer until 4-6 weeks before the 1st frost
  • Wait to prune rosemary until the plant is 4 inches tall

Harvesting:

  • Trim stems ~4 inches at the end of each stem (see featured image at the top of the page)
  • Avoid the woody parts of the stem

Recommended uses: Roasted vegetables, Gin-based cocktails, herb-flavored olive oil or butter, herbed spreads using mayo or Greek yogurt, added to crackers or pita chips

img_7634

IMG_6889

MINT

Method: Fingers

*Planting: If possible, mint should be planted in a separate container due to the runners that grow under the ground and have a tendency to invade other herbs.

Category: perennial

Pruning:

  • Wait until 6 inches tall then cut stems 1 inch from the soil to promote better growth.

Harvesting:

  • Harvest around the plant to control the growth.
  • Cut stems 1 inch from the soil
  • Be aggressive, be, be aggressive! Mint is a rapid-growing herb so don’t be afraid to be more aggressive with your pruning and harvesting.

Recommended uses: Mojito, fruit salads, pestos, tabbouleh, mint julep or non-alcoholic spritzer with fresh fruit, homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream

IMG_6892

IMG_6890

Please feel free to add comments or suggestions! I am open to all feedback because like I said before, gardening is a constant learning process for me. Stay tuned for my next herb guide on how to best preserve your herbs.

 

-EAW

 

Resources:

http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/harvesting-herbs-101-basil-chives-cilantro-coriander-mint-parsley

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/prune-dill-71334.html