To skip to the drying part, click here.
Herbs are simple O_O! Yes, herbs are simple. I can kill anything, but herbs do their own thing. Think of them as weeds in a fence. I live in TN, up on a mountain. It’s about 5 degrees colder here than just 100 miles east at Knoxville. That may not sound like much, but it makes us have frosts in May and snow in April. I have bought all of my original herbal plants from Bonnie. They have proven to be the best quality and the most prolific. Here’s what I grow.
Basil is unable to survive the winters here. I scatter seeds from the previous plant in a small pot. As they grow, I thin them out into bigger and bigger pots until I get a flipping bush of basil. I bring it in when it gets cold. By that time, it’s already gone to seed. I just let it live as long as possible for fresh basil, and then use the dried leaves straight off the bush after it’s died. Alternatively, you can cut and dry it as well. Basil cannot survive frosts. Frosts can occur at 36 degrees, so please bring it in if it’s going to be 40 or less. Our weatherman is often wrong, so I recommend precautions.
Parsley does pretty well and should survive to regrow the next spring. Unfortunately, my ducks decided it makes a pretty good bed and killed it. My parsley now grows with my other herbs in an abandoned chest freezer. From top to bottom we have: lavender, parsley, oregano, and rosemary.
Now, rosemary is very easy to grow. I bought my rosemary years ago and it survives the winters beautifully! I’ve gone out with it snowing and icing and cut fresh, green sprigs for supper. Crazy. But this winter was so bad, and with me having to move my other duck-squished herbs to the chest freezer, I decided to go ahead and buy a new plant. I don’t think my older one survived this winter.
The cool thing about the freezer it is has a lid. When the temps get crazy low, we put the lid on. If they’re getting too saturated with rain, we have an old glass door we place over the top. We even have a screen we can use to deter bugs and weed seeds.
Oregano did surprisingly well. It overwintered just fine. Last year there was very little of it, thanks again to the ducks, so I bought new, as you can tell. I recommend the Greek variety. It has more sharpness to it.
Mint here is a natural, prolific plant. Supposedly it takes over. It did eat some of my oregano. Growing mint is pretty pointless here as most people can just go to their back yards for a chew of it, or to make some tea, or whatever.
Using and Drying Herbs
Now for the use. If you’ve only used store bought herbs in a glass thingy, hold on! When I’m out of my own herbs, I don’t even bother putting the store stuff in anymore, because I can’t even taste it. Like this morning, I’m so used to freshly ground cinnamon that I think I sprinkled half a bottle on my kugle. I finally used nutmeg. It was much better.
Drying herbs is very easy, as I will show you. When you use dried herbs, be sure you keep them WHOLE as I show you, and only crumble them when you actually add them to the food. This is why there is such a taste difference. The herbs have oils, and those oils evaporate over time. When you cut or crumple the dried herbs, you release these oils and increase the surface area. This allows for more rapid depletion and less flavor. Be sure to crumple them though. Whole herbs are depleted on the outside. It is what is on the inside, what you release, that gives you the flavor.
- Cut several sprigs of each herb and rinse well.
2. Line the cut ends up, keeping each different herb in its own, separate bunch.
3. Lay a piece of string.yarn under the cut end.
4. Bring the yarn around and tie it good and tight. The herbs shrink when drying. If you tie it too loose, they will fall out, too tight, and you will break the stems. Don’t be afraid though. It has been my experience that it is not very easy to break the stems.
5. Hang up to dry. Hang in an everyday room. This will give it the proper temperature and atmosphere, and fragrance up the place a bit.
I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.