5-Using Herbs From A Home Garden

You have planted the herbs and watched them grow and flourish.  They are extremely useful in so many ways.  But, using herbs from a home herb garden requires a little bit or work first.

In order to use the herbs you will need to harvest them first.  Timing is a huge factor.  The wind and the heat can disperse the essential oils of the herbs.  You should choose a calm and dry morning during midsummer to harvest your herbs.  Fewer oils are produced by the herb on extremely wet days.  Harvest the herbs just after the dew has dried form the leaves right before the flowers open.  Harvesting the herb does not mean removing the entire plant.  At this point, you are just taking a certain amount of growth for use.  You do not need to use the herbs that you are harvesting at the time that you pick them.  You can preserve them to use later.  Be careful not to take more then one third of the plant’s foliage at one time.  The plant will need a good amount of foliage to re-grow well.  You should also inspect the plant for insects and damaged leaves before you harvest it.

Typically there are three ways that people preserve their herbs for later use; drying, freezing, or preserving them in a medium like salt or vinegar. In order to dry herbs you need to bundle six to twelve stems together and remove any foliage near the base of the stems.  You can secure the bundle with string.  Hang the bundle in a cool location away from sunlight.  If you are looking to dry individual leaves you can place them on a screen or a rack.  Remember to turn them often in order for them to dry properly.  Some people have turned to using appliances like dehydrators, ovens or microwaves to dry herbs as well although these are less satisfactory ways.  Freezing herbs is a fairy simple way to preserve herbs.  Cut the herbs into ¼ inch pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Once the herbs are frozen, you can place them together in a bag and store them in the freezer until use.  The third way to preserve herbs is through a medium.  For instance, you can cover herbs like chopped mint, basil or tarragon with vinegar and it will be preserved for several months.  Or you can make a flavored salt to preserve herbs by alternating layers of fresh herbs between salt.  When completely dry separate the brown herb from the flavored salt and store it in an airtight container.

Of course, people often use herbs fresh right out of the garden.  Take care cleaning the herbs before they are placed fresh in recipes.  In order to clean fresh herbs place them in a bowl filled with cool water.  If there is a large quantity of herbs you can use the sink.  Place about two tablespoons of salt in the water.  The salt in the water will drive away insects without damaging the plant.  Remove the herbs from the water and dry them in a salad spinner.

Different types of herbs are used for many different uses.  Each different type of herb has their own list of instructions on how to use, harvest, and chop them.  Make sure into research the specific type of herb you are using to use it correctly.