The final drying & storing of herbs

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on November 14, 2012

This summer’s herb garden did well.  I grow most of my herbs in pots on a little strip about 3 feet wide that’s between my house and the driveway.  Here’s what it looked like this spring:

I’ve managed to cram in there Lovage , Chives, Sage, Parsley, Mint, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Oregano, German Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, and Feverfew.  In the “big” gardens I grew Cilantro, Dill, Calendula and Basil.

(That other big bushy thing in between the Lovage and the Chives is a Hydrangea–which I hate.  It takes up my space and hasn’t bloomed in the 4 years we’ve lived here. This spring, it’s going down.)

As things have grown over the summer I’ve harvested.  Some things I’ve been experimenting with tincturing in oil or alcohol for medicinal purposes.  (Yes, I will eventually write about that.)  I made a bit of compound butter (herb in butter) that I froze.  Usually I make a big batch of pesto from the Basil and then freeze it in cubes–this year mine got neglected until it was too far along and I didn’t actually harvest much.  For most of the herbs though I’ve preserved by drying, both in my car and in my Excalibur dehydrator.  Over the last few weeks as hard frosts have threatened I finished picking and drying most of it.  I finally got the dried stuff stripped off the stems where necessary and neatly labeled in bags:

It makes me so happy to look in my spice cabinet and see all the herbs I’ve grown myself!  Some of it will be used for cooking, some of it will be used in teas, and I’m sure I’ll wind up giving some of it away.

A lot of my herbs are perennial, which means they just come back on their own year after year.  The Lovage, Chives, and three types of mints (Mint, Spearmint and Lemon Balm) are perennial.  It’s supposed to be too cold for the Sage as well, but apparently no one told the plant that as it’s happily overwintered for 3 years now tucked up against the house.

For the rest of the plants, I’m trying something new this year–I’ve brought the entire planter inside and placed it in the basement for the Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano.  In milder climates these are perennial herbs, but here in NY it’s just a bit too cold for them, even sheltered up near the house.    Hopefully in the basement they will go dormant and then I can bring them out in the spring and they will come back to life.  If not, well, I’m not out anything, I’ll just buy new starter plants and replant them.

That leaves just the Basil, Dill and Cilantro to replant, those I usually do from seed or starter anyway–and the Feverfew, which I let self seed (hopefully) in the planter.

Herbs are such a great addition to your cooking, and growing them yourself is quite frugal–even if you have to spring for a few starters every year.  So many of them are a buy once and then enjoy for years type of thing (like my chives).  I hope that over the year I’ve inspired some of you to grow herbs of your own.  There is no excuse, even for the apartment dwellers-so many of them grow well in pots!

What are some of your favorite herbs to use and grow?  I find I keep wanting to add more and more.  I’d love to figure out how to grow ginger (it would HAVE to come inside in the winter) get better at my garlic (a failure this year but trying again) and try a few fun things like lemon grass.

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