Now That I've Grown It... What Do I Do With It?

Recipes, Uses and Storage Ideas for Home Grown Herbs

Okay, you planted a beautiful herb garden with all sorts of intriguing herbs, flowers and vegetable varieties. It's all thriving almost too well. You have so much you don't know what to do with it all and your family and friends haven't a clue how to use this exotic produce. If my family even hears the word "eggplant" they run screaming into the night! Sound familiar? Maybe we can help.

Many herbs will freeze or dry beautifully to extend their shelf life. We prefer to use them fresh out of the garden for best flavor but when you have so much so quickly that's not always possible. You always want to be pinching back things like basil, thyme, oregano and chives so that you get fullest production out of the season. Plants like rosemary like a good cutting now and then to keep them from getting too woody. If you haven't planned a meal around your pruning try some of these ideas to preserve your herbs:

Freezing Herbs: Wash herbs very well and gently pat dry with paper towels. Wrap a leaves or sprigs in freezer paper or place in freezer proof ziplock bags, seal and freeze. These herbs can be chopped and thawed for use in cooking, but are not suitable for garnish as they will become rather limp when thawed. Flavor is best if used within a few months.

Herb Cubes: This is a very convenient way of storing herbs. Put the clean dry herbs into the bottom of an ice cube tray and fill the compartments with water or stock. Then when you need herbs just pop them into soups, stews or sauces. You can mix and match, make combinations that you use in your recipes. This is a very convenient way to use up your herbs.

Drying Fresh Herbs: One thing to remember when using dried herbs as compared to fresh that you want to use1/3 teaspoon powdered or 1/2 teaspoon crushed for every tablespoon fresh.

Air drying is the simplest method requiring only rubberbands to secure the stems of herbs together. Just hang upside down in a dark airy area with good air circulation until dry.  This does take the longest however.

Try this simple microwave drying method with herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme and oregano. Wash and gently pat dry herbs picked in the morning just after the dew has dried. This is when your herbs will have the most oils in the leaves. Spread them out on a microwave safe dish in a single layer between two papertowels. Place in microwave and cook on high for about a minute, then check them. Continue cooking for about 20 seconds at a time until the herbs are just crisp.

When drying with a conventional oven, begin by placing the clean herbs on shallow trays in oven, leaving oven door ajar and turning the heat to the lowest setting, about 150 F. Allow the herbs to dry, testing after each hour. A small electric fan placed to circulate air into the oven cavity will speed the drying time. When storing, place the herbs in airtight jars, out of direct sunlight.

I have included some recipes that I've collected, borrowed and created. Try something different with supper each night to see what your family likes and use up those lovely herbs and veggies that you've worked so hard to grow. Happy harvesting!

Jill Jones is a "Jill of all trades", webmaster, writer, wife and mother of a blended family of five. This article may be used with permission for educational and informational purposes. Direct questions and inquiries to jill@herbalgardens.com