by Robin Bassett
Harvesting and Storing Herbs
How to Plan an Herb Garden
Fresh herbs are in season all across the country, so Grandma's kitchen is now festooned with great bunches drying for winter cooking and Grandma's famous Herb Wreaths. Basil, thyme, summer savory, rosemary, sage, parsley, oregano, dill and mint are all prime candidates for home drying - and you can save a bundle by drying your own. If you are lucky enough to live in a warmer area where bay trees are common, bay leaves dry wonderfully too!
HINT: If you buy fresh herbs for cooking but never seem to use the entire bunch, dry half the minute you get them home for later use.
Drying herbs is very easy and requires little in the way of equipment. You'll need some brown paper lunch bags to keep dust off and preserve the colors, string or rubber bands and a coat hangar. Make small bunches of washed herbs (7 or 8 stems) and place them stem end up into paper bags. Use string or rubber bands to secure the bag around the stem end of the bunch, then hang (from the coat hangar) in a cool, dark place with a nice breeze for several weeks until dry. At the end of three weeks or so, use the herbs to make beautiful wreaths as gifts (get an early start on Christmas!) or strip the leaves off, crumble and store in ziplock plastic bags or small jars with tight fitting lids. By the way, this same technique is marvelous for drying bunches of flowers.
Make an Herb Wreath
You'll find these to order in specialty gift catalogs, where they command a truly hefty price - upwards of $50 or more. If you happen to grow herbs in your garden, you can turn out stunning Herb Wreaths for gift giving for nearly nothing.
You'll need: one five to seven inch styrofoam wreath form for each wreath, florist wire, U or T pins, bunches of dried herbs still on the stems (Purple Ruffles Basil is gorgeous dried!), lots of freshly dried bay leaves (buy these in bulk at your local Food Co-op or natural food store - if you buy them by the pound they will be a nice glossy green and still slightly pliable), stick cinnamon, whole chili, a few beautiful fresh heads of garlic and a bit of raffia.
Make small bunches of dried herbs and large bay leaves - 6 or 7 stems to the bunch. Place a bunch on the wreath form and wrap tightly with florist wire to hold in place. Work your way around the wreath, alternating various herbs. Be generous with the bunches and make sure that you completely cover the wreath (you do not need to do the back). Tie cinnamon sticks in small bundles with the raffia. "Garnish" your wreath with cinnamon stick bundles, whole chilis (use T or U pins at the stem end to hold in place) and heads of garlic (thread florist wire through the bottom to make a wire loop and tie in place.) Accent your wreath with a raffia or gingham bow.
If you'd like to save these for later giving (or to refresh the one in your kitchen after you've used most of the herbs!), place the wreath into a large ziplock bag. Insert a straw into one corner of the bag and zip mostly closed. Now suck on the straw to get as much air out as possible, then quickly zip the bag shut. Store each wreath in a sturdy box in a cool, dry place.
Robin Bassett, aka Grandma, mother of four and proud Grandma of Liv, loves to craft, cook and garden. A web developer that specializes in graphic restoration, she publishes A Letter From Grandma, a weekly ezine full of recipes, crafts, tips and treasures. Subscribe by sending an email to email@example.com You can write to Grandma at webmaster @robinsplace.com Reprinted from A Letter From Grandma with permission. All rights reserved.
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