Salad Spinner

Salad Spinner
Salad Spinner

Reaping the Benefits of Your Home Herb Garden

It has been weeks, maybe months – sometimes years - since you first started your home herb garden.

You toiled and slaved to make them flourish, you experienced the thrill of seeing the first sprout grow, and the heartache of seeing them whilt away. You learned the ropes; you made everything work despite your ‘ungreen thumb’ and you became somewhat of an herb expert in the local sapling club of your town.

Now, after all you’ve accomplished, a question hangs…

What do you do with your herbs?

Harvesting herbs is the next step in your herb garden journey. Having a home herb garden is pretty much like having your own health food grocery store.

Herbs are extremely useful, and each has their own uses. But to harvest them isn’t as simple as plucking the leaves out whenever you feel like it. You can do it of course, but only if you intend to use your plants just once.

But if you plan to harvest your home herb garden regularly, timing is crucial.

The best time to harvest your herbs is on a calm, dry midsummer morning because wind and heat have the tendency to disperse the herb’s essential oils.

On extremely wet days, herbs produce less oils, so harvesting herbs after the dew has dries and before the flowers open is strongly suggested. When harvesting, you should be conscious not to take more than one-third of the foliage.

Harvesting the whole plant obviously is not a good idea. The plants need foliage to re-grow well. Be sure also to check the plant and leaves for insects, diseases and damaged leaves before harvesting, and to take the proper steps to remove them if found.

Once you harvest your home herb garden, it doesn’t mean you would have to use them right away.

You can always store and preserve your harvest for later use.

There are three ways people use employ when preserving herbs for later use; drying, freezing and preserving them in salt or vinegar (much like pickling).

To start preserving, begin by bundling six to twelve stems together making sure to remove the foliage at the base of the stems. Secure them using string or special bundling cords for plants that are available in your local gardening store.

Hang the bundles in a cool place away from sunlight. Drying individual leaves, placing them in a screen or special rack is best. Be sure to turn the leaves or bundles regularly to ensure a proper and balanced drying process.
To make the most of their home herb garden some people who resort to using microwaves or ovens to speed up the drying process, but these methods tend to yield unsatisfactory results.

Freezing herbs is a more simple process of preservation.

You cut your herbs into 1.4 inch pieces, put them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and put them in a freezer. Once frozen, you can bundle them into plastic bags and place in the freezer again to save space.

The third way is via a certain medium like salt or vinegar.

Chopped herbs like mint, basil or tarragon can be covered with vinegar and it will be preserved for several months. You can also use salt by alternating layers between the salt and the herbs.

When it is dry, you can then separate the salt from the herbs and store them in an airtight container.

But what if you wish to use them straight from home herb garden?

First, you should clean the herbs carefully before using in any recipe. Cleaning them requires you to place them in a bowl filled with water.

If the herbs are too many to fit in a bowl, the sink can suffice. Then put two tablespoonfuls of salt in the water.

The salt will drive away whatever insects are in the herbs without damaging the plants. Once clean, remove the herbs and dry them in a salad spinner, or you can toss them by hand if you don’t have a salad spinner.

Remember, different herbs require different approaches.

What is mentioned above is generally true for all, but to be sure, know what kind of herb you wish to harvest and prepare and learn all you can about it.

Caring for a home herb garden is both beneficial & rewarding and reaping what you sow is good, but learn how to reap them properly lest you lose them.

About the Author

Peter Bourke is a passionate herb gardening expert... for more information about a home herb garden visit www.WhatAreHerbs.com

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