What are herbs?
Herbs are plants used for medicine, perfume and flavouring. I’m going to focus on the flavouring part!
Why Grow your own Herbs?
If you, like me, love to add herbs to dishes then growing your own is a much cheaper alternative to buying herbs from a supermarket.
I understand that there is a lot of choice out there and you may not have the room to grow a large selection, but if you don’t have a lot of room a window box or terrarium would work just fine. To buy the extras you can’t grow check out this link http://www.realfoods.co.uk/shop/baking/herbs/herbs.
If you do have a garden growing herbs is an easy way to add to a flower bed. Most herbs are easily grown in either the ground or in containers and can be very pretty when in full growth.
A lot of people are confused by the number of herbs available and which herbs are good with which meals. So I have provided a list for you to peruse to give you some pointers. (Not complete list)
|Oregano||A strong tasting herb found in many Mediterranean and Mexican dishes.|
|Parsley||With a light peppery flavour it is often used in sauces and salads. Curly parsley is used as a garnish.|
|Mint||A cool peppery taste that can be added to summer salads or sauces, but also makes a refreshing tea.|
|Rosemary||Great for use in soups, stews and sauces because of its strong flavour.|
|Chives||Have a similar taste to onion. Great as a garnish. If using in cooking add at the end for a fuller flavour.|
|Thyme||Popular in American and European cooking because it can be used with any meat, poultry, fish or vegetable.|
|Savory||Related to the mint family it can be used to season meat, poultry and egg dishes as well as soups and salads.|
|Sage||Commonly used when making stuffing, sage is also good with pork dishes and potatoes.|
|Lemongrass||With a sweet lemony aroma it is used a lot in Thai and South East Asian cooking.|
|Tarragon||Used a lot in French cooking with a unique aniseed flavour. Fantastic with chicken, and a good choice when flavouring oils and vinegars.|
|Marjoram||Used for all meat and fish produce and is great for livening up peas.|
|Bay Leaf||Great for beef dishes, poultry and fish. Has bittersweet, spicy leaves that don’t lose their flavour when dried.|
|Dill||Compliments seafood, salads, soups and sauces. Has a subtle taste and us usually found in European and Middle Eastern dishes.|
|Fennel||Popular in Italian cooking with a strong aniseed flavour.|
|Basil||Used a lot in Mediterranean dishes, tomato based usually. Can be used with almost every meat or seafood.|
How do you Preserve Herbs?
Obviously it can be difficult to use up a lot of herbs at once. If like me, you have a large selection, your garden can become inundated and you don’t want the herbs to go to waste.
There are 3 ways that I have Preserved Herbs:
For herbs such as oregano, thyme, marjoram or sage air drying is the best solution.
Shake the herbs to remove any dirt and take off any leaves that have withered. Using twine, tie the stems together then hang the herbs upside-down in a warm, dry, well ventilated place away from sunlight.
You need to be able to leave them to dry out until the leaves crumble (about 1-4 weeks) then store them in an air tight container for up to 12 months.
If you live in a humid environment and are unable to dry out herbs naturally they can be oven dried.
Spread the herbs on to a baking sheet (not foil because it can change the taste) and place in the oven with the door slightly open. The oven temperature should be around 150 degrees Fahrenheit or 66 degrees Celsius.
Check the herbs frequently to avoid burning – this may take up to 4 hours.
Again once the leaves are crumbling, store them in an airtight container for up to one year.
This is the best option for leafy herbs such as basil, parsley and tarragon. There are two methods for freezing:
One is to chop the herbs, pack them into an ice cube tray, top them off with water or a broth and then freeze them.
The other is to blend the herbs with oil or water to make a paste, then freeze them.
With both methods once frozen, store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.
So there you have it; ways to grow herbs, use herbs and preserve herbs. What more could you ask for? If you have any additions to make to the herb list please do so in the comments below and perhaps you could tell me some of the ways you include herbs in your dishes.Google+