Herb Garden Adds Spice to Summer Foods
Nothing spices up summer foods like fresh herbs from the garden. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton has more on how to get the best out of your herb garden both now and later.
The first of the harvest has begun. We’re cutting herbs for fresh use and to dry.
We almost missed the sage in its prime. The optimum time to harvest most herbs is when they are just beginning to flower. The plant pushes oils and flavors toward the flowers. This packs the leaves with flavor. Our sage is on the down-hill side of flowering. So the best flavor may be passed.
Single leaves can be picked for herbs that will be used fresh. Pick the leaves with the stem for salads. Basil, dill, cilantro and oregano bounce a salad. You almost don’t need a dressing. Or use leaves fresh in summer sauces. Wash them in cool water. Cut the leaves with a sharp knife to maximize the flavor.
The washed leaves can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you harvested too much, put the leaves in the freezer. Use sealable bags or small freezer-ware. Label the container. Once the herbs freeze they all look pretty much the same.
We dry a lot of our herbs. Cut long full stems just as the flowers begin to open. Tie the stems of the same herb together. Hang then upside down in an airy room. We hang herbs in the kitchen for decorations. We also use an open shed that keeps the herb out of the hot sun. Depending on the weather and humidity the herbs will dry in a couple of weeks.
Remove the leaves from the stems. Put the whole herb stem in a paper bag. Shake and hit the bag. Most of the leaves will come off and the stems can be separated. Clean small stems out of the herb leaves over the bag or some paper. We store our herbs in canning jars. The jars are easy to label and to store.
Cilantro is one of the first herbs we harvest. We love it fresh in salsa. But it grows and goes to seed well before the other fresh salsa veggies are ready. Chop the cilantro then freeze it. Mix the frozen cilantro into fresh Pico-de-Gallo. As it thaws it adds a punch of flavor.
Basil leaves are an easy hor-durve. A thin slice of bread topped with a cheese and then topped with a basil leaf. Warm that on the grill for a quick bite of the garden.
The harvest has begun. I love eating this time of year.