Let’s hear it for herbs

Jul 9th, 2019 | By | Category: Senior Eats

Enjoy herbs all year for garden-fresh meals, and preserve a few for the winter ahead.

Snip a few leaves or leaf-covered stems as needed. For the same intensity of flavor, you generally need two to three times more fresh herbs than dried except for Rosemary, which has an equally strong flavor fresh or dried. Continue harvesting herbs as needed throughout the growing season. And don’t worry about harming the plant, because regular harvesting encourages new growth which means more for you to harvest. Just be sure to leave enough foliage to maintain plant growth.

You can remove as much as 50 percent of the foliage from annual herb plants. This is about when the plants near their final height.  You can remove up to one-third from established perennial plants that have been in the garden for several months or more. Harvest when the plant has formed buds, but before they open into flowers for the greatest concentration of flavor. This is the perfect time to harvest herbs you plan to preserve.

Use a pair of garden scissors or pruners for faster and easier harvesting. Make your cuts above a set of healthy leaves to keep the plants looking good. Then preserve the flavor and zest of herbs with proper storage and preservation.

Store thin, leafy herbs like parsley and cilantro for up to a week in the refrigerator. Place in a jar of water, like a flower arrangement, and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Keep basil out of the fridge to avoid discoloration and others on the counter for quick and frequent use.

Wrap dry, thicker-leafed herbs like sage and thyme in a paper towel, set inside a plastic bag, and place in a warmer section of the refrigerator.

Freeze sprigs, whole leaves or chopped clean herbs on a cookie sheet. Or pack clean diced herbs in ice cube trays and fill the empty spaces with water. These are great for use in soups and stews. Store the frozen herbs and ice cubes in an airtight container or baggie in the freezer.

Or bundle several stems together, secure with a rubber band and use a spring type clothespin to hang them in a warm dry place to dry. Make your own drying rack from an old embroidery hoop, string and S-hooks.

Melinda Myers, who wrote this article, is a gardening expert through books, DVDs, television, radio, and www.melindamyers.com.

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